High Heels

Although it may seem a bit random - lately I can’t seem to get something off my mind: HIGH HEELS... No, I am not harboring some sort of fetish (although I do love shoe shopping). There are actually a few reasons the epitome of feminine footwear has been a thought provoking topic. It started as I prepared to start my summer job. I have never had a job that required more than a t-shirt and jeans. I have only donned a suit when forced to (ahem, oral arguments) and worn dress shoes only for fun. I am not very comfortable in a business suit and even less comfortable at the thought of wearing heels all day. Granted I am entering week five of my summer employment and have grown more comfortable with both of these things - but it is all relative - I am still extremely uncomfortable. Why do we wear high heels? I can tell you why I wear them. There are two reasons actually. First and foremost is vanity. Pretty much any girl will tell you that as uncomfortable as they may be - they elongate the leg, accentuate the calf muscle, and force an improved posture which is necessary for balance. It just so happens that experts say this improved posture is also more attractive to the opposite sex - being that it forces the shoulders back and the chest out. So when you put it all together, even the physical benefit of improved posture has a component of vanity. The second reason I wear heels factors into the decision only minutely - and that is sheer laziness. I will be honest - I would rather wear heels then go get my pants shortened. That and I have an absurd fear of high water pants which would result in extreme self-consciousness so again, we come full circle - back to vanity. Prior to starting work I purchased one flat shoe and two shoes with very low heels. I have worn these shoes only a handful of times. Ok, probably less. Upon starting my job, I quickly found myself amongst the masses of women wearing sneakers or flip flops on the el or the bus - to and from work. I would carry my heels in my bag and throw them on in the elevator up to my floor. I would walk those careful steps to my desk, sit down, and proceed to kick off my shoes putting them back on only to navigate my route to the kitchen for coffee which I never fill to the top for fear of tripping in my heels and spilling all over myself. Despite being fully aware of the difficulty I am putting myself through, I am ashamed to say that vanity and the fear of not “looking good” remains the victor in this battle. I began to think about this even more after I watched one of the female attorneys walk away after giving me a project. I noticed her lovely black stilettos and only when she turned to the side did I remember that she is seven months pregnant. I cringe to think about the way her feet must feel when she goes home at night. After work that day I got to thinking even further. I happen to work for a firm that primarily handles workers’ compensation defense. This means that I spend a great deal of time reading medical reports - all which highlight how fragile the human body can be when it is subjected to stress, aging, and trauma. A large proportion of the cases I have worked on deal with joint and bone injuries - almost all of which have resulted in permanent damage. So I started searching the internet - and here are some of the things that I found: Anyone who has worn heels can attest to some of the minor problems associated with them - namely sore feet and blisters. We have come to the point where most of us simply brush these problems aside as coming with the territory. For those who wear high heels often (the actual amount varies depending on the person) they may suffer from shortening of the Achilles tendons or the calf muscles. This happens basically when the body grows accustomed to the position of the foot in heels. When the foot is placed in this position long enough, the muscles and tendons may accommodate to the position and the length necessary for flexed feet disappears. Over long periods of time this has the potential to become permanent - leaving the foot in the pointed position and unable to flex. Although this is an extreme result it doesn’t hurt to be conscious of it - particularly if you wear heels every day. Experts say that you should be sure to flex your feet in order to stretch your calves and keep those muscles limber. Another permanent injury is known is the “pump bump” by many podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons. This refers to the bony callous that can form on the heel of the foot - you know the place, right where you frequently find a callous after wearing high heels. Another related problem is disfigured toes - which result from being pushed downwards and together into the toe of the show. Tendonitis and bone problems are not the only heel related injuries - there is also evidence that knee problems can result from frequent high heel wear. Pressure on the knee is significantly greater when you wear heels and this leads to osteoarthritis. One article states
“women account for about 90% of the nearly 800,000 operations each year for bunions, hammertoes (a permanent deformity of the toe joint in which the toe bends up slightly and then curls downward, resting on its tip), and trapped nerves, and most of these surgeries can be linked back to their high-heeled shoe choice.”
(http://www.personalhealthzone.com/high_heels.html) A simple search on Google reveals numerous articles from researchers and doctors, all urging women to throw out their heels. Amongst these articles there are often references to surveys and statistics - all which illustrate the fact that though I am ashamed of the risk I am taking for vanity - I am certainly not alone. Despite the immediate pains of sore feet and blisters, despite the risk of slipping, tripping, and falling, and despite the evidence of the future problems we may be causing to our own bodies, we continue to wear our heels. Though I am aware of how ridiculous my choice to wear heels is, there are things I have started to do to provide my feet at least some relief. I stretch the muscles in my legs, feet, and toes. I vary my heels so that my feet are not subject to the same exact stress points every day - particularly when it comes to my toes. Though trendy, the pointed toe can be dangerous to your little piggies - the pain you feel when they’re scrunched together down there, well they’re trying to tell you something. If you are like me and are unwilling to let go of your pointed shoes, at least give your feet a break by not wearing them every day. One of the most important things that experts agree on is that the more you wear heels, the more you are at risk. If you are someone who wears heels with everything, consider a change. Many doctors recommend that heels be worn less than 50% of the time. Take your heels off when you come home from work, and try to set vanity aside once in a while and wear flats. Because walking can create repetitive trauma on the stress points in your legs and feet (and particularly your knees) you should consider joining the masses who wear sneakers with business suits on your way to and from work. You may feel silly but your feet will thank you. I am not a doctor, so I have provided some links for you to check out - many of which provided the information given above. I commend those of you who are more reasonable than I when it comes to footwear. I remember a time when I was jealous of the girl who could wear heels all day long. Knowing that girl may someday share the fate of Victoria Beckham (who had surgery for this) has completely changed my mind. Recommended Reading • I particularly like this article, as it is succinct and includes links to photos that will frighten you. • This article even suggests that a particular heel can diminish your reproductive abilities! • See also articles at the Daily Mail, Personal Health Zone, Health A to Z, Wikipedia, Medical College of Georgia, and The Boston Channel.



I like my lower heels and my flats, and often wonder about the ladies in stilettos.  My legs and back ache just watching them walk by.
My favorite heel-height is 1".  It gives me a bit of a lift but doesn’t put so much pressure on my toes.  I also avidly avoid pointed shoes, which make my feet look strange.  I love my rounded-toe pumps.
Thanks for taking time to do so much research.  I enjoyed reading your article.


I bought my first pair of real heels for job interviews after college. They were 1.5", black, and inocuous. Since then, I’ve gotten taller and taller:)
The discomfort and disfigurement associated with heels, pale in comparison to the lasting damage caused by the pointe shoes I used to wear all day every day for a couple years of my life. And I love the way they make me look. I tend to wear pretty conservative skirt suits, and they can start to look a little dumpy in flats. But with a nice pair of 3.75" patent leather mary-janes?I believe the word is smokin’.


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