I wrote this for a paper last semester and thought that it was time for a fashion article on this website.
Marilyn Monroe said, “I don’t know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot.” Monroe may have thought that high heeled shoes were great but one has to wonder if she ever thought about the consequences of wearing them. High heeled shoes have been around for longer than people expect and have become a staple addition to women’s closets. These shoes, while fashionably acceptable, can be dangerous to wear besides the obvious threat of losing balance and falling. Wearing high heeled shoes can cause physical pain and damage to certain parts of the body.
Early forms of the high heeled shoe can be found throughout history. The earliest example can be found on ancient Egyptian murals of royals, and they were used by butchers to avoid stepping in the blood of the dead animals. Later references are of high heeled shoes that went over a person’s normal shoes. They were usually seven or eight inches tall, and the person wearing them required a cane or servants to help them get around without falling (“History of High Heels”). Some historians speculate that husbands would buy ridiculously high heeled shoes for their wives or mistresses to make it harder for them to have affairs with other men.
“No other shoes, however, has gestured toward leisure, sexuality, and sophistication as much as the high-heeled shoe” (“History of High Heels”). These shoes have been used to show social status such as Venetian women in the Middle Ages, or the importance of a function such as a dinner party for a woman today (Vanderheiden). The heel is designed to make a woman’s legs look longer, the ankles appear thinner, and it allows the woman to look as though she is already walking.
The different types of high heeled shoes as listed on inspireyourattire.com are categorized by the shape and size of the heel. A “cone” heel is a round heel that is thick near the sole of the shoe but narrows towards the bottom of the shoe. A “kitten” heel has a maximum height of two inches. The “prism” heel has three flat sides that make a triangle on the bottom of the heel. “Spool” heels, which are rather unusual looking, are thick towards the sole and the point of contact with the ground but narrow towards the middle. Probably, the most famous heel called the “Stiletto” is a very slim heel that is required to be over two inches and the bottom cannot be over 0.4 inch in diameter. The last form of heel is called a wedge “which occupies the entire space lying under the arch and heel parts of the foot” (“High Heel Shoes”).
While a pair of stilettos may feel like they only hurt the feet, high heels also have damaging effects on the back, hips, knees, ankles, skin, and toes. Posture, gait, and balance are off-set by having the ankle unnaturally raised and foot pointed downward for long amounts of time. The long term problems from high heels include “inflamed nerves and ligaments, shortened Achilles tendon and calf muscles, hammertoes, bunions, corns, [and] ingrown toenails” (Fitsugar).
The raised position that a high heeled shoe forces the foot into cause certain parts of the body to no longer be aligned. The back for instance, in its natural curve, which resembles the letter “s,” acts as a shock absorber on the vertebrae (Vanderheiden). When wearing high heeled shoes, the back is forced to lean back to compensate with the lower extremities being forced forward. This position can overuse the muscles in the lower back and cause back pain. The muscles in a woman’s hips can also be damaged by too much use due to high heels because it has to work harder to help the woman walk because each foot is held in a downward position. This position limits how the muscle helps in allowing the woman to walk because it does not have the same amount of power. These muscles can shorten and contracture leading to a flattening of the lower spine (Vanderheiden).
Osteoarthritis in the knee is twice as common among women as men with research to suggest that it is because of high heeled shoes. Inside the knee, compressing pressure builds up because of the knee being constantly bent and the whole leg turned inward. The shoes also limit the mobility and strength of the ankles because the muscle is shortened. The muscle has very little strength in the position that it is forced into, making it harder for the muscle to push the foot off the ground.
The foot itself is forced downwards which causes force of hitting the ground to be distributed to places elsewhere rather than equal pressure if a woman is wearing a flat shoe. The higher the heel the more force is exerted on the balls of the feet and the more the foot is turned outward to keep balanced (Vanderheiden). The force also affects the toes and skin because the force pushes the toes into the box of the shoe. With the amount of pressure exerted on the toes, they can become permanently deformed because they are squished together, such is the case with hammertoes.
Many women though find that they are given a dose of confidence when the slip into a good pair of heels despite the physical discomfort. Arielle Abeyta says, “Heels are not something one simply wears on their feet, but a passion, hobby, personal expression, source of authority, sexual independence, staple of gendered feminine culture, mark of flaunted femininity, psychologically empowering, and joy.” Magazines commonly feature woman such as Lady Gaga who is famous for wearing eccentric and often times ridiculous high heeled shoes. Most women that wear high heeled shoes shrug off the pain that comes from the shoes that they are wearing because they look good and it would be hard to find a woman that does not like to look pretty at least every now and then.
The main point of the facts presented is to demonstrate the effect of high heeled shoes on feet and how one should choose to wear shoes that are flatter. Getting rid of high heeled shoes altogether would be unrealistic but with the damaging effects that these shoes can have should be enough to make a woman reconsider when she does where them. High heeled shoes should be worn sparingly to avoid permanent damage and pain in the feet, legs, and back.
Abeyta, Arielle. "High Heels: 4 Inches Closer to Heaven." Serendip. 18 Jan. 2008. Web. 3 May 2011. <http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1923>.
Fitsugar. "High Heels- Pretty and Pretty Bad for Your Body." Fitness, Health & Well-Being | FitSugar. 19 Mar. 2007. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://www.fitsugar.com/High-Heels-Pretty-Pretty-Bad-Your-Body-148984>.
“High Heel Shoes - Elegance Redefined." Inspire Your Attire. 27 Apr. 2011. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://www.inspireyourattire.com/2011/04/high-heel-shoes-elegance-redefined/>.
"History of High Heels | Random History." Random History and Word Origins for the Curious Mind. 09 Apr. 2008. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://www.randomhistory.com/1-50/036heels.html>.
Vanderheiden, Terence. "High-Heeled Shoes - Why High Heels Are Bad for the Body." Podiatry and Foot Health. 06 June 2008. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://foothealth.about.com/od/shoessocks/a/HighHeelsBad.htm>.
I leave tomorrow for my trip to the east coast! Definitely will try to blog as much as possible. Have a good rest of your Saturday.
with love and family over,