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Designer Stuart Weitzman put shoes on the feet of many a Hollywood A-Lister Sunday night for the Academy Awards, and according to New York Magazine, most of the actresses opted for a dizzying 6.5 inch heel. “With these girls, the higher the heels, the better the shoe,” says Weitzman. “They’re used to it, unlike the average housewife who wants to try it once for a special event. These girls are athletes, they can do it.” As a recovered high heel addict myself, I’m not so sure.
I wore high heels almost daily for years and always insisted they were “actually really comfortable.” One time, while I was insisting that, I realized I'd left a trail of blood behind me on the sidewalk. My then-boyfriend had to give me a piggyback ride to the nearest drug store for Band-Aids. Another time, the strap on my platform flip flops snapped off, leaving me shoeless in the middle of downtown London. My then-boyfriend had to come find me with replacement footwear. Amazingly, said boyfriend is now my husband -- and when I bought my first pair of Birkenstocks last year, he rejoiced.
When you want to buy into a beauty standard, whether it’s high heels or the beauty torture device of your choice, it’s easy to buy into the “it doesn’t hurt!” mythology. And not just because you’re trying to convince yourself that the pain will be worth it. We insist that we don’t feel pain because we want to be the kind of women who don’t feel this pain. The kind of women who are effortlessly, always beautiful.
I call these women the Shoe Astronauts. Just like the first men to go into outer space, we believe that if you have to talk about the Right Stuff, it’s a sure sign you have the wrong stuff. And so we deny the pain.
But who does this help? Nobody. Certainly not the woman wearing the 7-inch heel. Because her feet do hurt -- a lot. And the red carpet may only be 200 meters long, but when your feet hurt like that, it may as well be 200 miles.
It also doesn’t help other women. The ones who have panic attacks before every a formal occasion because of the impossibility of finding a shoe that they can stand upright in. I have friends like this. I’ve been shoe shopping with them. It’s hell, because shoe designers like Stuart Weitzman just don’t make fancy shoes that don’t hurt. They don’t even consider “hurt.” But maybe they would if the rest of us shoe addicts weren’t so complicit in their abuse of feet.
Weitzman says comfy ballet flats just “don’t have a place on the red carpet.” But I say, Hollywood actresses: If you’re brave enough to wear them, I’ll go see all of your movies twice.