Is Wearing Three-Inch Heels Shoe-icide?

A new study finds that high heels can cause injury and lead to permanently disfigured feet! So why do we still dream about Jimmy Choos?

I’m not trying to tell you what shoes to wear. You have a right to wear six-inch Louboutins while rock climbing if you want. But, I have some questions.

A study published last week in The Journal of Applied Physiology found that women who spend 40 hours or more a week wearing heels actually changed the way that they walked, even when the heels were off. The end result was that those women put more mechanical strain on their shortened calf muscles -- which makes them less efficient walkers than their friends who rock flats and, the researchers believe, puts them at risk for injuries. Other experts have stated that heels force the hips and spine out of alignment and place excess force on the inside of the knee, thickening the nerve between the third and fourth toes and causing pain and numbness.

Some people may say, “So What?” But I wonder why we chance it? It seems like wearing heels means paying a physical price for an aesthetic gain we can’t even enjoy ourselves. I mean, how often are you staring at your own legs?

So are we endangering ourselves for male attention? Female competition? An attempt to obtain the ever-elusive photoshop perfection? I’ve heard women say that wearing heels is empowering for them. That’s cool if it’s your deal. But is it really less empowering for us to decrease our risk of osteoarthritis by wearing flats? I’ve known women who say that heels are basically required as part of their career wear. When, and only when, I see men rocking pumps to an office meeting can we call that an acceptable argument.

At the dance studio I go to, there is a class called “Sexy Stilettos” where women are encouraged to exercise in high heels. I saw two girls fall in an hour. I can’t remember that last time I saw someone fall in an aerobics class wearing sneakers. And I can't remember the last time I thought falling was sexy.

I’m a fan of informed consent so I’m just curious, if my Supergirl Halloween costume is required to have a tag that says “Cape does not enable user to fly”, what should the tag on my high heels have to say?  I imagine that even if that pair of Jimmy Choos had a skull and crossbones on the box, women would still wear them. Shoes are marketed to us aggressively as symbols of our sexiness, power and beauty. We spend small fortunes on them, and we love our shoes so much we lie for them -- smiling through the pain and insisting “they are soooo comfortable!” Comfortable compared to what? Foot binding? I wonder: if we were more able to see the beauty in a wide variety of bodies -- instead of believing in a narrow, digitally altered standard of beauty -- would women still choose to put themselves at risk by worshipping at the altar of the stiletto?

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