The heavy manmade scent of jasmine perfume surrounds her in the evening breeze, reaching into her designer handbag, she pays for a mug of coffee then sits down. She has many pairs of high heels, everyday she walks here in a pair of them, beauty and glamour is important to her and her femininity is a strength. Jewellery, diamonds, expensive cosmetics, new shoes . .  . she has it all. 
      

Shortly she will also have bunions, backache and painful damage to her leg tendons, small price to pay in the name of fashion. So why do women continue to torture themselves, teetering forwards, whilst continuously increasing the damage to their feet? It would appear that there is little difference between the ancient Chinese custom of binding feet and the wearing of high heels, both can cause long term damage and mobility problems in order to make women appear more attractive.


Women complain of the pain from high heels regularly. In many situations, however, high heels are considered a must-wear item. Just like a tight-laced corset, high heels could be seen as perverse regulatory objects for molding the female. In the 1960`s high heels became less popular when feminists began describing them as objects representative of female subservience. 


“Liberate the captive foot of womanhood!" the feminists cried! In Ancient Egypt butchers wore them to walk over the blood and guts of dead animals without getting their feet dirty. In ancient Rome, prostitutes wore them so they were easily recognisable. In the Middle Ages they were used to keep peoples feet out mud and human waste on the streets.

Yet now in modern day, there is an undeniable social pressure placed on women to wear high heels. Fashion magazines and television series displaying high class women bickering about stilettos has all contributed to its continued popularity. Shoe stores do not have a wide enough selection of flat shoes that are both beautiful and fashionable, so women are unknowingly directed to the impractical.

For some, shoes are a status symbol, " I have fifty pairs! This pair cost 400 dollars!" a friend informs me, "But they hurt!" Other women are uncomfortable with their short stature and turn to high heels as a means of gaining more height, but at what cost? "I used to wear them everyday, but not after having surgery to have a bunion removed -never again!" said another friend. 

French designer Christian Louboutin recently said he did not care if his designs hurt women, "High heels are pleasure with pain, if you can’t walk in them don’t wear them!" he stated to the press, offering little sympathy to those women suffering from podiatric ailments. 

Victoria Beckham, wife of David Beckham, an English association footballer, suffered from a slipped disk whilst attending a Royal Wedding, when she was 6 months pregnant. Reportedly she was wearing a pair of Christian Louboutin heels at the time. 

In my travels recently I came accross a well-dressed and attractive female leg amputee wearing a high-priced impractical prothesis which she had no chance of walking correctly on, simply so she could wear a pair of designer heels, an extreme example of the called to vanity now upon us. 

Heather Mills, ex-wife of Paul McCartney and also a leg amputee (she lost her leg in 1993 when a police motorcycle ploughed into her), has given many interviews about the subject of high heel shoes and prides herself on being able to wear them. So there is no escape from wearing heels, even if you have no heel? 

According to the Pedorthic Association of Canada, "Women are typically more at risk of on the job foot injuries than men due to poor shoe selection. High heels and pointed shoes can cause unnecessary foot fatigue and pressure on the joints and provide an unstable base of support, leading to slips and falls." 

Breaking your foot whilst wearing high heels is a very real possibility,  you may even need surgery to repair the bones in your foot. Heels typically have a sloping foot bed and a narrow toe box, the slope pushes toes into the narrow toe box squashing toes together. Not dissimilar to binding a foot in tight bandages and therefore if worn long-term it can lead to a painful big toe deformity, a bunion.

Bunions often require surgery. Recent studies concluded wearing heels could lead to the tendons in the arch of the foot to weaken causing flat feet,which can cause pain and make it difficult to walk.Yet there are some women out there who would consider cosmetic surgery to their feet so they could more comfortably wear a pair of shoes which may cause this damage.

Clearly women cannot be deterred from choosing to continue being fashion slaves. So what advice can be given to the hoards of high heel appreciaters? "Try to only wear heels twice a week , and always take them off when you can" is a popular reply. Many Podiatrists advise you try to choose shoes that fit (apparently half of the female population in Canada wear shoes one size too small) with a wider toe box. 

Shoes with a heel of less than three inches with a chunky heel rather than stiletto are less dangerous and you should try to wear the same heel height each time as variations in heel height can irritate the achilles heel. If you already suffer from bunions or hammer toe purchase silicone protective sleeves so you do not exacerbate the condition further.

Try not to wear heels whilst working or driving and always keep a spare pair of flat shoes around so you can swop to something more comfortable if you need to. Finally when you are not wearing your heels applying a good exfoliant or emollient lotion to your feet can help prevent corns and calluses and prevent hard thick skin from forming. A regular foot massage may help to alleviate some of the sore foot symptoms as would a regular foot bath. However if you are suffering because of wearing high heels the real advice would be avoid wearing them all together!

High Heels:  The High Price