Suffering For Beauty: The Beloved Curse of the High-Heeled Shoe

Related Suffering for Beauty Posts:

Suffering for Beauty: Photos of Chinese Foot Binding

Towering Lucite Delights

Shoe lust in Toyko, Japan.

I lust for whimsical creations of skinny heels and minute straps; adorned with bows and glitter. I adore a solid power pump, stacked on a platform heel. Miu Miu gives me shivers. The signature red sole of a Christian Louboutin shoe stops me dead in my tracks. I would happily name my first born after Manolo Blahnik in exchange for a few pairs. Jimmy Choo, I love you!

Jimmy Choo

Love. Lust. Completely, utterly captivated. The sight of a towering, strappy, glittering stiletto has the ability to drive me to distraction.

Just like scores of fashionably-dressed, well-heeled urbanite women around the globe, I waste a good percentage of my monthly paycheck on shoes. We form a Sisterhood, not of the Traveling Pants, but of those who are Cursed by the Beloved High Heeled Shoe.

Cursed, you say? Yes, indeed. No other fashion accessory causes so much pain while simultaneously creating instant curves and a whole lotta va-va-voom. My women friends show no rationality when it comes to buying and wearing shoes. We all have heaps of ‘em.

High-Heels Pounding Pressure

Despite having to endure hours of walking with pinched toes, tight calves, aching arches and as ass that feels like its on fire, I know my legs look longer and more slender. My shoulders are automatically thrown back. My ass looks great and my hips sway with a fluid movement that just isn’t attainable in flat footwear. A beautiful shoe has the power to make me feel like a sex-goddess.

To all those high heel admirers, do you know exactly how much pressure is under your foot? You would be surprised! Indeed you ladies wear these shoes for fashion’s sake, but with the immense pressure under a high heel, you may as well use it as a weapon.
For comparison’s sake, would you rather your hand be pummeled by a herd of elephants or a group of angry women wearing high heels? The more logical answer in this case, that is you would rather take your chances on the high heels, is the wrong assumption. Don’t be intimidated by the enormous size of an elephant or fooled by the alluring high heel. The high heel can exert more than 15 times the pressure of an elephant’s foot. Pressure Under High Heels

“But, wait,” you say. “Aren’t you the woman who just wrote about the barbaric practice of Chinese foot binding a few months ago?”

And as my readers are so kind to point out what I already know:

Isn’t the modern woman going  down this same path? If the above photo has anything to prove, it’s this: A high heel shoe is torture on your body.

The pursuit of fashionable feet is no stranger to the history books. Women have been enduring torturous footwear for centuries in the name of fashion and beauty.

In China, women’s feet were bound at an early age to have the coveted golden lotus, a delicate three-inch foot sheathed in the most ornate and delicate of slippers.

Today we sheath our tender tootsies in delectably ornamented shoes on a four inch spike.

Both cause foot, leg and back problems, some of which have resulted in permanent condition. The practice in foot-binding in China met its end in the early 1900’s, but the curse of the high heels rages on as women teeter and totter in their quest to be fashionable.

So what exactly is the damaging result of wearing high heels? Multiple problems arise from shortened calf muscles, corns, blisters, bunions, calluses, hammertoes, ingrown toe-nails, ankle damage and knee arthritis to start with.

“The redistribution of weight, and the inherent posture and foot problems associated, affect women’s ability to perform everyday activities. With their feet squeezed and compressed into fashionable shoes, women are unable to walk long distances or for extended periods of time without experiencing discomfort.” (Pretty Shoes,” 2003)

Despite these warnings, there has been no change in the fashion trends in footwear coming down the catwalk. Shoes are still a multi-million dollar industry and will continue to be adored and coveted by women around the world. Despite being more prone to injury while wearing heels, and facing lifelong ramifications, we lovingly curse our footwear as we strut our stuff every time we leave the sanctity of our homes. Why, you ask? You tell me. Don’t we look good?

Black Satin and Lucite

Fluff

13 thoughts on “Suffering For Beauty: The Beloved Curse of the High-Heeled Shoe

  1. thelemonspank

    Enslavement to the almighty heel!
    Beyond cherishing, the enchantment of a stiletto,
    Captivates my materialistic hungry soul (sole?).
    Bind me, pain me, look amazing on me.

    I am with you Carrie.

    Reply
  2. Lallalydia

    In answer to your question, some women feel the need to wear high (4″ +) heels just in order to be at the same level as their average sized peers. I still remember reading an interview with Christina Ricci (who must not even come up to 5 feet) as a teen, and her mentioning that she felt she had to wear four inches just to be on the same playing field as the other ladies. The same must be true for Salma Hayek, too!

    Among those whom we assume to be already quite tall, fashion models, those coming in at the 5’6″ or 5’7″ range -already the average, if not taller for an American woman- daren’t walk into a modeling agency or casting call without their heels just to compete with their leggier 5’11 or 6′ job competition…And of course the “sexy” factor hells endow upon the wearer helps there too!

    Personally I try to strike a balance in footwear but I’ll never give up my heels unless I have to.

    Reply
  3. Kim

    One of the perks of having a tall boyfriend :)

    My mom has had surgery on her foot a few years back – one of her bones grew outward, making it almost impossible to wear shoes. Her other foot should be done as well, but she dreads the painful surgery. According to the surgeon, the deforment is partly caused by her habit of wearing high heels (she’s 1m48). My aunt, her sister, can’t wear flats. She’s unable to walk on bare feet. Even at home, she wears platforms.

    Knowing this, I still wear high heels – it’s like you said, I just look better (thinner legs!) and more elegant in them. I’m cursed too… But then again I work in an office, I can sit still most of the time and I must admit during the summer I tend to kick off my heels underneath my desk :). For shopping or city trips I wear all stars or ballerinas.

    Reply
  4. globetrotteri

    Kim,

    Ouch! That sounds painful. My mom has foot problems too. I remember her wearing heels when I was a little girl…she had a fantastic pair of red pumps that I loved trotting around in. I can’t remember the last time I saw her wear heels.

    I wish I had a desk job at times so I could show my shoes off, but I’m a teacher and I’m on my feet all day, so I have to be sensible and break out the ‘lovelies’ for special occasions only. ;-)

    Reply
  5. Fred S - Foot Care Specialist

    The truth is that human feet were not designed for high heels. Wearing high heels can change the structure and shape of the feet, which not only causes pain along the way, but may also inhibit proper functioning of feet over time.

    Women experience pain when they wear high heels because their feet slide forward into the shoes, inevitably forcing their bodies to redistribute their weight while creating unnatural pressure points and disrupting the natural alignment of our body.

    There are numerous foot ailments related to wearing high heels. Some of the most common ones are metatarsalgia (ball of foot pain), bunions, callous and corns, Achilles Tendonitis, hammertoe, and many others.

    Wearing orthotic insoles designed for high heels will probably relieve some of the discomfort.

    You can find more information on this topic under “Ball of Foot Pain” at http://www.footminders.com

    Reply
  6. Steven Kage

    Are you ready for the truth? Are you sure? OK, here it is. Shoes, all shoes, are the curse of Western “civilization”. Why? You figure it out; I did!

    Kage

    Reply
  7. Vivian Lee

    I have always found high heels to be comfortable. I can walk, run, and once even
    climbed a small mountain in high heels. I always choose heels that have padded
    soles and are perfectly sized for me. Many people have problems because they
    do not “break” their new heels in, but take them out on the dance floor immediately.
    All shoes cause pressure points on the feet, and you need to accustom yourself before
    strenous or long term wear. I’m 50 and I still find high heels more comfortable than flats.

    Reply
  8. Trudy Meo

    When I see a woman in high heels, I just dismiss her as a stupid, just like when I see someone smoking cigarettes, once also thought to be “sexy.”

    Reply
  9. shrili

    I think that there is a big difference between foot binding and hight heels. High heels are worn by women who want to. Unlike foot binding, the parents take no part in this. Most families try to stop their daughters from wearing high heels. (a bane for preteen girls :D)

    Reply
  10. Laura Vandegrift

    Hi Carrie: loved your article on the foot binding in China. Have you read “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?” Really good novel based on a true history of foot binding and other Chinese women related lives.

    After wearing heels for 20 years, it took me 3 years to stretch my calves so that I could wear running/walking shoes. I still have to constantly stretch my calves to keep them from tightening up after wearing low healed shoes. Orthotics help immensely to overcome the arch situation in low shoes. I recommend Foot Levelers.com.

    However, my problem with heels is that our feet were not designed for them. Prehistoric Indians made flat sandals with straps and so did the Romans. They were designed for protection so that they could walk. Wouldn’t it be nice to come home from work and go for a walk rather than kick your shoes off and put your feet up because they hurt so much? How much more exercise would women get if they could move and walk better. How much healthier and fit would they be with more movement in their lives. There are very nice low-heeled shoes that make our legs still look nice. But who are we making them nice for? The very men who designed the shoes in the first place for their pleasure.

    If you look at the early lace up shoes for women they are vey pointed. Some woman with a long middle toe must have been the model. Most women have wider feet and don’t’ even fit into the pointed shoes without getting them a size or two larger. This does not make sense. And if you see the way most women walk in some of the high heels out there it is hilarious and sad.

    In this burgeoning age when women are coming into their own as CEO’s and corporate directors, how much further along would we be if we could move and work better and not be in pain. When your feet hurt, your whole body hurts. I would love to wear pretty shoes, but I have found, as a lot of younger women will discover as they get older, that comfort is better. Self esteem should not be measured by the heel height. If a woman needs to feel good about herself because of her shoes, than there is something seriously wrong with our society.

    Reply

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