As I’ve written previously, The Fashion and I don’t get along. The last time I focused on how The Fashion aims primarily to destroy your self-image in order to then save it in exchange for your money. Today let’s look at one of the many ways The Fashion is willing to sacrifice your health to line it’s pockets. The insidious high heeled shoe.
I’ve never liked high heels. On anyone. That is not to say that my objection to high heels, nor this post, is born out of some subjective style preference of mine. You could dress in a fuchsia burlap sack with eye holes for all I care and I’d never write about it. No, the problem with heels is far beyond mere opinion or particular taste. They are inherently evil and should be discarded by all. The elimination of the high heel will bring about a happier healthier world.
Lets talk practicality. No, it’s more basic than that. Let’s talk purpose and meaning. Why do we have shoes at all? Walking barefoot out in the world comes with many hazards. There are sharp pokey bits everywhere. There are unpleasantly cold and wet environments. There is dirt and filth and all manor of disgusting grossness that will instantly defile any bare skin it comes in contact with. Footwear’s primary purpose is to protect our feet from a world of dangers. Further, a good pair of shoes allow us to accomplish more foot based activity than we could do otherwise. They support ankles and arches, pad the foot, and ease the stress of each step. Proper footwear allows us to run faster, to walk farther, to fully realize the potential offered to us by bipedalism. Thus, the quality of a shoe can be determined by how well it protects our foot and how much it empowers our foot-based locomotion. On both these criteria, the high heel fails in spectacular fashion.
Do you know why it is so easy to spot someone who isn’t used to the heels they are wearing? Because heels get a negative score on the ‘making-walking-easier’ metric. They make walking harder, the complete opposite of what shoes are supposed to do. Wherever there is a dance floor, there are people ditching their oh so “fashionable” heels. They risk finding a shard of broken glass with their foot or having their toes accidentally stomped on. Why? Because the possibility of a mangled and injured foot is a small price compared to the certain pain of trying to dance in heels. And there is simply nothing to be done if you suddenly need to run. No matter how you try to use them, high heels are anti-shoes.
And protection? Sure, heels will still allow you to walk across sharp objects without slicing your foot, but they subject the wearer to so many other health risks, you may as well use a rusty chainsaw as a back scratcher. Yeah, the itch is gone, but at what cost?
Here is small section of a graphic demonstrating the adverse affects of high heels on the body. Click on the image to check out the full poster which shows high heels contributing to osteoarthritis, Haglund’s deformity, sprained and broken ankles, metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, shortened calf muscles, Achilles tendinitis, heel pain, bunions, and hammertoe. There’s also nerve compression, capsulitis, stress fractures in the foot, corns, muscle spasms, and lower back strain.
Only a little research turns up well over a dozen debilitating and incredibly painful symptoms of high heeled shoes. It is a slam dunk case. It is irrefutable. It is a true no-brainer. One would only need exercise a minute amount of rational thought to see that high heels ought to be completely abandoned. Alas, second only to religion, The Fashion is a devastatingly effective destroyer of rational thought.
High heel wearers that I’ve talked to about this have one of two responses, neither of which involve giving up their harmful footwear. One response is just to dismiss me out of hand. They roll their eyes, make a ‘shoo shoo’ motion, and go on as if I hadn’t said anything. Even more frustrating is the second response, which acknowledges my points, but follows with something like, ‘Yeah, but they make me look good’. This kind of thinking needs to stop, and it needs to happen everywhere, not just for people who wear high heels.
Wearing high heels because you think they make you look good is the same as smoking cigarettes because you think they make you look cool. In both cases long term health is sacrificed to succumb to societal pressures that are applied by malevolent forces that don’t give a damn about the person’s well being. Both carry a significant risk of the user to become dependant on the harmful habit – the shortening of the achilles tendon is so severe in some cases that the person can no longer wear proper shoes without great pain. And both problems have no chance of improving without significant focused social effort.
It used to be that smoking was a symbol of stature, it was a respectable thing to do. There are places where it still is. I once worked in such a country and was offered a cigarette by my boss. When I declined, he got quite upset. It was rude to refuse to smoke with him. I was on the verge of some pretty big trouble until I was saved by a local who calmed my boss down by assuring him that I was just a foreigner who didn’t know any better. Bossman scoffed, shook his head, and went off to talk with someone else. I was then told that in this country, you HAD to smoke if you wanted to get anywhere in the business world. While smoking wasn’t technically a requirement, I had just put myself inescapably in my Boss’s bad books. No professional favours were coming my way after that. Fortunately for my lungs, my ambitions to make it big in that country were non-existent. Now, back home, me not smoking is no longer a hinderance to any professional goals I may have.
Women in our society face a similar issue with heels. While it isn’t technically required for women to wear heels in the workplace, it is common that all employees must dress in a “professional” manner. But what is considered “professional” for women? Heels. Not conforming to this non-required requirement has the same effect as my refusal of the cigarette. Bossman will scoff, and give the promotion to someone else who’s attire displays more “professionalism”. Likewise, finding a romantic partner follows a similar path. To attract a mate, both men and women are encouraged to dress to impress. But our society says that the impressively dressed woman wears heels. For both careers and love, women have better chances at success if they embrace the lower-body-destroying high heel. Just like the smoking example, it is no surprise that so much of the population disregards their long term health and well being when the more immediate social benefits are so substantial.
So what is to be done? If you look at articles by foot doctors, they’ve all but given up. Heels are so prevalent and so powerful a force, the doctors don’t even try to convince people to give up high heels. It’s futile. Instead, they give tips on how to reduce the damage wrought by these horrible shoes. While depressing, it is understandable. In case of health disasters, sometimes harm reduction is the best a doctor can offer. Medical professionals heal bodies. It’s up to us to heal society. How?
Again, let’s look to cigarettes. How did Canada drop the habit? We regulated the fuck out of that shit and we got to our kids young. Tobacco can’t advertise on TV, cigarette packs are required to have graphic warnings, there are all kinds of school programs aimed at educating kids about the dangers of tobacco, it is illegal to sell cigarettes to minors, and if a parent were to give their child a cigarette, it is considered child abuse. Similar methods can be applied to high heels. Heels should be banned from children-geared programming and cartoon characters. Shoe boxes and stores should be required to display grotesque images of what heels can do to the body and prohibited to selling heels to those under 16 years of age. Elementary health curriculums should have a unit on the dangers of high heel shoes. Any parent caught dressing their impressionable child in body damaging heels should be fined and forced to take a foot health awareness course. Repeated offences should be grounds for child abuse charges. Just like cigarettes, the very detrimental practice of wearing high heels will slowly slip out of vogue until, maybe 4-5 decades in the future, our descendants will look back at photos of our kids in heels the same way we look back at doctors in cigarette ads from the 1930’s.
I even have a great idea for an Anti-High Heel PSA
Scene: brick alley with dramatic lighting and heavy shadows. Grungy, beat up, used-to-be white van with side door open parked in the back. Zooming into the van door we see a seated, ugly, late-middle aged, greasy man, talking to the camera. He has a raspy, unsettling voice and bad teeth. “Hello there, Little Lady. You want to be pretty for me, don’t you? Here, put these on.” His hand slowly comes out of the shadows, offering a pair of high heeled shoes. “Don’t worry about your health, pretty people are successful people. It will be worth all the health complications, I promise.” Zooms right in on the shoes. “What? No, you don’t need to move quickly. It’s not like you’d ever have any reason to run away from me, is it? Come on, put them on. Then I will call you, ‘Pretty’.” Camera starts to zoom out. Man’s voice turns threatening, “Wait, come back! If you don’t wear these, you’ll be ugly!” Zooms out faster, the man starts yelling from afar “You’ll never get anywhere without these shoes! You’ll be an passed up, shut down, and forgotten!” Screen goes black, the man whimpers pathetically, “Please be pretty for me…” Info on where to learn more about the dangers of high heels comes on the screen. Voice over says, “Don’t cripple yourself to impress losers. Say ‘No!’ to high heels.”
With lots of messages like this repeatedly being thrust upon society, people will slowly start to learn. Not only that high heels are a bad personal choice, but more importantly, that wanting other people to wear them makes you a sadistic asshole.