Awareness of Violence Against Women
These two photos are not from the Gay Pride Parade. They are from Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, an annual international march to raise awareness about men’s sexual violence against women.
High heels represent violence against women? Let’s look at all the self inflicted violence caused by women every time we sexualize footwear by choosing to wear high heels.
Why are High Heels Sexy?
In order to walk in high heels, your spine needs to sway unnaturally. Although this stresses your lumbar muscles and causes a sore back, the accompanying hip swing is considered sexy. Really? Walk a Mile in Her Shoes makes us realize that high heels, when worn by men, become suddenly ridiculous and damaging.
Respecting Foot Anatomy
Our feet are constructed to transfer weight efficiently from heel to toe with every step. The barefoot shoe, also known as the five finger shoe shown at left is recommended by some people to train all the muscles and tissues which form the naturally complex structure of the foot (26 bones in each foot!) and promote greater awareness of each step. Shailene Woodley, George Clooney’s co-star in The Descendents, was excoriated by the press for wearing them to a Golden Globes Party. We have to come up with a fashionable alternative if women are to forswear their stilettos.
What other violence do we do to our musculoskeletal system when we wear high heels?
I like the shoes at left. They are a good reminder of the damage the wearer is doing to her spine.
Think of the catwalk. The heels worn by models are so high that they make heel to toe weight transfer impossible. The compensating swinging of their hips rotates the entire leg at the hip and places down one foot directly in front of the other in one move. There is no heel-toe flex. That’s why it’s so scary watching the models and waiting for them to fall. The resulting awkward and unnatural gait is considered sexy. Meanwhile, the pounds per square inch pressure on the forefoot is spread over a much, much smaller area than was intended by our natural anatomy and gait. It doesn’t take much imagination to extend the damage caused by this concentrated pounding from your feet to your ankles, knees and spine.
Why wear heels like this to an airport?
Although a challenge, it’s possible for women to look cool while traveling in a pair of running shoes. However, if you absolutely must wear high heels, maybe the airport is not such a bad idea. With all the moving sidewalks and shuttles in today’s monster airports, the amount of actual walking in an airport is probably less than an hour. This compares favorably with the saleswoman behind the cosmetics counter who is wearing six inch stilettos for eight to ten hours of standing and walking per day. Plus, you never know who you could meet.
My Favorite Pair of Heels
They might not exactly be Jean Paul Gaultier but the open toe stack heel that I have worn for three seasons nearly every day shows off a pedicure nicely and, no less important, throws a curve into my lower spine that is comfortable for hours of standing. The wide heel and toe allow for balance and do not place undue pressure on the ball of my foot. My foot is firmly held in place by the thick strap around the ankle. The height of the heel, about two inches, doesn’t cause too much shortening of my achilles tendon or calf muscles. When I walk around all day, I wear running shoes with orthotics. When I put on a skirt, I wear these.
Out of the Closet after all
Do I wear high heels? Of course. I love them. The monument at left is part of my own shoe collection. (The other part is made up of running shoes and flats equipped with orthotics as well as flip flops with built in arch support). It rises from the mess of my husband’s collection of practical running and work shoes, all fitted with orthotics. While he is literally grounded by the solid contact with the earth that his shoes afford him, when I dress up I choose to rise precariously above him with my choice of high-heels shoes.
The Good News. The percentage of women who wear high heels daily has gone down drastically. A study by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) found that 39 percent of women still wear high heels every day as a fashion statement, down from the 60 percent who did so in 1986. One can only guess what it was in the 1960’s. The APMA has its Seal of Acceptance for products it approves. Women of the World, we need our own Seal of Self Acceptance. Make appropriate choices, and wear shoes of different heights every day.