By: Katya Korneychuk
Something recently changed in me and I am sure many other women will relate with it. High heels started to feel foreign and unnatural. I’m not sure why it happened after I turned 30 and not earlier, but I’m so grateful to whatever it was. The best way I can put it is, I realized that my fashion preferences, wearing high heels in particular, seemed forced.
Perhaps culture is the forcing culprit, collectively dictating what we should wear and imposing beauty standards into us from early childhood. As we become more social, peer pressure secures these standards into solid ideologies, like some kind of mass hypnosis. We all live in the same system. But who’s in control? Are we enjoying expressing ourselves through fashion? Or does fashion actually control us? Perhaps our health and sense of well-being will give us the answer.
It takes a wake up call, or years of observation and reflection to snap out of social habits. In my opinion, high heels are one of the craziest fashion inventions. Women wear them without questioning. Its a tradition that doesn’t take health into consideration. As much as I respect traditions, following them blindly can remove our intuition of whats harming or helping us.
So it hit me. After going back and forth a few times, I refused to wear them any longer. Soon after I began to feel at home in my own body. The tensions of trying to express myself through fashion have eased down and the comfort and satisfaction of wearing flat shoes is undeniable.
If you think I’m suggesting to just take the leap and throw yours out, I’m not. We both know it’s not that black and white. Instead I’ll share some of my history with heels.
High Heels are Only a Fashion Statement
I grew up in Russia where practically every woman wears (and prefers) high heels. Some places require them as a part of their dress code. I remember the first time I saw winter boots with high heels (now it’s the norm). Considering the amount of snow we get in Russia, this fashion is completely impractical and can be dangerous. Nevertheless women follow the trend and wear them to appear sexy, playful, edgy and sophisticated.
A common statement women made was one I learned to accept for years. “There is NO beauty without suffering.” It echoed in my mind every time I felt the pleasure of taking off my high heels after a long day at school, coming home from a dance party, even after standing for an hour on a train or bus. No matter how much my discomfort was signaling that something was going wrong, I kept putting them back on. After I moved to US, I remember wearing them just to go to a grocery store for many months till i finally got the idea that no-one cares. I smile about it now, but it’s sad I never questioned why we women had to go through so much discomfort just to fit in.
What Does Science Have to Say About Heels?
After doing some research, it’s evident that fashion is about sex appeal. Gad Saad, an evolutionary behavioral scientist wrote, “Studies showed that 80% of shoe purchases are for sexual attraction. It has been suggested that wearing high heels creates “the visual illusion of lordosis (the arching of the back when a female is in a sexually receptive position) and furthermore accentuates the body curves that are particularly appealing to men.”
Interesting. I could see how attracted Matt became when I wore heels, so I asked him recently why he liked it. He gave me a few reasons.
- You start walking in this sexy, confident manner.
- Your attitude becomes poised.
- And your ass always looks great (good answer), but heels just make it pop.
Just like Gad Saad wrote. Culture (and biology) have conditioned men’s preferences the same way. The most common reason for wearing heels is to attract others. Are there other options? If a woman wanted to increase her attractiveness, wouldn’t having bright eyes, clear skin, a toned body and an overall higher level of vitality have a real appeal?
Many of us don’t realize the dangerous effects of wearing high heels and we women hardly share our concerns. If we did, our men who truly care would be the first ones to throw those heels away (along with make up, perfume and skinny jeans).
I kept reading and found four women whose comments that were very interesting to me:
‘Women’s willingness to tolerate discomfort, even pain, in the service of fashion is often chalked up to the desire to attract a mate or to rise a step in the social hierarchy. But today’s extreme fashions may have more to do with expressing power and control — control over one’s own body, and the power to use one’s body to draw the gaze of others.”
“Fashion has given us shoes as decorative objects, not footwear. A couple of years ago, Prada brought out shoes whose heels were shaped as vases. They sent out a specific message about the person wearing them: that they had elevated themselves above such plebeian activities as walking. Like the towering wigs of women in the 18th century, or the hoops and bustles of the 19th, they signal a life lived entirely ornamentally.”
“I think it is in our DNA that women to want to be peacocks and strut our stuff. We strut in heels while the damage to our body is tremendous.”
“Women need to realize they will never be taken seriously in those things. Being on their tippy-toes just makes them easier to manipulate. They become a dead giveaways for total acquiescence, surrender, submission to power. By wearing them they broadcast their most significant attributes as weakness, cowardice and perhaps a touch of gullibility. If they realized it, they would move away from them.”
Okay, the last comment is pretty emotional, but she makes a valid point. Why continually damage yourself for the sake of social pressure, especially if there are other ways around it? The more I read, the more I understood why I stopped wearing them. My perception changed as well as my mindset. When your body sends pain signals, it should be intuitive that something is wrong, and if you ignore these signals, potentially serious complications can arise. I ignored those signals for years.
That’s why it’s a pleasure to point out two things that helped me with changing my perspective on wearing high heels. I really hope you find your comfort, balance and peace.
Become more mindful of what makes you feel feminine. Is it really the high heels or pretty clothes? Or could it be a simple feeling of graceful confidence regardless of what you wear? By taking some time to reflect, you may find out new and interesting things about yourself. This will end up creating your best fashion!
Be mindful of when and why you wear heels. I know it can be hard to give up wearing them completely. Try to buy something no higher that two inches. And if you are planning to go out, bring flats with you in case of discomfort. Please don’t endure any regular pain! Listen to what you feet are telling you before it gets worse.
While in nature, let your bare feet touch the grass, sand, ocean water, etc. This simple action is very healing and invigorating for your feet and the rest of your body. Shoes trap much of your sensitivity of the ground beneath you within their material. Take them off more often and remember how enjoyable walking barefoot used to be.
Here are some great links to learn more about the many problems that wearing heels can create:
- Experts Warn of High Heel Danger
- About.com – High-Heeled Shoes: Bad for the Body
- Dr. Jon Barron – High Heels Damage Legs
- CBS News – High heels cause health trouble later in life
I hope my new perspective has helped. Let’s walk as nature intended us to walk!
To your vitality,