Serving Arizona State University Online Since 1995  Current Issue: Thursday, October 06, 2005





Gadget Corner: High-Heeled Hell

Our feet really hurt, so we sent Mani to find out just how bad our heels are for us

 by Mani O'Brien
 published on Thursday, October 6, 2005

Photo courtsey of KRT wire/issues/arts/694232
Photo courtsey of KRT wire


Last Monday as I stepped out of bed, I found myself wincing from the pain of my aching feet. They were still sore from wearing my strappy, 3-inch wedge-heeled shoes the Saturday before. During my nine-hour shifts at a clothing store, I work solely on my feet, yet I often sacrifice the comfort of flat shoes for the satisfaction of knowing that my high-heeled shoes make me look taller, sexier and older. What girl doesn't? I mean, isn't this the classic struggle between comfort and beauty?

So there I sat, two days after wearing my heels, my toes still numb and the balls of my feet tender. In fact, after almost five years at my job, I have nearly lost all feeling in the tips of my toes. I often wonder whether my metallic mules were really worth the pain. And as the tingling sensation slowly crept in that morning, I wondered about some of the long-term effects my passion for pretty pumps might have.

Denise Link, a clinical associate professor of nursing, did little to lessen my concern for my tender toes as she explained the health risks involved with long-term wear of heels.

"A lot of people think it's harmful to your back," says Link. "Primarily, for the average person, the damage is mostly to your feet."

If you wear high heels more than a few times a week for hours at a time, you are likely to develop calluses, bunions and risk the chance of pulling your Achilles tendon, Link says. Gross. I shudder as I imagine my feet years from now, deformed and mangled.

I wonder if perhaps my cork-bottomed shoes are a better alternative than those made out of wood or plastic. Link says that it doesn't matter what your sexy shoe is made out of; they're all pretty bad for you.

"The main [problem] is the mechanics of it," she says. "The softer material reduces the impact on your joints, but you are still weight bearing on the front of the foot."

Depending on how long and how often I wear my shoes, the numbness in my toes should slowly go away, she says. Besides the possible skin overgrowth and tendon-pulling risks, I think about the social implications of my tendency to slip on my sexy stilettos instead of my frumpy flats.

As a self-proclaimed feminist, I usually try to ignore the fact that the practice of wearing high heels could be contributing to the oppression of women, which is what Mary Rothschild, former director of the women's studies program at ASU, argues.

"You might as well be hobbled," says Rothschild, who is a professor of women's studies and history. "We are cultured to think that women look beautiful in high heels, that they make their feet look beautiful. Women cannot be strong or independent in high heels."

Both Link and Rothschild discuss how women are defenseless in their heels with no ability to run away from a dangerous situation.

"No one can move in their fabulous Jimmy Choos the same way they can in tennis shoes; they are fundamentally dysfunctional," Rothschild says. "Part of the beauty lies in the vulnerability."

While my long, gangly toes probably couldn't get much more unattractive than they already are, I could probably do without bunions and calluses to worsen my situation.

So, although I'm not ready to give up my treasured shoe collection, I have begun to bring a spare pair to work with me and have accepted the fact that some outfits are still hot with flat shoes. More importantly, I've begun to re-evaluate my own standard of beauty and appreciate that I am a modern woman who has the option to wear flat shoes without having to defend my femininity like women of the past.

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