‘A Modern Torture’ is how Polly Vernon describes the wearing and ‘Invasion of the Killer Heels’ in The Times Magazine on 22.10.11. It’s an excellent article to read, with graphic illustrations of famous women falling off their high heels in public. Here’s a summary of the article:
“High-heeled shoes used to be tricksy but ultimately do-able numbers: 3½in or thereabouts of stiletto which required practice and well-applied blister plasters to master. But now heels are 5, 6, even 7in high; they depend on heavy platform sole attachments to make them vaguely feasible. Even with the platforms, walking about in such shoes requires the balance, skill, nerve and blind determination of a prima ballerina.
Still, these shoes are on sale in every shoe shop on the high street, on every popular e-tail site. Extreme heels have become ubiquitous, shorthand for coveted glamour, the standard, even, on modern footwear. There’s Victoria Beckham, hightailing it across a busy Manhattan street, stacked Louboutin booties on her feet, newborn baby girl clutched to her chest. There’s Lady Gaga, wearing wedge heels so high she requires a bodyguard to carry her from one place to the next like a weary toddler. There’s The Only Way Is Essex wannabes teetering off for a night out on the town, the X Factor finalist wobbling onto stage…
What is indisputable about these heels is that they hurt women’s feet. Damage them, even. The platforms might make them structurally viable; the engineering involved in the very expensive versions might make them marginally more comfortable than you would at first expect, and having watched Lauren Goodger of The Only Way Is Essex motor at reasonable speed across a studio floor in 6in minimum of nude patent Louboutin court without so much as flinching, I can testify to the fact that practice does allow some women to move with relative ease in extreme heels – but still. The angles involved, the pressure brought to bear on the balls of our feet and the risk of falling off what is, essentially, a small pair of designer stilts amount to considerable harm.
Women know this. They know it hurts to wear them; they know that there’s treachery incorporated into their every step, and they know how much time they spend tending to the wounds they endure following a night in them. Foot professionals are dealing with the fallout, too. Podiatrist Bastien Gonzalez says of killer heels; “it is bad for the front heels. There is a lot of pressure on the toes, and a lot more callouses on the top of the toes. Also, the problem is never tomorrow; it is over the years. I’ve been working in New York for 15 years, and there are women I see with tendons so retracted, they can’t put their feet flat on the floor any more.”
Ah, but wait: the creative director of Kurt Geiger reports; “It’s strange, but just now, over the past three months, my bestselling shoe has got shorter. Now, it’s the single [non-platform] sole stiletto, and our bestselling heel height is now lower as an average. I’ve got wedges which are 6 or 7in tall, and they are just getting higher, and they sell. But they are not the bulk of the sales. Those are definitely shorter.” Which might not mean the end is in sight for the extreme heel yet, of course. It might mean women are simply doubling our consumption of shoes, switching the flat ones in when the high ones get unbearable. But still.”