March 20, 2017

High Heels: WTF, Ladies?

image: maxpixel

By Crabby McSlacker

There are some ways in which I definitely have a girl brain, not a boy brain. But in other ways, I am a dude. I sometimes find my own gender to be an alien species, incomprehensible in its motivations and reasoning and habits. 

(For a more complete elucidation of my cluelessness about female behavior, I wrote a much longer post years ago about Women and the Quest for Beauty. Like so many ancient Cranky Fitness posts, it lingers undisturbed in the archives, gathering dust and long forgotten, yet it's better than the stuff I write now. Which makes me a little sad. Though not sad enough, apparently, to devote more time to current blog efforts). 

Anyway, this is just a brief and pissy rant on a small subject of the topic: high heeled shoes. And since so many of you wear them, either grudgingly or enthusiastically, I'd love to hear your vocal defense of your choices in the comments. 

But let me get you good and riled first!


What Instigated My Melt-Down Over High Heeled Shoes




I went shopping and came across these. I wish I were a better photographer. More specifically, I wish I had taken this picture with  one of my own gargantuan shoes next to this one so that you could see that it is sized for a very little girl. It looks almost like a grown-up shoe in this picture, right? But be assured, it is not.

And sure, its not a pair of six inch stilettos. But still. I need some help here women: in what way does wearing a high heeled shoe that makes it more difficult to run, jump, frolic, or even walk in a normal manner reflect "girl power?"

The packaging attempts to say: "we get it that girls get treated as though they are less than boys! More power to girls!" And yet this vision of power? It totally acquiesces to the expectation that girls should be decorative, not active. That even pre-adolescent girls should put fashion over function when it comes to footwear.

Yet a new generation of girls is getting the message: You need to look "pretty." Get used to it. Time to trade in those comfy sneakers the boys get to wear.

Do You Need Another Naggy Reminder that High Heels are Bad for You?


Well, you get one anyway. There are many cautionary articles out there, I'll just be lazy and crib some highlights from this one at Health.com:


  • Women have four times as many foot issues as men, and podiatrists attribute most of this to high heels.
  • Half of all women even though the 71 percent of them say the shoes hurt their feet.
  • These shoes can cause calluses, hammertoes, bunions, plantar fasciitis, neuroma, shortened achilles tendons, muscle spasms, and strains to lumbar spine, hips, and knees.
  • The higher the heels, the greater the strain.


I'm Done Blaming Men for Objectifying Women Until Women Stop Doing It To Themselves


Men do not feel the need to be perceived as "sexy" in a work setting. They want to be taken seriously, perceived as competent, effective, powerful. They do not worry how their ass looks in their slacks or whether their hairstyle is sassy enough.

This is not to say that wardrobe and grooming are irrelevant! And no one wants to look ugly or disheveled. But, to be crude, "professional" does not have to mean "fuckable." And I still think most women are loathe to ever be seen solely as the former and not the latter.

I think women's constant preoccupation with looking desirable perpetuates sexism. It plays right into the unconscious narrative we all carry as members of a sex-biased society: Men are Normal People Who Do Things, Women are Decorative Other. We are accustomed to seeing the world through male eyes, and we perpetuate this by dressing for it.

What if women started to give just a little less of a crap about their appearance, and made a few more choices that made health and comfort and mobility more of a priority? Is that such a radical notion? I fear it is, alas.

So, did I get you annoyed enough yet? Tell me how insane and ridiculous I'm being! Defend those high-heeled shoes you love so much ladies, I'm all ears!

35 comments:

  1. I don't have either a defense or rebuttal for this...I will say when people ask me "How do you walk in those", my reply is always "Easy, one foot in front of the other". I do keep 2 pairs of heels stashed un under my desk along with 2 pairs of sneakers. However, I think heels for little girls is ok for dress-up, church or fancy fun time out...not every day. Then again, I don't have kids so who am I to have such an opinion.

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    1. LaShaune, I don't have kids either, which makes it all the more fun to be all opinionated about what they shouldn't have to wear! You are obviously a nicer person than I am. :)

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  2. My favorite styles were the chunky platform shoes of the 70s; now that I can actually afford a pair of Sbicca's I really don't have the need to wear them, sadly. I'm a flip flop girl living in a cowboy boot world.

    As for little girls, if they want fun shoes, then they should have fun shoes. If they want cool sneakers, then they should have them...either way, just let kids be kids - some want to play dress up and some don't.

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    1. I hope you're right Shelley, that the heels are just for playing dress up, but I got the feeling they were being marketed as everyday shoes. But yeah, I'm glad I'm not a parent because I have a feeling I'd be uneasy with a lot of the fashion options, especially as girls get older. Shudder. :)

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  3. I can see letting a child play with high heels as dress up. When I was a child, I had a 5-minute attention span for that sort of thing. It was more fun to run out and play!

    As an adult -- as long as it doesn't hurt your feet so much that you can't exercise, go for it. I had a very short friend who ruined her calf muscles because she ONLY wore high heels. The muscles were so damaged that it affected her walking. Nothing sexy about that.

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    1. I know women permanently hobbled as well, I still don't get the appeal... But as a "run out and play kid" myself, I lived in my tennies!

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  4. High heels, as well as women's fashions in general, are bullshit of the highest grade. I did try to learn to walk in them once. It didn't last. They hurt and are stupid. It was one of my forays into attempting to dress like a girl. I decided quickly that if I was meant to dress like a girl I'd like it.
    Flat shoes with the wee, slightly elevated heel that even men's shoes have is what is right for me.



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    1. I was beginning to think I was the only one completely immune Leah, and think bullshit of the highest grade is an apt description. :)

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  5. This strikes a chord, to be sure! While I subscribe to the brand of feminism that says, 'you do you', I also refuse to dress as decoration. Sometimes I want to look sexy - for me. And sometimes 'sexy' means feminine and sometimes it means something else. I do agree that the way we condition girls is sometimes harmful, but I'm not sure I would agree that men don't get the blame for objectification. Just because a woman is wearing heels - even if she has been conditioned to think that equates to powerful and sexy - she doesn't deserve to be objectified. That's not acknowledging the simple fact that we all have different styles and tastes.

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    1. Good point Anja! And I confess, I don't completely let the guys off the hook either. But I spent many years not realizing that it isn't ONLY guys who perpetuate the dynamic of women as decoration, that a lot of women enforce even more rigorous standards on fellow women than guys do, and teach their little girls to conform as well. It's that kinda thing I chafe against.

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  6. I think both boys and girls can play dress-up and wear all sorts of costumes, pink heels included. I see the boys that want to participate in this getting a fair amount of push back that I don't like.

    In the office (unfortunately)looking sexy for a woman can be the difference between getting the job and not getting it. I can't fault a person for using the resources available to them or for dressing in a way they like.

    For myself, I have no fancy shoe talent. I just tip over. I tried. I tried some more. I think they are works of art and I covet them but it is not for me.

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    1. Egads, Cindy, is that still true? How depressing. I haven't been in a conventional office for a while, and the idea that looking sexy is still a job requirement for women (and not for men, naturally) is something that should be ancient history by now.

      And yeah, boys should be able to play dress up too! And I do think "playing dress up" and wearing high heels as regular everyday shoes are two different things, and its the latter that makes me sad. I hope those shoes in the store were just special occasion shoes.

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    2. Oh I think men get it too. People like to hire other people that either look like them or how they wished they looked. My office is getting to be a clone factory of the same person.

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  7. Hmmm, sexy and job do not belong in the same sentence in my world, and never will.
    For years I was lab based - high heels would have been a nightmare, and a lab coat will never look anything but practical.
    Thankfully I never did get the heels habit - comfort and common sense rule for me. I can't walk in the things anyhow!
    Mind you, if anyone actually wants to wear them, good luck to 'em. Each to her own, as long as it is a personal choice, not an expectation.

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    1. Oh dear, Deniz, I hope it's not too inappropriate to confess I find gals in lab coats pretty damn sexy. Bonus points for glasses, hair short or in a bun... geek girls rock. (Sorry about that).

      And I guess I can't help but question why shoes that hurt would be a personal choice unless there was some unconscious societal pressure/coercion? But then again, it seems the majority of women either don't feel there is or aren't bothered by it.

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  8. Agreeing with every word. You know I am a Comfort First sort. And pockets!!!
    "...health and comfort and mobility more of a priority? Is that such a radical notion?" It may be, but I am, after all, pretty radical.

    I have known some very short women who wore heels a lot of the time--my fourth grade teacher, for instance, who in her shoes was eye level with us (and who did jumping jacks in them with us in PE)--to counteract the tendency for people to dismiss short women as Not Real Grownups.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    1. I hadn't thought of the Short thing Mary Anne, good point. But personally I think I'd rather be looking at people's clavicles than tottering around on heels. And doing jumping jacks in them? OWWWWW! Sounds like torture.

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    2. Yep, my vertical deficit is the main reason why I wear heels -- sometimes. I already f'd up my feet a bit doing ballet as a teen, and I'm watching my mom deal with the consequences of decades of foot torture now.

      So, I don't wear them every day -- just when I've got an important meeting or some other occasion where I don't want people to notice how short I am. And they have to have proper balance/support/ball padding, because I refuse to be in pain just by walking.

      Not gonna lie, I also really like the click-click noise they make on some floors haha. But mostly I just want to pretend to be TALL dangit.

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    3. Thanks looloolooweez! I now consider myself far more educated on the height issue and you guys get a pass. Though if I were shorter... I'm still a little too butch for high heels and would probably attempt some sort of clompy combat boots with secret lifts inside.

      But the clickty-click... I can totally see the appeal of that too! Maybe my combat boots would need taps...

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  9. Oh, how i hate heels! There is one pair in the closet, i wear them about once a year, when i have to get dressed up for something. If they went the way of the dodo, i would not be sad at all!

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    1. We can only hope messymimi!

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  10. I assume anyone wearing heels is a man in drag.

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    1. Phoebes, gotta confess I have a soft spot in my heart for drag queens in heels, I give them a total pass!

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    2. the fun of gender rebellion. man rocking heels = hot. woman with 233 piece socket set = hot. PS I can't stop watching this NPH Tony opening https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BHyfYiBt5o

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    3. Phoebes! I am eternally grateful to you for the NPH video, I had never seen this before and now want to send it to everyone I know. That was SO FUCKING CLEVER AND AWESOME!

      And you're right, I guess that's the one benefit of gender prisons: they are SO fun to break out of. Of course it's always more transgressive and exhilarating for the "powerful" gender to abandon privilege and cross over--drag "kings" will never be as funny and delightful as drag queens because no one is really threatened by women pretending to be men. The reverse still gets people riled and thus its power.

      Thanks again for the link!

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  11. Hi Crabby, I agree with much of what you say, especially the bit about men being the normal gender who do stuff while women are expected to just hang around looking decorative. One thing that didn't get said was the workplace pressure for women to wear heels - or put their job at risk. This issue is playing out in the U.K. now.

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    1. Oh dear anon, I guess I optimistically thought most women were hobbling themselves by choice and didn't realize it was still so common to enforce antiquated dress codes. No one should have to injure their feet and back to fit some rigid sexist definition of work attire.

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  12. Short answer: We like pretty shoes!

    Okay, I like pretty shoes. That said, I don't wear heels that often these days, mainly because I want something I can comfortably walk in, and because I wear business casual.

    Although, when I think about it, I realize I am referring to fancy high heels...I do wear wedge heel ankle boots most days. I am barely 5 feet tall, so heels were somewhat ingrained into my habits at an early age. Sometimes I wear them just so the hems of my pants won't drag on the ground. And a wedge heel - much like the ones in your picture - are not all uncomfortable to walk in.

    I think heels do have their place, if you like them and can find a comfortable, well-fitting pair. If you are getting all dressed up, the right pair of shoes can complete an outfit. But the people who wear the super high-heeled pumps all day, every day...That I don't get.

    As for this: "I sometimes find my own gender to be an alien species, incomprehensible in its motivations and reasoning and habits." I sort of feel like that applies to the whole human race.

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    1. JavaChick, you are always so sensible to your approach to everything that I make no judgments about your wedge heel ankle boots! But I would love to envision a world in which we all ran around with something so comfortable on our feet we could do anything we wanted regardless of footwear, and no one including ourselves cared how tall we were.

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  13. As a woman with a 7 year old daughter: Yes. The marketers (and many other parents) totally expect girls to wear those as every-day shoes and not as dress up. Drives.Me.Bat.Shit.Crazy. Finding shoes for my daughter that are: age appropriate, no heels, no flashy lights, not pink/purple/sparkly, etc is nearly impossible. And of course, many other parents are on the "oh, but it's so cute" train. Gag. I've taught my girl shoes have a purpose: protect your feet and help you be AWESOME at playing. That, as a 7 year old, is your whole job. She is not allowed heals (despite having had a few enter the house as hand-me-downs) until at least middle school and then the height will increase in proportion to her maturity level about it. (ie start with kitten and we'll see where it goes)

    As a grown adult, I love heels at times for how dang long they make my legs look. But I also have a frozen big toe that means anything over about 2" is nearly impossible to get on my foot. So they are a "fancy-occasions-only" indulgence done for me and me alone. (As a relatively tall girl who married a relatively short guy, he actually prefers I wear flats. Tough tooties hubby. I'll wear what I want.)

    And yes, totally agree more pressure is put women by other women to conform to gender stereotypes. And our kids learning it by listening to their mom's gossip with their girlfriends. I have multiple friends I've had to call out on their crap. You want to snicker at someones choices, do it when your kids aren't present. Because you're teaching them you will do the same to them. That their skills are not as important as their looks. And that is a total tragedy. (See also: kids under the age of 13 do NOT have boyfriends/girlfriends. Kids under the age of 8 can have friends of the opposite sex and NO ONE SHOULD CARE.)

    One last thing, since I'm on a roll. Colors, toys, brains, sports, and subjects in school are for everyone. There is no such thing as a boy color/toy/subject. There is no such thing as a girl color/toy/subject. My son has personally led the revolt for allowing a boy to pick pink as his favorite color. (For awhile he would dress head to toe in pink at least once a week.) It took a while, quite a bit of teasing (thank you breast cancer awareness "What, you aren't tough enough for pink?"), and a persistent kid to break down the barriers and get the PARENTS to accept it was okay (Colors are for everyone!). Nearly zero kids thought twice about it.

    Okay, sorry. Rant over. You hit me in a soft spot. :)

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    1. OMG Britt, I love this SO MUCH! So valuable to have the parent's perspective and I sure wish there were more like you fighting on the front lines for fairness and common sense. And it sounds like your kids are growing up spunky and independent and smart and couragous, yay!

      Thank you so much for this kick-ass comment, rant anytime, you said it all so much better than I could.

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  14. I have to agree, Crabby. Yes, high heels are kind of pretty, and I love feeling tall. Men used to wear them, back in the 1700s and the 70s--that didn't last long, did it?

    I have a pair I use for concerts. They're pretty and black and shiny, and they have this subtle platform so that the moderate heels are not really as high as they look, and the insoles are built for comfort. I also have a pair of suede boots with a heel and a platform that I feel gigantic in, and that is fun. Plus in snowy weather you have the heel to anchor you in crappy packed snow stuff, which has saved my ass (literally) several times.

    However, I do have foot issues. I've been having therapy for a year trying to get the bones and tendons to hang together right. (I unnecessarily complicated things by breaking my right foot right before election day, but it's much better now.) I have really high arches, and weakness has wreaked havoc with my feet and my gait--which wreaks havoc with so many other physical things. My doctor encourages flat shoes with a small heel elevation, but he doesn't forbid my occasionally wearing moderately high-heeled shoes. He emphasizes more good gait mechanics and muscle strengthening in the foot.

    AND SO--I just bought myself a pair of snazzy saddle oxfords. (Yes, the cheerleader kind.) I wore them to the theater last night and they were much admired! Dorky crazy shoes might be the way I roll from now on...

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    1. Sorry Melissa, you're probably long gone! But snazzy saddle oxfords: YES! A great look, very hip and retro and classy. And Dorky in only the best sense of the word, the iconoclastic awesome dorky, not the sad kind. :)

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  15. The highest heels I ever wore were the heels on my cowboy boots. I have never EVER worn dressy high heels, ever!!! That's all I have on the subject. :)

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    1. Yay you Sherri! Even I, butch as I am, have squeezed into a pair of dressy heels and tottered through an excruciating evening or two, so I admire your dedication to footwear purity!

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