I’ve done it, y’all! I’ve gone a full year without wearing high heels.
*pauses for applause*
KIDDING, about the cheering part!
Honestly, I feel a bit silly proclaiming that as though it’s some grand accomplishment. It shouldn’t be. They’re just shoes, after all, right?
Well, no. Not exactly.
While there are far bigger issues than what shoes anyone wears, what I’ve learned this year has blown my mind.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways:
We’re pressured to wear heels from toddler-hood on.
Our cultural obsession with high heels runs deep, and their popularity has more to do with societal pressure, sexism and repression than fashion.
From early childhood on, women are pressured to wear shoes that contribute to everything from disfiguration and arthritis to chronic pain and injury—all in the name of perceived empowerment, and society’s definition of beauty, power and sex appeal.
Even Target sells “princess shoes” with a small heel for young girls. Fairytales’ leading ladies many girls emulate wear high heels. Heck. Stilettos made of glass draw Cinderella to Prince Charming and a whole new life. Common prom shoes have gone from dressy flats and small heels to platform high heels in recent decades—with 3-inch height being on the modest side.
There can be a fine line between doing what feels empowering and what we’re brainwashed into believing will empower us at a significant cost. I believe heels fall into the latter. They appeal because we’ve been taught to prize them.
High heels are a lot riskier than I’d realized.
As heels have grown taller and more plentiful, related injuries have grown more common. (Go figure! ;)) High heels have been compared to foot-binding, for good reason; they cause similar problems.
They change the way we walk and stand, shorten our calf muscles and Achilles tendons, cause pain and inflammation and contribute to knee arthritis, bone fractures and more.
They aren’t namely for “short people.”
Numerous people told me I was lucky that I didn’t “need” heels to begin with because I’m taller than average. But here’s the thing. No one needs heels.
I’ve done a ton of people-watching over the past year, and spotted heel-wearers of all heights. Interestingly, average-height and taller women seem to wear them more often than shorter folks—at least in LA.
What we wear should be our own choice, always.
I still won’t tell anyone what to wear, or criticize anyone who opts for high heels. Those decisions are 1000% our own. Even if I felt otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense to shun someone for doing what society has cajoled them into doing. Just as we’re pressured to partake in risky diets and determine our value based on shape and size, we’re pressured to wear heels.
I’ve heard from many women who aren’t able to wear heels due to illness or injury (some caused by heel wearing), and people who’ve been shamed for wearing heels or not wearing heels. If we wear them, we’re more likely to be “slut” shamed. If we don’t, we may be perceived as less sexy, professional or chic. But none of that is valid or true.
Feeling stable and comfortable is hugely empowering.
At first, giving up high heels was as challenging as I’d imagined it would be. There were times I felt “less than,” as though I’d given up my power suit or superhero cape. But gradually, I began to feel more connected to myself and more present with others.
I hadn’t realized how much even the low heels I’d been wearing a few hours per day at most had been hurting me. The knee stiffness I’d attributed to past overexercise left completely with high heels. During and after upscale events, I have more energy and zero foot pain or stiffness.
The small bunion I have on one foot hasn’t bothered me at all this past year; now I know it won’t worsen, leading to more severe foot deformity that’s incredibly common in older women. I feel less physical and emotional stress overall—which really surprised me. It’s a lot like caffeine, IMO: We can’t know how or how much they affect us until we go without.
Feeling stable and comfortable now makes me feel stronger than high heels ever did. While the empowerment I used to perceive from heels was short-lived and superficial, I now rest easy, knowing that the supportive shoes I’ve chosen facilitate lasting self-care, allow me to challenge hurtful stereotypes and let others know that non-heels are a-okay. In fact, they’re groovy.
My flatter, more fabulous future
Needless to say, I don’t have any plans to wear high heels again. Imagining my feet in high heels makes me cringe nearly as much as the thought of my hands and wrists being forced into a hurtful angle. (As a writer, that says a lot.) I value my health and wellbeing too much to risk them with Jimmy Choos.
If you wear heels, please do so with caution, educating yourself on the risks and ways to minimize them. If you don’t, kudos. I’m cheering for you all the way.
Psst! I’m currently seeking a feminist artist interested in creating artworks out of high heels to collaborate with. Interested folks can contact me here.