The Great Stiletto Conspiracy

With this burst of glorious spring sunshine, we are packing away our heavy boots and bringing out the sexy footwear. But how high will your heels be?

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Is it just me or does anyone else think high heels are a misogynist joke on women?

Stilettos are meant to make women look sexy by jutting out the bum and making you teeter daintily and swing your hips seductively.

Dazzling slender heels look especially alluring when worn with a short, tight skirt or skinny jeans.

Being clearly impractical as sensible footwear, they subliminally suggest that you are ready to flop backwards on a bed, or possibly lean forward, ready for sex! They also send the message that looking sexy is such a priority you are willing to endure agony with every step.

In this excruciating attempt to look sexy, and some women paradoxically claim high heels make them feel “empowered”, a woman in reality looks helpless and vulnerable and precariously on the brink of toppling over.

Daily Mail columnist William Leigh expresses the male ambivalence to the female form cavorting in high heels. “At four inches, the woman begins to look ferocious as well as vulnerable – she may be cornered, but these heels look like weapons, metaphorically, if not quite literally. She is dressed to kill, a vamp, a creature of the night…even if she is standing in a lunch queue at Pret a Manger. At five inches something new happens. Instead of the feminine sashay… the woman’s walk begins to look like something else – dressage. She’s like a show pony.”

Wikipedia defines a stiletto as ‘a knife or dagger with a long slender blade and needle-like point, primarily intended as a stabbing weapon’. So stiletto heels are not just dangerous to the wearer but also a handy weapon for self-defence in a dark alley! However maybe a pepper spray would be a better option!

Some fans of heels claim they love being elevated with extra height to look taller. Being made magically taller by your shoes is tempting when you are a vertically-challenged short person, as I certainly am at 5 foot 4. However a little stylish heel is enough to give a two-inch or possibly three-inch boost, without risking pain or injury.

To my middle-aged eyes keenly observing High Street fashion trends, younger women actually look comical on absurdly tall stilettos.

Ridiculously high heels strike me as humiliating. Why willingly turn yourself into a fashion victim? Walking on spikes is a form of oppression similar to willingly shrouding yourself in heavy black robes and face veils. We cannot judge other cultures that oppress women when our own western culture promotes instruments of torture for female footwear.

The physiological truth is walking on ‘killer heels’ sends shock waves through the foot reverberating throughout the nervous system, causing pain.

Concentrating all the pressure on the ball of the foot tips you forward and throws out your balance and posture, damages the spine and muscles and adversely impacts every body system.

Apart from chronic pain inflicted through the martyrdom of walking or standing in high heels throughout a busy working day, there is a very real danger of tripping and falling over and injuring yourself as you rush around the city streets, chasing a bargain or trudging through the unglamorous tunnels in the Tube.

High heels are a commercial conspiracy. Clever advertising and marketing whiz kids exploit the female urge to collect objects that are shiny and pretty, drawing on the tribal gatherer instinct. Once a woman has succumbed to buying the latest mesmerising pair of heels, she will quickly tire of them, as the novelty of the new trinket wears off, and will return to buy another pair, and another and another, to add to her glittering collection (the equivalent of collecting pebbles or shells in the wild).

The impractical nature of these shoes ensures planned obsolescence and continual sales.

All the while, gullible women are indoctrinated by some fashion magazines that convince them that wearing killer heels is ‘normal’. Like other forms of social indoctrination, it is an insidious normalisation process of behaviour that is ridiculous and harmful (like violence and war).

I developed a personal gripe with high heels when I reached menopause when walking long distances in standard heels or even flat shoes caused my feet to over-heat (something to do with the body thermostat being out of whack). My sweet little footsies became all swollen, tender and sore. Google searching ‘swollen and tender feet’ I discovered a truckload of serious medical knowledge under this quaint Old Wives’ term.

Unlike women who get obsessed with pretty shoes, around the age of 50 I was obsessed with buying every possible variety of sensible, supportive shoes; spongy slip-ons, cool open sandals and solid exercise footwear, but still my poor feet ended up ‘swollen and tender’; all pink, blistered and throbbing after a few hours on the move; which was very distressing as an avid traveller.

It is a perplexing dilemma for menopausal women. However I am happy to report that now in my late 50s the problem of sore feet has settled down.

Last summer I looked up my old friend Dr Scholl and rediscovered the ecstasy of spiky massage sandals for around the house and sturdy pumps for out and about in the city.

I now possess a thrilling array of comfort shoes! Oh Bliss. I’m in Sensible Footwear Heaven! There is Life After Death by heels. Give me sole comfort over sole torture any day! I am the new evangelist for walking on clouds! Hallelujah!

Diane Priestley

Engaging storyteller, Prolific Journalist, Empowering People Matters

Hello Psychologies Tribe, Let me introduce myself! I'm an experienced journalist with a career spanning more than 30 years writing for newspapers, magazines and online publications in Australia and the UK. I write about relationships, health and humanitarian issues. I'm a qualified Counsellor and Workshop Facilitator. I moved from Australia to the UK in 2009 and now live near the beach in Folkestone, Kent and part of the year in Kenya doing community work.