Back in the 70’s when I was a singer in a rock & roll band, I always appeared to tower above my fellow band members. Not because I was that tall. So, why you ask? Simple. For those who remember the fashion trend of the day, I always wore incredibly high platform heels under my long flowing gowns. In fact, both onstage and offstage, the higher the heels…the better.
I even made a valiant attempt to get married wearing outrageous four-inch platform shoes. My closest family members were visibly mortified and forbade me from wearing those shoes. Initially, I was resistant (I truly loved how tall and slender I looked in platforms), so several of them felt forced to stage a full out intervention, vocally rejecting the look as “inappropriate” for the occasion.
Since “peace at all costs” is the motto I live my life by, and with only minutes until the ceremony, I finally gave in and borrowed a pair of more sensible, lower heeled shoes from a younger (and apparently wiser) cousin. I’d needed something borrowed anyways. Looking back at the one lone picture of me in my originally intended heels, I admit that they did look a little— actually more than a little—they looked ridiculous. Full details in my book Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie.
With Age Comes Wisdom…Hopefully
Now that I’m older, (and hopefully much wiser), my shoe choices are more aligned with comfort and to be honest, with my body’s well-being, rather than what’s fashionable today. I’m always shocked when I catch sight of modern-day high heels, as although the shape of the heel may have evolved over the years, shoes seem to be getting…well even higher. Yikes! I can only imagine the effect they’re having on women’s physical well-being. A very real impact indeed.
When I heard that Lady Gaga had a serious ‘shoe’ incident, (she accidentally caught her very, very high heel on her piano bench, falling and landing flat on her back on stage), I sat up and took notice. OUCH! Without missing a beat, Lady Gaga got up and went on performing her show. As if nothing had happened. She was later quoted as saying “I would rather die than have my fans not see me in a pair of high heels. And that’s show biz.”
Women and Their Shoes
In an effort to understand what the real scoop is on women and this shoe biz, I began to look more closely at what is at the root of women’s shoe collection obsession. You don’t have to look too far to find well-known women who love their shoes. Think of Imelda Marcos and her infamous 3,000 pair collection. Then there’s Oprah and Sex and the City fashionista Carrie Bradshaw. And remember, even Cinderella got her prince because the shoe fit!
Personally, I’ve never understood any kind of obsession, let alone one for shoes. I doubt that five pairs of Minimus barefoot walking shoes in a variety of color combos qualifies as a collection. Does it? In my search for some ‘whys’, I found that wearing high heels makes women feel good about themselves. Even acknowledging this, the price tag that goes with the more sought after designer shoes is steep. I’m wondering, who has that kind of money to invest in their feet in the name of looking good?
What is at the Heart of This Shoe Thing?
Then I found some really juicy things that possibly explain what is at the heart of this shoe thing. Branding expert Martin Lindstrom, author of the book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, explains that when we try on any type of apparel, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released and provides a mood boost. Okay, shoes absolutely qualify.
Daniel Amen, M.D., and author of numerous books based on his own brain research expands the topic much further. He reveals that our minds are structured in a way that may associate feet with sex.
Amen says, “The area of the brain that communicates with the genitals is right next to the area that deals with the feet.” Looking down now, (you’ll generally find me looking up), I’m trying to understand how this relates to me. Amen continues, “These areas share neural cross-talk, which may be why shoes can be erotic.” Now I’m questioning, “Have I missed something in my life by not collecting shoes?”
Shoes + SEX
Helen Fisher, Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers and one of the most referenced scholars in the “love” research community, has stated that we are wired to associate height with power and “high heels can literally raise your status because you’re taller when you wear them.” Being as I’m already reasonably tall for a woman, and really not that concerned about power, these findings don’t really resonate with me.
Fisher reports that in previous centuries, shoes were a measure of class, as only the wealthy wore high heels. Sex + History + Status = a powerful trio indeed. Personally, I’ve always been more interested in how my creativity, humor and intellect were received. Considering that’s what I find most attractive in a man. Well, a great smile helps too!
The Truth About Stilettos
For women who do wear stilettos…it’s really about the sex factor. Yes, some women do look (and feel) extremely sexy when they wear high heels. Others, well if I’m honest, they just can’t carry it off. When I see how awkward some women appear while attempting to walk in them, I wonder who that looks sexy too?
Fisher continued, “When a woman wears them (stilettos), she assumes a primal mating pose called lordosis. Her butt lifts, and her back arches.” Isn’t sex what it always comes back to? Doesn’t the word stiletto have another relationship; to an object that’s a dangerous weapon? In fact, that’s why the shoes were named that way in the first place.
How High Heels Affect Your Body
Now I’m feeling more zen about the whys. Based on my personal experiences, I’ve come to know all too well, the physical stress high heels can place on your feet, ankles, knees, hips, back and even your neck. You get it; most of your body. When you wear high heels ladies, and men if you choose to as well, it creates increased pressure on your toes which means the rest of your body has to adjust just to maintain balance.
High heels put the center of gravity on the ball of your foot. The higher the heel, the worse. As the lower part of your body leans forward, the body has to decrease the forward curve of your spine to help keep you in line. How often have you heard women complain that their (high) heels are killing their feet? Yes, they are. Women who’ve consistently worn high heels eventually get to a point where they can no longer wear flats, as their Achilles’ tendon has shortened, making it too short for flats.
Head to Toe Issues
High heels also cause your foot and ankle to turn outward creating both risk of falling and ankle sprains. Your hip flexors and knee muscles have to work harder than normal, too. It was my back that was most affected when I pranced through life and onto the stage with my high heels. Maybe not pranced, more like stumbled at times. Because our backs are in the form of an S-shape, it acts as a shock absorber and reduces stress on your vertebrae.
Unfortunately, high heels cause the lower part of your spine to flatten and cause displacement of your head and mid-back. The negative impacts go on and on. Do your own research, as it’s no secret how high heels can create havoc on your body. Women are more prone to osteoarthritis and to foot deformities like hammertoes and bunions. Corns, calluses and blisters are common too. All these related to wearing high heels. Ladies! What are we doing to ourselves for the sake of looking good?
Good News About High Heels
But wait! There’s some good news. Several companies are now designing high heels for women to address these very real concerns this love affair is creating.
Grateful that I personally don’t have fans to please in the name of showbiz and given the option of high heels or death…I have to choose life for me and death for high heels. Love to hear your thoughts…yay or nay to high heels?