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High Heels: Exquisite Torture or Just Plain Torture?

High Heels: Exquisite Torture or Just Plain Torture?

Tania Khadder | Excelle

October 09, 2009

Why do we love shoes that hurt us?

In the workplace, heels are seen as a marker of professionalism. It’s why so many of us come to work in our sneakers, flip flops or flats only to change into a pair of high heels upon arrival.

We choose comfortable, wearable shoes to get us from point A to point B (smart!), then change into shoes we can only tolerate for a short period of time and with minimal movement (silly?).

Other, braver women avoid this rigmarole and stay in their heels all day. They’re willing to endure the discomfort even on their commute. They look so much better on the bus. They make me feel frumpy in my tattered sneakers. It makes me wonder — are their feet shaped in such a way that makes heels more comfortable? Do they know of some magic shoe that is pain-free? Is their pain threshold higher than mine?

And heel height only seems to be growing. At Paris Fashion Week, models in Alexander McQueen’s show wore 12 inch heels. This new, impossible-to-walk-in-height is unlikely to make it to the mainstream, but it will surely influence styles in the coming season. Fashion-conscious women everywhere will learn to balance themselves on a taller set of heels even at the expense of comfort and long term foot health.

But why? Why do we torture ourselves? What is it about high heels that makes them worth their height in discomfort?

The New York Times blog posed this very question yesterday, garnering responses from various thinkers on the subject. A publicist, a soap opera star, two authors, a professor, a doctor, and a museum curator all weigh in on the debate.

Some argue that it’s worth it. Most argue that it’s not. But they all agree on one point — high heels damage our bodies.

Of course, we’ll continue to endure them, even as they reach unforeseen heights. Just like bikini waxes and laser hair removal, extreme diets and Spanx, we’ve proven time and time again that beauty is worth some level of pain and discomfort. We are not innocent victims here — we choose this torture.

We love our longer legs more than we hate our bunions. And that’s that.


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