Why Do Women Wear Heels?

September 24, 2010
Mansi Bhatia

Would you wear something that hurts you or literally causes you physical pain? Day in and day out? Over and over?

Would you recognize it is because of peer pressure and curse all your colleagues and friends who suffer in silence, but still carry on?

Would you heave a sigh of relief at the end of the day, but then with a stifled groan and false smile plastered across your face slip your feet into those darned heels again the next morning?

Would you?

Do you?

I've been fascinated by how much pain women will willingly suffer in the name of fashion.

It's obvious that they don't like doing it — talk to any woman who wears heels daily and she'll tell you how relieved she feels to walk barefoot, soak her tired soles in a hotwater tub after a long day, and slip into cushy, satin-lined slippers at home.

She'll also tell you how much money she's wasted on Dr. Scholl's and the like in efforts to help her tired, achy feet.

She knows the long-term ramifications of wearing heels, too, yet she powers on.

One of my colleagues had said to me sometime last summer, "You must be thrilled that flats are in vogue this season!" It was a comment geared at my $19.99 Payless shoes — the same pair (in brown and black) that I've been wearing the past two years.

I'm not one to follow trends, but I'm a big fan of common sense.

A male friend had once reacted to my disgust at a woman hobbling across the street, in obvious pain thanks to her stilettos, "What's wrong with you? Don't you realize that women look more appealing in heels? Their whole swagger changes. Men find it really appealing."

So, on behalf of the entire male community he had pronounced that women prized men's attention over their own comfort.

He might have been right, but I had responded with a big, "Whatever!" since I'd rather have a man fall for my wit than for the way my hips move on a stilted piece of footwear.

A study by the Telegraph released on Tuesday, however, suggests that "men cannot even tell if a woman is wearing high heels when they walk."

So much for impressing men.

Sidenote: I'm not a big fan of wasteful studies either, but this one happened to present itself at an opportune time. So, there.

Coming back to the topic at hand, I continue to be flummoxed by women's capacity to endure pain just so their female form can appear more ... ummm... attractive.

But if men, supposedly, don't even notice, who are you trying to be attractive for? Other women? But other women would surely empathize and then none of you would ever have to wear high heels again.

The question remains: Why are women hell bent on risking injury every day? Surely they know that the visual effect (and implied boost in self-confidence) is not worth the actual physical agony?

The New York Times did a compilation of essays a while back on Why We Love The Shoes That Hurt Us.

Have a read and then come back here and tell me which camp you belong to: the Hail [Faux] Tall Fashionistas or More Power to the Flat-Soled Realistas.

Mansi Bhatia is a writer/editor currently residing in San Jose, California. An Indian by birth, a world citizen by choice.
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