Are High Heels the Cigarettes of the Future?

Yesterday I ran across another blog, asking if Fast Food was becoming the cigarettes of the future.  I disagreed and suggested that it is positive-heeled footwear that was, in fact, creating the expensive (and painful!) conditions suffered by many.

My post was:

I don’t think Fast Food has become the “new smoking” as much as High Heels have. Once upon a time, the rationale for smoking was the sex appeal and the positive effect on weight management. Because it is hard to rationalize the choice of donuts as a positive one, poor food choices don’t fit as smoothly into the analogy.
Bone density-decreasing, nerve-damaging, and arthritis-causing high heels are probably being worn by your favorite OBGYN during your annual exam, eerily reminiscent of a 1950’s doctor’s visit, where Mr. Doctor chain smoked throughout your entire exam (anyone out there watch Mad Men?)
Blind to the detrimental effects footwear has on health, or the correlation of footwear to the prolapsing bladder waiting in her office, Ms. High-Heel Wearing Women’s Health Specialist doesn’t know, in the exact same way Mr. Smoking MD didn’t know, when you look at the heeled shoe, you are looking at the “Cigarettes” of the Future.

I submitted a book proposal for Curing the High Heel Hangover  – a book about alignment, gait patterns, and footwear – to a publisher that told me “Women will never give up their heels no matter how much they wreck their health.”

Is this true?  Even though a positive heel compresses and degenerates the disks in the spine, weakens the pelvic floor, decreases the mineral density in the bones, and kills the nerves in the feet, would a woman still choose to wear that shoe?  And teach her daughter, her students, or heaven forbid, her patients to do the same?

Why would a woman choose to pass on Women’s Diseases to the next generation for the illusion of height, longer legs, or a leaner appearance?  Do we feel that poorly about ourselves, or, is it because no one has clearly stated that Your Shoes, Ma’am, Are Making You Sick?

This (female!) executive is saying that Women are OK suppressing their (and their offspring’s) health.  I’d like to hear from you on this one.  What’s your honest answer, and, why?!

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26 thoughts on “Are High Heels the Cigarettes of the Future?

  1. You go girl. I am right there with you. Let’s change society’s view of what is attractive, let’s start a movement, burn our high heels in public town centers, throw shredded medical bills on feet wearing high hills, we could get really creative with this one

  2. OK, I have to admit, when I first learned about high-heels and the damage they cause, I was sure I could “cut back” and wear flats more often. But after a year of learning more and more about alignment, and buying my first pair of EARTH shoes, I find that now I hardly ever wear anything but flat shoes. In fact, even my favorite cowboy boots, with their 2″ heel, are gathering dust in my closet. Now that my feet don’t hurt, and my toes are spread, there is no way I would stuff them all into a pointy-toed high heel. PLUS: I feel more GROUNDED, better balanced, and am always ready for a long walk. THANK YOU for speaking out on this subject.

  3. Oh, and since you asked for honest answers, I do have to add that at 5’7″, it is a little easier for me to give up the heel height. I think that if I were shorter, it would be a bigger issue…

  4. I am a big fan of yours and I do not dispute your argument about high heel shoes. Bur we women should cherish our femininity and the high heels are a big part of it. You probably know that in fifties women were burning their bras, (for a different reason) but walk into Victoria Secret store today.
    We have to educate women how to take care of their feet to compensate for the harm of heels.
    Call me old fashion, but I like heels.

    1. Thanks for all of your replies! I love hearing your point of view 🙂 And, why were people burning their bras?

    2. And, what about the women all over the non-Western world? How do they express their femininity? If our feminine spirit needs to be expressed, are those without heels at a huge loss? Are they lesser women? Thoughts?

      1. i would like to express my femininity through compassion and nurturing. that would not make me a lesser woman.

        i see high heels today as exactly the same as the feet binding that used to be practiced in china. both practices are debilitating, turning the foot from a practical tool into good-for-nothing but looking at.

        just looking at the difference between the two pictures here:
        shows that this is the case. the foot on the bottom is functional. it can do what needs to be done. the foot on top is literally a model. a non-functional copy of a foot designed only for looks (as many people like that look)

  5. Oh, yes, I have done the heel thing. Even did the 4″ heels model thing and grew quite comfortable with it until… the pain started. I gave them (and the modeling) up and wearing the doctor prescribed orthodics started looking for comfort – not caring (for the most part) what the shoe looked like as long as my feet did’t hurt. Found a shoe type that worked until I practiced Baisic Body Gait. It no longer fills the bill. In the 70’s the earth shoe I tried didn’t work but I didn’t know how to walk optimally either. I’ve changed. I no longer need the orthodic so I’m hoping the Earth shoes will work for me. And they are absolutely cute compared to the others that once offered comfort. Even in my flats my toes want more room. Guess it’s time for Earth shoes.

  6. Your question about women all over the non-Western world called up an image of women in burkas. In much of the Islamic world, women have to be covered up at all times outside of their homes – and under the Taliban they can’t even wear shoes that make a sound when they walk (let alone wear high heels) – even at home!

    In response to the comment earlier about short women, I’m 5’2″ and feel fine without having to pump myself up with high heels. There are all kinds of other accessories that express my feminine spirit without harming my body. Take jewelry, for example…

    1. you’ve very obviously never been shoe shopping in the islamic world.

      awww, isn’t it nice that the taliban helped so much with alignment and women’s health?

  7. I’m not sure I can speak for non-Western women, being a western woman, but I do have thoughts.

    I don’t find subjecting oneself to pain and health problems in order to cater to the (supposed) sexual desires of men, and the cultural constructs of fashion particularly feminine. I don’t consider high heels (or bras for that matter) to be a “big part” of my femininity or my identity as a woman. Besides, heels were originally created for men. Nothing particularly feminine about that.

    I feel it would be far more beneficial for us to embrace our capacity to create and transform, in the very physical examples of creating life and the nourishment for it, as well as mental and artistic creations, to express our femininity. I think it’s difficult for our feminine spirits to express themselves in a culture where ‘femininity’ seems to be largely focused on sexual appeal and availability, and not on women as people. Our culture generally regards things like menstruation and fertility as undesirable–although both are very universal aspects of womanhood.

    As for teaching women to care for their feet to compensate for the harm of heels… to me it seems like teaching people to care for STDs to compensate for unsafe sexual practices. Or teaching people to ‘live with’ adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. The information is useful to those already suffering, but the general population would be better served by learning to prevent the problem in the first place.

    I don’t condemn anyone for wearing heels, I only hope she wears them for herself and has enough information to make a well-informed decision.

  8. I gave up heels after taking my first classes with you, Katie! I used to think I had to wear heels because of my height (or lack thereof 🙂 but now I enjoy flats. On the rare occasions when I have to wear heels, I take extra special care of my feet when the heels come off (LOVE wearing my toe spacers!)

  9. I can’t remember exactly when I moved into flat shoes. Not Earth shoes to begin with, but now a few Earths live in my closet and on my feet most days. I can’t say it was foot pain but rather an overall desire to be comfortable in all my clothes and shoes that made me switch to flat shoes. For me this acceptance of facts seemed a normal part of aging. As for passing bad habits onto the next gen, I have no kids but a bunch of nieces, and of course they wear all sorts of crazy high shoes. I try to lead my example. I’m also in total agreement with Cynthia who believes in their beauty and finds other ways to adorn herself. Jewelry is a nice accoutrement and lucky for me, my husband thinks so too!!

  10. …on women in the western world, you see a lot of high heels in latin america and europe and other developed countries, but in second and third world countries high heels are not as prevalent, which may have to do with the economics of the situation. The example of women in India is a good one. There, women (many who are extremenly poor) adorn themselves with beautiful fabric saris and small pieces of gold jewelry if they can afford it, and as a population, they are some of the most beautiful people I’ve seen. They also squat to cook, etc., and they sit on the floor a lot so it would be interesting to know if this population of women suffers from the same ailments as western women.

  11. I would buy that book! I’ve never been comfortable wearing high heels, and I’m so glad to have some ammo. I’m going to subscribe to your site, thanks!

    But my mom has 2 ruptured disks and in an effort to help her back, she bought the “negative-heel shoes” and her PT told her they are actually bad for her. What’s the deal?

  12. I am curious to hear from some men. Beginning with my father, I haven’t found men pressuring me or even encouraging me to wear high heels. And I’m short. Had a 6’4″ boyfriend once. Do I just pick more evolved men or ???? In spite of my best efforts (and my husband’s) at discouraging high heels for my 16 year old daughter, she adores them. Thank you media. I don’t think it is the boys she’s interested in attracting….it seems to be the girls who think the boys want the fashion with little imput from actual boys.

  13. You ladies rocked that one!! There’s some good quotes for your book on here, Katy.
    I think that more women would wear flats if they knew what heels were doing to their bodies. I’m a well educated woman, and I just recently learned of the damage they can do.

  14. I love my 60 pairs of heels(and counting) and how I feel EVERYDAY I wear them, but my feet despise them! I just love how I feel when I put them on…so I really can’t complain that my back or feet hurt (but I do 🙂 No one pressures me to wear them, not my husband, not my Dad or my friends; its all my doing and really its stupidty on my part as I know the damage I am causing.

    If someone can recommend a “HOT” pair of Earth shoes that I can wear with my business suits to work everyday, let me know, but I havent seen ANYTHING!

    1. Thanks for your honesty! I love feeling taller and imagining I have killer long legs too! What’s not to love? (But then I remember how I felt when I hurt my back and how I’d give ANYTHING to not have to feel that way!)
      I love hearing everyone’s point of view! There’s no right or wrong way to be, I’d just like everyone to make an informed decision…

  15. I don’t care one bit about fashion, or what people think of my appearance; I go barefoot for the past 14 years, I haven’t touched make-up or a bra since the insecure high school & college years either (I’m 42 now). I never feel awkward even when people look at me or comment; if they can’t look beyond the outside, that’s their problem, not mine. I am who I am and I’m quite happy with myself. We should teach women more confidence in their own body and their own abilities, not focus on fashion, make-up etc, and certainly not on one tiny part of all that (like heels). A more general approach would help women much better; it’d reduce the stress of always wondering what other people think, there are other things that aren’t that good for you (wearing loads of make-up every day doesn’t do your skin any good -and think of those who mess with botox!), it saves a lot of money….

    Then if someone really wants to wear heels because she likes them, not because she hates them but thinks the boss/boyfriend/colleagues/customers will while she herself hates wearing them, then it’s fine with me. There’s one big difference between footwear and smoking; there’s no second-hand heel wearing. When someone smokes around me, I’m breathing their second-hand smoke. But no matter how many people around me wear high heeled shoes, I don’t have to take even a single step in one of those things. By all means educate (is there anyone who still doesn’t know heels are harmful?), but as long as it affects their own health only, let them.

  16. I would buy that book! I’ve never been comfortable wearing high heels, and I’m so glad to have some ammo. I’m going to subscribe to your site, thanks!

    But my mom has 2 ruptured disks and in an effort to help her back, she bought the “negative-heel shoes” and her PT told her they are actually bad for her. What’s the deal?

  17. I’m 17 and I usually don’t wear high heels,though I often drool over them’ve been looking for some nice fancy shoes,and have found a few kinda high heel shoes that I’m thinking about.I try to stick at looking at 2 &1/2″ to 3″ inch heels,and make sure they have enough padding,and a thicker heel helps,too.

    I did find a pair of Naturalizer wedge sandals I LOVE..If I remember correctly,they have a heel of 2 and 1/2″.

    I love to go barefoot in the Spring and Summer,though.haha.I either like going barefoot,or am very picky with the shoes I buy.If I get some fancy shoes and I can’t stand them,I will just send them back till I can find a pair that are really comfortable.Doesn’t make sense to keep a shoe you pay a lot of money for if they aren’t comfortable enough to wear.

    I’ve worn Earth shoes before,and Born shoes are awesome,too!I’ve only tried one style so far,but I would imagine any pair they make would be very comfortable,even the high heel ones.If i could get all the Born shoes,I

  18. I’ve been following you’re work for quite some time. (Why I’m commenting on an old article is because I’m interested in seeing the changes that you are making become more widespread, but find this to be an interesting article about what I would say could be one of the biggest issues… Anyways…) I find that the biggest obstacle for most people that I have spoken to that have had an interest in the changes that I’ve experienced (they have been numerous) specifically the difference in my posture (aligned) and theirs though has been with having to “quit” high heels and change their shoe choices. Unfortunately I do think that this is executive has hit the nail on the head with her statement and that most women will not give up their shoes easily. Does that mean you should not continue on encouraging a change, absolutely not! If anyone will be able to bring on a huge shift in this area it will be you!!!

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