A couple of months ago, while scrolling through my Instagram feed, I came across horrific images of a friend of mine (her profile is private so I can’t share these photos with you), her swollen face was covered in bruises which rivaled that of Rocky. At first I thought it was for a costume party or maybe she got a nose job/facelift (you never know these days and people do love oversharing, myself included). But the bruises, stitches and gashes on her face were so real I thought perhaps she was in a car accident. When I read her caption, I found out she nearly killed herself walking down the stairs in her sky high Manolo heels when it caught on her coat hem and she fell down 12 steps on to the pavement busting her face open and breaking her wrist! It took me a minute to process that her injuries were not from being mugged or a lovers’ spat, but self induced by her HEELS. My next thought was, oh my god- this could have been me.
I cannot remember the last time (or any time for that matter) I went to a public event or luncheon in flats. Other than sneakers at the gym or Birkenstocks at home, I am never without my high heels. And the bar for heels has been raised to sky high limits. I remember when 4 inch Louboutins were a big deal– they felt dangerously sexy but now with Gucci’s towering 7 inch platform, 4 inches feel like a casual daily shoe.
The object of my current heel obsession: Saint Laurent Betty 80 Bow (on FarFetch for $995)
Clearly the trend is not slowing down, almost half of the women in the US currently wear high heels, each owning an average of 9 pairs even though more than 123,000 high heel related injuries were reported in the last ten years! An estimated one third of all women who wear heels regularly are at risk of permanent health issues according to Dr. Mercola. And let’s not even get into Asians and their obsession with height. Korean women have gone to extremes, having their legs broken, stretched and reset with metal rods to gain an inch or two (not recommended). So why the obsession with height? In our society, height is a sign of beauty. Though there is no official height requirement, most beauty pageant contestants are over 5’7″ with the exception of the gorgeous Olivia Culpo, Miss Universe 2012, who stands proudly at 5’5″. And don’t even think about a career in modeling unless you’re tall– even though Kate Moss ( considered short at 5’7″) is undisputedly one of the greatest models of all time. But my love of high heels is more than just about looking taller, it’s the way a pair of high heels make me feel- confident and sexy. I walk with more swagger and feel like a beauty queen!
The first appearance of heels dates back to Ancient Egypt 3500BC – wearing high heels was considered a sign of nobility whereas in Ancient Roman times, high heels was a sign to gentlemen that a lady was a prostitute and for sale (hence the term hooker shoes!) In modern times, one not need be noble nor prostitute to wear a pair of sky high heels. But how high are we willing to go without risking serious injury? I never thought I would wear 6″ heels yet here I am, two pairs in and haunting for the third. And have you seen Lady Gaga in her 10″ Alexander McQueen ankle stompers?! As heels reach new heights, will we require walkers like the ancient Roman days? That is to be seen but in the meantime, there are things a girl can do to avoid injury…
My preferred walker during fashion month is Bryan Boy; this is me teetering on 5.5″ Gucci Angel heels in Paris last season while he chivalrously kept me from falling
TIPS For Avoiding Injury:
- If you live in a house with stairs, keep your heels downstairs or carry them down the stairs with you.
- Avoid walking up or down stairs in heels as much as possible. Take the elevator whenever possible- there is no shame and no you don’t need the extra exercise, that’s what gyms and Barre classes are for.
- When shopping high heels online, check out the dimensions of the platform vs heel. I try not to buy shoes with more than a 3″ pitch, which means my platform must be 3″ if I want to wear 6″ heels. Or 1″ platform for 4″ heels.
- When walking on uneven pavement, take measured even steps- place one foot firmly on the ground before stepping with the other foot.
- Make sure your coat, dress or pant hems are not loose where the heel can get caught.
- Most high heel related injuries occur in the home, take your shoes off upon entering the house. (No shoes in the house! A Chinese household rule my son used to shout at guests.)
- If all else fails, find yourself a good walker!
Also, any shoe over 5 inches should come with warning labels:
- Do not walk alone while intoxicated
- This shoe is for car to bar only, do not attempt to walk on sidewalks or pavements
- Do not attempt to operate machinery while wearing
HISTORY OF THE HIGH HEEL:
Ancient Egypt: Dating back to 3500 B.C., early depictions of high heels could be seen on ancient Egyptian murals. These murals would depict Egyptian nobilities wearing heels to set them apart from the lower class, who would normally go barefoot. Heeled shoes were worn by both men and women, and most commonly for ceremonial purposes. However, high heels also served a practical purpose for Egyptian butchers who wore them in order to walk over the bloodied bodies of animal carcasses. During Egyptian times, heels were leather pieces that were held together by lacing to form the symbol of “Ankh”, signifying life.
Ancient Rome & Greece: Platform sandals called “kothorni” or “buskins” were shoes with high wooden cork soles worn during ancient Greek and Roman era. They were particularly popular among the actors who would wear them to differentiate the social classes and importance of each character. In ancient Rome, where sex trade was legal, high heels were used to identify those within the trade to potential clients and high heels became associated with prostitution (hooker shoes are still a term of endearment between my friends and me).
Middle Ages: During the Middle Ages, both men and women would wear “pattens”, which were wooden soles, attached to their shoes in order to keep their fragile and expensive footwear out of the mud and street debris. “Chopines”, or platform shoes, emerged during the 1400s in Turkey and became popular throughout Europe until mid-1600s. Rising up to about 30 inches above ground, women who wore them required the use of canes or servants to assist them in walking. “Chopines” had the same practical use as pattens did, but were exclusively for women. This marked a point where heels were turning into an aesthetic object, instead of the earlier practical use.
World’s Highest Heels: The highest heeled shoes commercially available, according to Guinness Book of World Records, are the 20 inch platform boots created by the Indian designer James Syiemiong.
Photos: Rony Alwin, Jeff Thibodeauco, High heel history