I love high-heeled shoes. They even make feet — not stumpy legs, though — look good. Sure, they wreck the stabilising mechanisms of the foot by lifting the foot out of its natural position and shortening the Achilles’ tendon, leading to calf and foot pain, but like many other women, I choose to live with it.
Now British chiropodists and podiatrists seem to suggest I have chosen right. Not only do they claim that flat shoes such as flip-flops are as bad, if not worse, than high heels, but also that stilettos are just the things you need to boost your health.
To that, researchers from Italy — the country with arguably the highest per capita expenditure on fashion — have added that wearing heels improves the pelvic-floor muscles needed for mind-blowing sex.
Of course, conspiracy theorists will claim that this is all a part of a Manolo-Jimmy Choo-funded grand plan to drive desperate women to buy overpriced shoes. Or worse, that podiatrists want to boost business by wrecking havoc on your feet.
I find both the health and sex arguments questionable. One, heels do hurt and contort your feet and legs. Apart from injury and disease, choosing bad footwear is among the most common causes of pain in the knees, ankles and feet. Heels push the centre of gravity of the body forward, throwing the hips and spine out of alignment and increase the pressure on the knees and feet. They force calf muscles to contract to adjust to the angle of the heel, tightening and shortening them in time.
The sex boost theory is flawed simply because women with a sex life are more likely to spend money on stilettos than those who don’t have one. I mean, can you imagine Sarah Jessica Parker on the prowl in New York in flip-flops?
So, how do heels boost your health? British Podiatrists argue that flats shoes destroy natural posture by making people slouch and shuffle, and lead to foot pain and bunions (enlarged bone or tissue at the base of the big toe) because of lack of support. Flip-flops and thongs are the worst because they are totally flat and soft, and offer no protection.
Open slippers cause the feet to roll inward, stretching ligaments and tendons. The stretched ligaments pull toes out of alignment with the rest of the foot, causing severe pain that can eventually cause bunions. Feet that tend to roll in while walking pull the knees back, putting pressure on the kneecaps and making them painful and inflamed over time. They recommend heels that are one to two inches high.
The best shoes for healthy feet mimic the foot’s natural shape, while offering support in the arch and a flexible sole underneath the toes, the way most athletic shoes do. Unlike heels, comfortable shoes — such as Birkenstocks and crocs — allow full motion at the foot and ankle and decrease stress on the knees, hips and spine by keeping them in the natural position.
Ultimately, though, the bottomline is if the shoe (or slipper) fits, wear it. And if unbearable pain coincides with a new pair of shoes, blame the footwear and discard them. Stilettos are called that not just because of the shape, so if you want a sexy fit, you’ll just have to grin and wear it!