To heel or not to heel
There’s no denying that a high pair of stilettos makes a woman feel sexy. But what’s it like to actually spend a whole day walking around in high heels?health and fitness Updated: Nov 13, 2010 18:07 IST
I picked up a Post It and scribbled my to-do list for the day, wincing as I imagined myself going about every task on tip-toes. Because on tip-toes I was certainly going to be.
Watching my friends totter about in stilettos all day, every day, I wondered how they did it. They all claimed it was no big deal, but I wondered… really? So I decided to challenge myself. I would spend a whole day wearing a pair of three-inch heels and see how it went.
My shoe closet is filled with all sorts of flats – slippers, sneakers and sandals. I own only one pair of stilettos and they were a birthday gift. So, to-do list made, I slid my feet into the purple heels. And suddenly, there was a rush I’d never experienced before…
The plush inner velvet caressed my skin, the patent leather soles felt like they were carved to fit the arch of only my feet, and the pointy toes made the whole effect look so dainty. Plus, I was amazed to see how tall I looked – would people refer to me as ‘your highness’? I could hear myself walk too… tik-tok, tik-tok. I sounded so focused. So… powerful. Maybe my friends are not crazy when they say ‘high heels do so much to boost your confidence level’ – because if this feeling of a new sense of power was not real, nothing ever will be.But I tried not to let that overwhelm me. Instead I remembered the day I visited Dr Gouri Bhambhani to learn how I could carry out my high heels challenge best. "Any shoe that is more than two inches high can be severely dangerous to your health," Dr Bhambhani had told me. "Women, unfortunately, are more prone to arthritis and back problems than men, mostly due to the fact that they wear high heels."
“Well, I wear flats most of the time,” I’d told her proudly.
But my pride was misplaced. “That’s not a hundred per cent solution either,” Dr Bhambhani said. “Flat shoes can be quite disastrous to the arches of your feet since your body weight is compacted over them. This leads you to become as flat-footed as your flat soles and eventually this affects your posture and back alignment. So maybe mixing flats with one-inch heels once in a while is the best solution.”
Flats are not necessarily good? I felt as though someone had snatched the ground from beneath my flat feet! But back to today and the challenge. Wisely, I had decided to take this test on a Saturday rather than a working day. Because even picturing myself going through a working day in three-inch heels made my feet hurt.
So off I went to the restaurant where I meet members of my book club for lunch every Saturday. They just loved my shoes. “You should wear them more often,” they chorused and they made such a fuss about how good I looked that an extra inch was automatically added to my height – I felt like a movie star.
But the high lasted only during lunch. At the supermarket, where my to-do list had informed me I needed to buy groceries, I found myself stumbling on the slippery granite floor, my ankles almost twisting within the straps of my shoes. Pushing a shopping cart had never been so hard before, and the pointy toes of my shoes were giving me shoe bites.
“Toenail in-growths are part and parcel of wearing shoes that are tight up front,” I remembered Dr Bhambhani telling me. “When you wear high heels and tight-toed shoes, the toes get compressed and so the nails curl and push into the skin. Tight shoes could also give you bunions and other nerve-related problems. Narrow toe space leads to a thickening of the tissues in the foot. And you could get metatarsalgia. This occurs when there is severe pain in the ball of the foot as a result of the body’s weight being pressed upon that spot.”
After 50 minutes in the supermarket, I couldn’t bear the pain in my feet, ankles and calves. So though I hadn’t finished my shopping, I decided to leave. But should I end the challenge right here, I wondered? Or should I continue with my to-do list?
I checked the list. ‘Visit grandparents’, it said. And ‘Party!’No way I was going to abandon that list, heels or no heels.
I cheated at bit at my grandparents’ place – kicked off my shoes and revelled in wriggling those constricted toes. It hurt to put them on again for the party, and I shivered at the thought of dancing in them – my feet were actually throbbing. But as I let the DJ’s choice of music wash over me, as I twirled to the beat, the aches and shoe bites didn’t seem to matter anymore. All that mattered were the nonstop compliments I got from everyone that made me feel higher and higher and higher. Or so I thought!
Back home, I realised I couldn’t be more thankful for the end of this day. I soaked my painful feet in a basin of lukewarm water, adding half a bottle of lavender essential oil which, I was told, helps improve blood circulation while soothing the skin, a handful of sea salt (apparently effective in decreasing soreness), and some baking powder, a magic ingredient that brings out the scent of the essential oil. As the aroma of lavender filled the air, my entire body yearned to submerge itself into the sweet escape of this basin where there were no pointy fronts squeezing my delicate toes, no sharp sticks supporting my entire weight, no tough straps restricting my ankle movements and no leather stitches squashing my skin into clay. Only soothing softness and serenity…
And then the realisation hit home. This is a challenge I never want to take up again. My blessings are with those people who suffer only for added inches in heights and dramatic poise.