High Heels are Bad for Your Feet So Why Do You Keep Wearing Them?

I vote for pig slippers!

I just want to yell this once in a while, “High heels are bad for you! Why do you keep wearing them?” I know people love high heels. As someone who has never been able to walk gracefully in sneakers I have struggled to relate to high heel wearers for most of my life. People in my town wear heels to the grocery store. I am lucky if I am wearing actual pants to the grocery store. I may have a bias towards women who manage to get gorgeous before leaving the house each day. That is not really the point I am trying to make, but I just want to put that out there. It’s not just a bias, but an insane jealousy because I can’t seem to pull myself together most days. Anyway, I am sure some other blogger is at home, right now, writing about the frumpy woman she encountered at the grocery store. That blogger is likely wondering why other women don’t put more effort into their appearance and why they don’t change out of their yoga pants and sneakers before heading into town. This is not lost on me. I am not saying frumpy is better than looking like a hot mom or vice versa. I am a mostly frumpy mom who fantasizes about being a hot mom, but who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to pull it off very well.

Today, I am just wondering why footwear, that causes pain and squished toes and often encourages arthritis to develop, is embraced so widely. This is all about the shoes. Shoes I sort of view as torture devices. This is not a judgment on moms being glam or frumpy or both or neither. This is more about a culture that says heels are best even when all of the evidence says otherwise.

In my twenties I experimented with wearing heels. I wore them to the grocery store once. I thought I was pretty chic. I was reveling in my moment of fashion right up until I fell down in front of a mom and her eight year old daughter. I just sort of stumbled and then slid into first base right at her feet. I could practically hear the mom using me as an example of “what not to do” as she silently explained (with her eyes) my humiliating moment to her surprised eight year old daughter, who was staring down at me as I rested at her feet, on the cold, dirty linoleum. It was embarrassing, but the mom had kind eyes and I could tell she felt sorry for me. Here I was, 20-something, trying so hard to seem grown up and perfect in every way, but really I was uncoordinated and hadn’t fully embraced my non-heel-wearing ways yet. I hadn’t accepted myself, not really. I still had hope that I was a fashionista and that my heels symbolized my power as a woman. That one day I would be discovered by a Hollywood mogul and become a Super Model Actress Star in a magazine article on what to wear to the grocery store. I think believing all of my power resided in my footwear was probably the biggest fantasy I had about myself at the time. Maybe this is a fantasy a lot of young women engage in. Or, maybe they think their power lies in their hair, their breasts or even their eyelashes. I don’t know for sure. I just know that I was trying to find my identity outside of myself at the time. More specifically, in my shoes. As I age I realize more and more how little of my power does in fact come from my shoes or my hair or even in how white my teeth are. My identity is developed from the inside out and not the outside in.

After falling in the grocery store I got up quickly and ran off hoping to avoid the mom and daughter duo staring at me with pity. When I say “run” I mean walked as quickly as I could without falling again and trying not to look like someone who had just wiped out in front of an audience. Unfortunately, the mom and daughter caught up to me at the registers. The mom tapped me on the back. When I turned to look at her she handed me my keys, “I think you may have dropped these.” she said with a knowing smile. That was the last time I ever wore heels to the grocery store. I decided the experience was just too humiliating to endure again, and given my track record for tripping and embarrassing myself, was likely to be a regular occurrence if I did not change my ways. That day at the grocery store, I just came across as a foolish, immature young lady trying to be something I clearly was not: a high heel wearer.

Mother and daughter-family
Just a couple of Fashionista wanna-be’s.

I haven’t really worn heels much in the last decade or so either. I have an aversion to pain. I want to be as healthy as possible. I want to be able to run and jump and get some traction on the ground when I need to. I wear heels when I must. If I am going to a wedding or some other dress up function I will wear heels if it is necessary, but I try to avoid them otherwise. I see a lot of women talking about their heels and corporate jobs and power and beauty and the importance of their shoes. I’ve never had a corporate job, so I probably don’t grasp the culture well. I just wonder why something that causes pain, deformed feet, or shrunken leg muscles gives a woman power? Why is our power determined by our footwear? By the amount of pain we endure? It doesn’t make any sense. Shouldn’t we be more focused on other ways to gain power and respect? Maybe through our ideas and abilities? Our talents? Why are we focused on shoes instead?

With all of the information out there about how bad high heel shoes are for your body, I wonder why women continue to wear them at all. Why don’t all of the smart women at the top take a stand against something bad for their feet? Why do women still believe their power comes from their footwear? I was talking to a kindergarten teacher about this one day. She wears heels every day to work. She wears three-inch heeled, black boots in the winter. I was questioning how she stayed upright during the day and how she chased the kids around on the playground. I am sure I sounded like an old fuddy-duddy, but I couldn’t help myself. I was in awe of her ability and her desire because I would have traded in those heels five minutes into the job. I’d be terrified of stepping on little fingers, or not being able to chase kids and catch them before they ran into the parking lot, or that my legs would ache all night long from standing in heels on cement floors all day. She told me she wanted to look professional. That she wouldn’t be taken seriously or respected if she didn’t wear heels to work. She had career ambitions that could not be attained by wearing flats. I understood what she was saying, but I also thought it was really sad that your career success could be determined by footwear. That your shoes, that made you uncomfortable and caused you pain, were a determining factor in reaching your career goals.

Maybe I am missing something important, but I find this disappointing. Women shouldn’t have to sacrifice their health in order to have a successful career or to be treated with respect in the work place. I keep hoping that women become known more for their problem solving abilities, innovative ideas, and incredible skills instead of for their footwear. That power is earned through hard work and brains instead of through high-heeled shoes. What do you think? Do you wear heels? Do you ever think about why you wear them? Am I missing something? Educate me! I am not grasping this cultural phenomenon, obviously.


Curious about my bias towards beautiful women? Read about it here: I’m Prejudice Against Beautiful Women.

36 thoughts on “High Heels are Bad for Your Feet So Why Do You Keep Wearing Them?”

  1. I’ve never worn heels – unless as you said, the occasion sort of calls for it. And even then, they’re actually a one inch wedge heel. I didn’t even have a “trying it out phase”. As soon as I realised they hurt, they were dropped from my wardrobe. I don’t understand them either. Maybe other women don’t mind the pain? Maybe the cute outfit is worth it? Not to me.

    Yoga pants and running shoes for me. If I *was* to wear heels, I’d probably spend most of my time sitting down, and where’s the fun in that?

    1. I’d alternate my time in heels between sitting down and falling down. They aren’t any fun to wear for me. My husband is a fast walker and wearing heels would slow us down and I’d miss out on spontaneous hikes in the forest and other adventures that heel wearing does not allow. Instead of feeling powerful, heels sort of make me feel helpless. I need to hold onto to someone to walk around and what if I need to run? I’d never make it across the street without getting mowed down by a car. Also, I prefer to be comfortable more than stylish. This is why I will never be prom Queen…haha!

  2. I love high heels and I wear them somehow often – or at least few times each week, when I don’t need to chase two certain kids…I agree, most women try to find their power/beauty in what they wear or what do they look like. It is sad. But it is also hard to do otherwise, as the whole society, media and other powerful means tell us it is the only way. I wear high heels because: a) I am really short and feel bad when I need to keep my head up all the time
    b) they give me confidence I am lacking sometimes c) I don’t find them less comfortable than flat shoes d) I love the noise they make! πŸ™‚

    1. I have to agree with you, women’s power is wrapped up in what we look like. I am not sure how to avoid that and no matter how much I complain about high heels they are obviously part of the whole structure. I love the noise they make too. When I was a kid I wanted to be a tap dancer because I liked that clickity-clack noise so much. Unfortunately wearing heels can lead to some long term health problems. Things we don’t worry about when we are young, but might come to regret as we age.

      1. That’s true; we should do everything to stay healthy for as long as we can…but youth has its privilages (I guess that’s the word!) – there is a saying like that in Polish and I used it a lot as a teenager to explain my silly behaviour πŸ˜‰

        1. There will be plenty of things I will regret doing to my body as I age even without wearing heels. All of this typing with carpal tunnel comes to mind!

  3. Rarely do I wear high heels anymore! Being a work at home mom does have its benefits!! No more high heels to the office.
    After being pregnant the last thing I wanted to do was put on shoes that hurt ~ I am all about comfort now.
    Still ~ I will wear some high heels on occasion when I have a specific look I want to achieve or be a little flirty!

    (ΒΈΒ€ Lanaya | xoxo

  4. I rarely ever wear heals and I really can’t do stilettos. Way to ouch for me. I do appreciate them though. They make some really cute looking shoes! I just appreciate my feet too much and I am much happier in my chucks.

    1. I sort of drool over shoes. I used to be a real shoe collector. There are some really cute shoes out there. I guess now I prefer to look at them than to wear them. I live in birkenstocks and sneakers.

      1. I go for comfort as well, but sometime you have to pick shoes that will go with an outfit. I refuse to believe thought that in my career if I don’t torture myself with spikes I won’t climb the career ladder. That I’m sorry is just plain stupid.

  5. I gave away all my heels after having two ankle surgeries. I don’t ever wear heels anymore. And I agree that’s not where our power is at all. Once I read that women wear heels because the extended position of the feet flees the calf muscles more, therefore making our legs look sexier. I’m with you – no thanks! Love me and respect me for who I am or hit the road!

  6. I wonder if some people just don’t find them as painful as others – maybe their feet are closer to the “ideal” used by shoe makers. I know that my feet are not. My shoes never quite fit. I can’t even wear ballet flats; they don’t stay on my feet. I wish I were someone who could wear anything, but I’m not.

    1. I am actually more comfortable in heels. I have ridiculously flat feet and the lack of an arch makes teaching all day in flats very painful. So, yes, for me there is power in the heel, but only the power of not needing a foot bath by the end of the day. I’d die of happiness to wear a pair of adorable ballet flats or Mary Janes. πŸ™

      1. It seems we always want what we can’t have! I am glad you have found a way to get through the day with less pain.

  7. I find it sadly hilarious to see women teetering through the grocery store in super-high heels. I have probably worn heels 6 times in the last 10 years, and my feet thank me every night. It’s a little creepy when they thank me, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

    1. I see a lot of women wearing shoes they cannot walk in. They just sort of slide, slowly through the store. I feel sorry for them, probably because they give me flashbacks to my younger self.

      Some people’s feet talk, some bark. πŸ™‚

  8. Ooooh, I LOVE heels. It’d kind of funny because my most recent post is about them, lol. I would only wear them in a grocery store if it was a quick spur of the moment stop though. I do have to say, that high heels aren’t really painful for me. Sometimes, if I stand for a really long time in them, they begin to hurt, but even when I wear flats that happens. I am short (5’1) and I like them because they make me feel tall, but also, I love getting all dolled up. I always have. I am typically overdressed for everything because I just like dresses. I unfortunately am not a fashionista either though. Most of my clothes are not what is in. I think we all just have different styles. I feel completely uncomfortable and awkward to go out in sweats, but I know friends who would feel awkward in my clothes.

    1. Very true! We all have different comfort levels and preferences for sure. It seems like men don’t have to be in pain to be beautiful…haha! Or to get ahead at work. I think what bothers me is that some people have to wear them even when they may not want to.

    2. You would feel uncomfortable in sweats? Comfort as defined as what you would feel comfortable sleeping in? It sounds like your comfort is tied into how other people view you, or how confident you feel because of how others view you… and less about the actual comfort of the clothes. I may be wrong, but from the outside looking it- that is what it seems like.

      1. Hi Lorin, thanks for an interesting comment. I would say my view is not based on how people view me, because (like I kind of said above) most people consider my sense of style to be a bit odd. In fact, I have had people blatantly ask why I dress the way I do. The thing is, I love vintage style dresses. For me, they are comfortable. I have always hated the feel of pants. In a dress my body feels more free to move, but that is just me. I of course would never ever push that opinion on to another. I also must disagree with your definition of comfort. While what you sleep in may be your definition of comfort for all situations, I would define comfort as what makes me feel at ease in any given situation. For me, that ranges widely from one situation to the next. For instance, I sleep in the nude, but I would feel extremely uncomfortable going to the grocery store that way. πŸ˜‰

  9. There was a time when men ‘had’ to wear hats to be taken seriously in the business world. That changed over less than a decade. For my own daughters’ sake, I’d like to see heels go the same way.

  10. Let’s get real. Woman wear high heels because men appreciate what it does to their appearance πŸ˜‰ At least in many cases. Really chubby women probably shouldn’t wear heels. Or amazon women either. They’re tall enough and I don’t want to be kissed on the forehead.

    1. I am so glad things are changing. This is exactly the kind of message I don’t want my daughter to get.

  11. I think the novel is “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” which details the tortuous foot training Chinese women underwent to fit into tiny shoes for the appreciation and attention of men. Men, it seems, think accentuating the calf and temporarily disabling a woman through delicate footwear and eventual clumsiness is necessary to cause arousal. That’s probably because it’s one of the only ways they can subdue a woman. I haven’t worn heels in years and if I do it’s for my pleasure not the compliments of a man. As for the sentiment that women need to dress a certain way to get ahead in the world, men have themselves to credit with some of that as they return home to live in their parents’ basements only to watch more women earn undergraduate and higher degrees and achieve greater positions and power in the workforce. I don’t dress to impress anymore; my presence speaks for itself. I am woman, call me bored. Nice post, Lil. I’m so glad those days of preening are behind us. We have our grannies and great grannies to thank. πŸ™‚

    1. That foot binding for Chinese women is just so awful. I shudder just to think about it. I am so glad things are changing and I hope they continue to do so. Women are achieving great things. That gives me hope.

  12. I love to see my wife in high heels ,even if I know her feet will be aching after a long day in high heels. As long as you don’t wear them 24/7 like some women do ,I don’t think there will be long term damage. She is 45 and has been wearing high heels since she was 16 and she doesn’t have any problems wearing them. She wears them to work 2 or 3 days a week and for dinner or going out on weekends. I think the biggest problem is women who never wear high heels then have a night out and decide to wear 5 ,6, or even 7 inch heels and of course their feet are killing them or they are wobbling all over the place, or even worse fall off their killer heels and shatter their ankle. My wife wears high heels regularly and her feet are used wearing high heels, but she uses common sense and doesn’t wear 5 inch high heels to go shopping all day at the mall or when it is not appropriate. I am glad she likes to wear high heels because she always gets the ” how can you walk in those high heels?” Or ” your feet must be killing you in those high heels” questions. She always laughs and says ” practice I guess ” and ” I love having my husband massage my feet after wearing them”.

  13. I have always wondered the same thing! In movies these women sprint in high heels… and I can barely walk in them. Plus, my chiroprachter said they are horrible for your posture. And they cause veins to stick out in your feet. I have decided that I am DONE with high heels eternally.

  14. At my last job I worked for a tiny little mean man and loved to come into work with my 5’7″ self and a good pair of 3″ heels so that I could tower over him and make him feel small. It made him being a little douche nugget a little more bearable.

    Now that I travel around for work, I tend to throw on the heels and my most professional wear when I work at the location of my boss and my bosses boss 2x a month. I feel like I need to look EXTRA professional for them now that I work from home 2x a week (and typically stay in pj’s all day).

  15. I always wear heels– 4″ to 5.5″ or so. They don’t bother me at all. *shrug*.
    I love how they look, and how they make me feel.

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