January 6, 2013

Let's talk about SHOES.

Let’s have a little change of pace here, shall we?  I want to talk about shoes.  (I also want to talk about empowered choices and calculated risk, but good luck getting someone to agree to that!  So, I’ll talk about shoes.)

I love me some high-heeled shoes.  I pine after the slightly-chunky, vintage-styled heels from Chie Mihara, John Fluevog, Miz Mooz, and ReMix – these are the shoes that feed into my pinup-cum-practicality aesthetic.  Less-pricey lovelies comprise the majority of my shoe wardrobe – and yet, only once or twice per month do I choose to wear shoes with higher than a 1/4-inch heel.
I’ve seen a bit of discussion recently in the style blogosphere on this topic: are heels feminist or anti-feminist?  How young is too young to start wearing them?  How old is too old to continue?  Are they inappropriate, immodest, scandalous?  In general, I believe sartorial choices are an individual matter.  I see feminism as a perspective of empowerment; shoes and skirts and handbags may reflect your social viewpoint, but those views are defined by the decisions you make and your motives for doing so – and a dozen different women may make the same decisions with very different reasons behind them.  The thing that saddens and alarms me in all of this is seeing people make these choices – choices of fashion, function, or self-expression – ignorant of some of the oh-so-significant consequences.  We pick our daily footwear based on how well they suit our activities, how we want to be perceived, how wearing them makes us feel.  But please think about it – have you ever given thought to how healthy your shoes are?
There are several factors in a shoe’s design which impact how beneficial or detrimental it is to your health, but we’re just talking about heel height here.  The truth in a nutshell is that anything with a positive heel has a negative impact on your body’s structure and function, and consequently, your health.  A “positive heel” is when the heel is elevated above the ball of the foot, which means we’re not just talking about “high heeled” shoes, but about clogs and gym shoes and wedges and boots and probably most of the things that most of us have in our closets.  

We like these shoes, and their 1”-2” positive heels.  They are comfortable.  Many people find truly flat or negative-heeled shoes to be hard on their backs, and that experience is valid.  However, it is important not to confuse “pain-free” with “healthy.”  The aches and pains we get in our knees or back when going barefoot or wearing truly flat shoes are actually caused, in most people, by a lifestyle that does not impose the demands that the structures of our bodies are intended to meet, and our personal adaptations to these lighter loads.  We hurt when we do something which is health-promoting because it forces our bodies to perform in ways beyond what we’ve adapted to; literally, we are outside our comfort zones, our comfortable patterns of movement.
So why talk about it here?  What is it about this that makes it appropriate fodder for a style blog?  I bring it up because I believe an informed perspective is a necessary prerequisite for an empowered decision.  We put intentional effort into our clothing choices based on how we want to look, feel, and function; the health consequences are another axis for consideration in the decision-making process.  I am not here to preach, or try to convince anyone to do anything other than think about these things when making their choices.  As in everything else within and beyond the world of personal style, the right answer is going to be different for everyone.  
For myself, though my commuter lifestyle and my personal aesthetic are both wholly inclusive of heels, I choose not to wear them…most of the time.  I also specifically choose not to completely give them up.  I confess, I like wearing them, I love the way they look and how they make me feel.  It’s definitely an ego boost that my carefully-curated collection garners comments of “I love your shoes!” whenever I wear them.  These are the benefits to my calculated risks, and the reasons why I do wear heeled shoes.  In most instances, however, I choose flats.  There are enough other places in my life where, as much as I’d like to, I am too constrained to make a choice that is health-promoting; since I have freedom to choose my footwear, I use that opportunity to even things back out.

My shoes are my choice – intentional, empowered decisions that consider my needs from a variety of perspectives.  It is my sincere hope that the same is true, or will soon be so, for you.

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As a health professional-in-training and a hopeful academician, I acknowledge and confess that it rubs me wrong to assert claims such as I have above without providing citations to back them up.  I have been working on this post for weeks as it is, and the thought of having to wade back through semesters’ worth of medical school notes and peer-reviewed papers before hitting “publish” on the blog was wearying.  I will be back with evidence, eventually, and apologize for not providing it initially. 

1 comment:

  1. Ugh! I'm drooling! You guys have always had such fabulous duds. I love looking at shoes but for some reason I don't like owning them. Maybe cuz I destroy everything I own so I don't want to spend the money or maybe because my taste changes? Either way, I'm living vicariously through you guys!