The Great Stiletto Conspiracy

Posted on: 17 May 2011 by Diane Priestley

Diane Priestley has given up killer heels for comfy flats and challenges women to step down!

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Is it just me or does anyone else think stilettos are a misogynist joke?

High heels are meant to make women look sexy by jutting out the bum and making you teeter daintily and swing your hips seductively. Stilettos look especially alluring when worn with a short, tight skirt or skinny jeans. Being clearly impractical as sensible footwear, they subliminally suggest that you are ready to flop backwards on a bed, or possibly lean forward, ready for sex. They also send the message that looking sexy is such a priority you are willing to endure agony with every step.

In this excruciating attempt to look sexy, and some women paradoxically claim high heels make them feel “empowered”, a woman in reality looks helpless and vulnerable; precariously on the brink of toppling over. 

Daily Mail columnist William Leigh expresses the male ambivalence to the female form cavorting in high heels. “At four inches, the woman begins to look ferocious as well as vulnerable – she may be cornered, but these heels look like weapons, metaphorically, if not quite literally. She is dressed to kill, a vamp, a creature of the night…even if she is standing in a lunch queue at Pret a Manger.

"At five inches, this year’s height, something new happens. Instead of the feminine sashay, the woman’s walk begins to look like something else – dressage. She’s like a show pony.”

To my middle-aged eyes, newly arrived in London and keenly observing the street fashion trends, younger women actually look silly, ridiculous and comical on absurdly tall stilettos. 

High heels strike me as humiliating. Only a foolish woman would willingly turn herself into a fashion victim. Walking on spikes is a form of oppression on par with willingly shrouding yourself in heavy black robes and veils. We cannot judge other cultures that oppress women when our own western culture promotes instruments of torture for female footwear.

The physiological truth is walking on ‘killer heels’ sends shock waves through the foot reverberating throughout the nervous system, causing pain. Concentrating all the pressure on the ball of the foot, tips you forward and throws out balance and posture, damages the spine and muscles and adversely impacts every body system. 

Apart from chronic pain inflicted through the martyrdom of walking or standing in high heels throughout a busy working day, there is a very real danger of tripping and falling over and injuring yourself as you rush around the city streets, chasing a bargain or trudging through the unglamorous tunnels in the Tube.  

High heels are a commercial conspiracy. Clever advertising and marketing whiz kids exploit the female urge to collect objects that are shiny and pretty, drawing on the tribal Gatherer instinct. Once a woman has succumbed to buying the latest mesmerising pair of heels, she will quickly tire of them, as the novelty of the new trinket wears off, and she will return to buy another pair, and another and another, to add to her glittering collection (the equivalent of collecting pebbles or shells in the wild).

The impractical nature of these shoes ensures planned obsolescence and continual sales. All the while, gullible women are indoctrinated by fashion magazines that convince them that wearing killer heels is ‘normal’. Like other forms of social indoctrination, it is an insidious normalisation process of behaviour that is ridiculous and harmful (like violence and war). 

I have a personal gripe with high heels because I have reached that menopausal age where walking long distances in standard heels or even flat shoes causes my feet to over-heat (something to do with the body thermostat being out of whack). My sweet little footsies become all swollen, tender and sore. I once Google searched ‘swollen and tender feet’ to discover a truckload of serious medical knowledge under the heading of this quaint term. 

Unlike women who get obsessed with pretty shoes, I have become obsessed with buying every possible variety of sensible, supportive shoes; spongy slip-ons, cool open sandals and solid exercise footwear, but still my poor feet end up ‘swollen and tender’; all pink, blistered and throbbing after a few hours on the move; which is very distressing as an avid traveller. 

What to do, what to do! It is a perplexing dilemma for women of my age. And then I discovered The Anti-Shoe. I even like the assertive name because it is as cranky and adamant in its rejection of heels as I am. But when I laid eyes on a pair for the first time, I must admit I was shocked. They have big, curved soles. Hmmm…now, that IS different! 

However when I put on the DVD and started learning about the rationale behind the design, it made perfect sense. The brochure blurb explains all: “The curved sole preserves the foot’s natural rolling movement. By creating a natural instability underfoot, it activates long-neglected muscles and has a positive effect from head to toe. 

“The anti-shoe improves gait and posture and relieves stress on your joints and back. It exercises a large number of muscles and supports muscle regeneration, whether you’re walking or standing. It stimulates your metabolism and burns extra calories. It can have a firming effect on abdominal, leg and buttock muscles.”

I like it! I like it! So I bought myself a pair. They are expensive and not for the faint-hearted. But the nice man in the store tells me they will last for four million steps.

My new curved soles can’t possibly look sillier than killer heels. So I tried them out, pounding the pavement like a Super Hero in my trusty Anti-Shoes until winter set in and I discovered with a crash that slippery footpaths and curved sole don’t mix. I was forced to reserve my MBTs for dry conditions. However when summer came around, they proved too hot and heavy! 

So I looked up my old friend Scholl online and rediscovered the ecstasy of spiky massage sandals around the house and contoured soles for out and about on the Tube. 

But it gets better. I have discovered a thrilling new array of comfort shoes! Oh Bliss. I’m in Sensible Footwear Heaven! There is Life After Death by heels. I am the new evangelist for walking on clouds shoes! Hallelujah!

Read Rhian's response to this article on 50connect

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The Great Stiletto Conspiracy

Who do you agree with? Do you think Diane is right and heels are a misogynistic torture device or is Rhian right, do women have a right to wear whatever they want?

  1. 80% Diane - high heels are a misogynist joke
  2. 20% Rhian - wear them with pride, but not for men's pleasure
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