Are high heels a good idea or too much trouble? I am delighted to share a guest post from Susannah Davda – Director, The Shoe Consultant
“I’ve been working in the shoe industry for twenty one years. I ran up and down ladders with armfuls of shoe boxes as a shop assistant, studied for a degree in footwear design, then worked as a shoe designer and buyer. I went on to manage the women’s range for a global footwear brand, and subsequently started my consultancy business. I have met, worn or analysed tens of thousands of shoes. High heeled footwear has fascinated me since I bought my first pair at the age of sixteen.
High heels slow down our walking pace, can be painful, and might even cause foot problems only solved by surgery. It’s no wonder then, that women have embraced the trend for trainers. When I say “embraced”, I mean the kind of never-ending hug we want to give our children, until we remember they’re independent humans and not extensions of us. Unlike those parental cuddles, we won’t let our cushioned foot companions go without a fight.
Some of us have completely given up on high heels…or even mid-height heels. Others put them on for parties and weddings, then hobble back to our faithful flats with a sigh of relief. Why are we drawn to heels, despite their incapacitating effects? What is it about them that makes us feel sexy, more confident or both? Here are my theories:
- High heels make us taller, closing the gap between us and our male associates. We see eye-to-eye with more people and are taller than some. This gives us a feeling of increased dominance.
- Wearing shoes with elevated heels makes us curve our spines, and stick our buttocks and breasts out. These features are considered feminine, so highlighting them makes us feel more overtly female, and perhaps more attractive.
- Our steps are amplified when we’re wearing heels. The clack clack gets us noticed, when the thud of a flat shoe wouldn’t.
- The slower walking pace we must adopt when wearing heels makes us feel calmer.
- When we’re wearing high heels we’re comfortable in, we walk with a swagger or sashay that inexplicably makes us feel fabulous. This one, I can’t explain.
There are certainly advantages to wearing heels, but I’ve witnessed many women being held back by their choice of footwear.
We wear a shiny but uncomfortable new pair of high heels to a job interview, answer the employer’s questions through a fog of pain, and hobble home. We buy glitzy stilettos for the party of the year, and spend most of the night sitting down, dreading the walk home. We wear high heels to a networking event, start to feel the burn on the balls of our feet, head home early, and miss out on meeting great people.
High heels don’t have to be uncomfortable. As a shoe consultant, I help shoe brands and retailers to create shoes which look and feel great. I also give talks to groups of women, sharing my tips for finding comfortable high heels. I feel strongly that beauty does not equal pain. We feel beautiful when we’re comfortable and confident. When we’re liberated from pain, we can give our best.
Even as a shoe consultant, I tend to wear flats most of the time. I love their versatility. If I need to run for a bus or train, I can. If I want to dance, all of my dodgy signature moves are open to me. I know I’ll have the stamina to be spontaneous, rather than cutting my activities short due to discomfort. Oh and high heels and looking after a nearly four-year-old are a definite mis-match. “Mum-myyy, why are you walking so slow-lyyy?”
Flats don’t have to be boring and classic, or trainers. I have a wonderfully sparkly pair of laceless gibsons which have been my day or evening go-to for several years.
Brogues with ribbon laces can look dressy (switch to standard cord for work), loafers make getting out of the door easy whilst giving you a sleek look. Ballet pumps are always elegant, and come in numerous hues and materials.
Black doesn’t have to be the default for classy, flattering footwear. The last time I bought black shoes was in 2014, and I haven’t missed them. Metallics are the dressiest neutrals, dark blue can look chic, and grey gives a modern statement and complements lots of colours. If your wardrobe is plain rather than adorned with prints, a patterned shoe can make a subtle statement without overwhelming your sophisticated look.
Like many women, I wear high heels when I need a confidence boost. I need this when I’m speaking at an event, attending a shoe industry dinner or a networking evening. When I find a pair which fits all of the criteria I have for being comfortable, I buy the style in another colour. I’m currently stalking the silver version of these fabulous orange boots.
I believe we should be able to choose to wear flats, or comfortable high heels. Dress codes insisting on high heels are ridiculously old-fashioned at best, and cruel and counterproductive at worst. I can’t see the world’s female population moving entirely away from high heels in my lifetime, so I’ll continue to influence brands and inform women, until uncomfortable high heels become anachronistic.
The best brands (often female-owned or managed) are listening to what you truly desire, and creating comfortable high heels which are flattering and beautiful. Other companies are producing high heels which they know to be uncomfortable. Vote with your feet and your credit card, and you can help me change the world of shoes.
Are you now feeling resentful about the high heels you own that you haven’t worn comfortably for a long time, if ever? Perhaps it’s time to edit your shoe collection. Before you say goodbye for good, please share an image of your shoes with me on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #ratemyshoes. I’ll let you know my honest opinion.”
Find Susannah at shoeconsultant.com.