Why do women wear heels?

September 24, 2010

judy kaufman wild women high heels1 Why do women wear heels? Would you wear something that hurts you? I mean, literally causes you physical pain …

Day in and day out? Over and over?

Would you recognize it’s because of peer pressure and curse all your colleagues and friends who suffer in silence, but still carry on?

Would you heave a sigh of relief at the end of the day, but then with a stifled groan and false smile plastered across your face slip your feet into those darned heels again the next morning?

Would you?

Do you?

I’ve been fascinated by how much pain women will willingly suffer in the name of fashion.

It’s obvious that they don’t like doing it — talk to any woman who wears heels daily and she’ll tell you how relieved she feels to walk barefoot, soak her tired soles in a hot-water tub after a long day, and slip into cushy, satin-lined slippers at home.

She’ll also tell you how much money she’s wasted on Dr. Scholl’s and the like in efforts to help her tired, achy feet.

She knows the long-term ramifications of wearing heels, too, yet she powers on.

One of my colleagues had said to me sometime last summer, “You must be thrilled that flats are in vogue this season!” It was a comment geared at my $19.99 Payless shoes — the same pair (in brown and black) that I’ve been wearing the past two years.

I’m not one to follow trends, but I’m a big fan of common sense.

A male friend had once reacted to my disgust at a woman hobbling across the street, in obvious pain thanks to her stilettos, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you realize that women look more appealing in heels? Their whole swagger changes. Men find it really appealing.”

So, on behalf of the entire male community he had pronounced that women prized men’s attention over their own comfort.

He might have been right, but I had responded with a big, “Whatever!” since I’d rather have a man fall for my wit than for the way my hips move on a stilted piece of footwear.

A study by the Telegraph released on Tuesday, however, suggests that “men cannot even tell if a woman is wearing high heels when they walk.”

So much for impressing men.

Sidenote: I’m not a big fan of wasteful studies either, but this one happened to present itself at an opportune time. So, there.

Coming back to the topic at hand, I continue to be flummoxed by women’s capacity to endure pain just so their female form can appear more … ummm… attractive.

But if men, supposedly, don’t even notice, who are you trying to be attractive for? Other women? But other women would surely empathize and then none of you would ever have to wear high heels again.

The question remains: Why are women hell bent on risking injury every day? Surely they know that the visual effect (and implied boost in self-confidence) is not worth the actual physical agony?

The New York Times did a compilation of essays a while back on Why We Love The Shoes That Hurt Us.

Have a read and then come back here and tell me which camp you belong to: the Hail [Faux] Tall Fashionistas or More Power to the Flat-Soled Realistas.

Also posted on Desicritics.

16081BD1A60533E0F1173D28DE4F0D3F Why do women wear heels?

dp seal trans 16x16 Why do women wear heels?Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Mansi Bhatia

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26 Responses to Why do women wear heels?

  1. Thelma ZirkelbachNo Gravatar on September 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    I’m with you. Heels are for idiots.

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 27, 2010 at 6:17 pm

      Thanks for chiming in, Thelma. I’ll take a more moderate approach and say it’s for those who enjoy the pain that comes with whatever (psychological) benefits they associate with height. More power to them for doing this tradeoff. For me, it’s all about being practical. And as far as possible, pain-free.

  2. Shachi ThakkarNo Gravatar on September 24, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Agree on this one – More Power to the Flat-Soled Realistas!

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 27, 2010 at 6:17 pm

      Yay! Realistas all the way! :-)

  3. Susan DeborahNo Gravatar on September 24, 2010 at 11:04 pm


    I am with you on this. You have mirrored my thoughts in this post. Many women dress up only to impress (read arouse jealousy) to other women. Men are just passers-by who get their two-bits thrill. Even thinking of high heels gives me the shudders.

    Mansi, I just love the way you make words dance to your thoughts: “. . . I’m a big fan of common sense.”

    All said and done, I do admire these women who endure pain, discomfort and an aching back just for style with a capital S.

    Joy always,

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 27, 2010 at 6:18 pm

      It’s interesting, though, isn’t it Susan that we define our own sense of style. Why, then, do we introduce an element of pain in it? I don’t get it and I haven’t found anyone who’s been able to explain it to me thus far.

  4. MarikaNo Gravatar on September 24, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    I never understood high heels. They make me look like a giraffe and hurts like hell.
    If I could I’d walk around without shoes. Completely barefoot!

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm

      Thanks for your insights, Marika. I usually walk barefoot even in my office — starting a new bohemian trend here, my boss says. But hey, who cares? As long as I’m comfortable and not getting infected!

  5. kuratowaNo Gravatar on September 25, 2010 at 5:30 am

    Men have worn something that causes discomfort for years too. Ties.

    Depending on whether your collar size is incorrect, it can cause some pain too. Though I suspect no where near as much as high heels.

  6. TinaNo Gravatar on September 25, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Great blog, Mansi! While I used to wear high heels as a teenager (probably an effort to look mature and sophisticated), I’m all about flats now. I want to be able to walk, to stride, to move! Who cares what anyone thinks! Although, there are several women colleagues who practically live in high heels who try hard to convince me to aspire to “higher levels.” :-)

  7. VyankateshNo Gravatar on September 25, 2010 at 10:11 am

    An interesting insight Mansi. :-)

    I have heard of running races for women on heels, with a nice prize for the winner. Maybe the gals want to practice for these kinds of races, making them wear the heels all year long :-)

  8. Dipak ‘Mashal’No Gravatar on September 26, 2010 at 1:23 am

    I do agree.

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 27, 2010 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Dipak.

  9. anon1No Gravatar on September 26, 2010 at 1:46 am

    It seems like throughout history women have been doing painful things in the name of beauty/fashion/culture, things like piercings, corsets, heels, neck rings (thongs ??!!)….
    I’m sure in every generation (and culture) there were a small percentage of women who refused to follow the ‘code’, and it’s easier for women in this generation to do that than ever before.
    But the interesting (and yet unanswered) question is still “why”.. That’s why I would have liked to hear from women who DO wear heels, but you might have driven most of them away with some of your.. umm.. observations.. :P
    All your commentators here are (unfortunately) too like minded !

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 29, 2010 at 10:22 am

      I did have one commenter on Desicritics, where this post was also published, who disagreed. Here’s what she said:

      sorry but I wholeheartedly disagree. *before* I had my first child and my feet changed, I was altogether more happy in heels. I would routinely wear 3 inch heels with absolutely no effort and no pain. Mind you, if you buy cheap stilettos, they will hurt your feet. And no 4 inch heels are something you would go running in, but I had at least one pair that did not kill me if I had to walk a few blocks. Wearing high heeled shoes that fit me correctly improved my posture and I felt just fine.

      I stopped wearing my heels in India because I would have busted my ass on the uneven pavement, and then after I had my child, my feet changed and i am more comfortable in shorter heels. Still, I usually have on a couple inch wedge heel (no more stilettos for me unless it’s a party).

      She didn’t volunteer to answer the “why” and I’ve dug deeper. Will let you know if I hear back.

      And I disagree about the thong comment. Try it sometime — you’ll know it’s not painful ;-)

      • anon1No Gravatar on October 6, 2010 at 4:16 pm

        Heels… NO
        Lacy underwear.. NO
        Waxing.. YES
        Facials… NO
        Thongs.. YES

        All women choose their own form of torture, and justify it in their own way. So (IMHO) your question is moot ! :P

  10. CyndiNo Gravatar on September 27, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Right ON!

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 27, 2010 at 6:11 pm

      Thanks, Cyndi.

  11. PrateekNo Gravatar on September 27, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    I’ve seen girls falling while wearing heels and still trying to showcase such stuff just to impress men. Funny!

    It’s just about the trend now, it seems. Each and every girl is following another girl.

    Your insights are interesting, btw, Mansi. :)

    PS: Umm..by mistake I right clicked here on this page. My IP got recorded! I hope it’s nothing which I should be worried about. :s Or should I?

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 29, 2010 at 10:12 am

      Black cat commandoes are going to knock on your door any time now, Prateek. Hehe. Just kidding. The only reason your IP was recorded is because I”ve disabled right-clicking on my blog to thwart unauthorized copying of blog content. Alarms some folks — the persistent ones can still get around the right clicking, but at least this little “trick” warns them that I am watching.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your two cents about the culture of wearing heels.

  12. NeetaNo Gravatar on September 27, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Doesn’t footwear depend on occasion anymore?
    When I feel special, I wear heels. For shopping marathons or lugging around the baby, yeah I go ahead and wear the sneakers.

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 29, 2010 at 10:14 am

      Aah! Neeta. And why would heels make you feel special but flats oh-so-ordinary? Isn’t that more social mindset than anything else? You can feel just as special running barefoot on a beach, or scampering around a playground, or for that matter, attending a party in what-I-call sensible, painless footwear. Are heels your choice of footwear because they really make you feel special or because you *think* they’re supposed to?

  13. MelchesterNo Gravatar on October 1, 2010 at 1:13 am

    Heels are not something one simply wears on their feet, but a passion, hobby, personal expression, source of authority, sexual independence, staple of gendered feminine culture, mark of flaunted femininity, psychologically empowering, and joy. Women choose to wear high heels for many reasons; the key is that they indeed are the ones who proactively choose to endorse the high heel, often at the expense of their own physical comfort.

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on October 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks for sharing your insights, Melchester. I appreciate the fact that some women choose to wear heels for all the reasons you mention. My problem is with those who wear it because they want to fit in, not necessarily because they want to. Thanks, again, for visiting.

  14. neeraNo Gravatar on January 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Why just high heels? you could have the same argument about so many other things such as – waxing, plucking eyebrows, wearing tight fitted jeans, short dresses in winters, string bikinis when there are more comfortable options out there… What people wear is a personal expression of style and design and I believe that people should wear they feel good in.

  15. GauravNo Gravatar on January 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I have always been thinking that why wear when its so much pain but guess no pain no gain.


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