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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Foot Police: Ba humbug!

I am always fascinated whenever heels make a fashion comeback (almost every other season) and in particular the reactionary, ill informed response from the foot police and the media. Especially since there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support high heeled shoes are detrimental to posture or human feet, quite the opposite in fact. The only independent studies on heel height and knee rotation confirm lower heels cause greater knee rotation. This rotation does not guarantee pathology but when the conditions are favourable, this may occur. It is likely elevated heels aid continence training (in the elderly) and generally heeled shoes help pelvic floor tone (often referred to by critics as the precoital position) which may be one reason why women in particularly find heeled shoes appropriate. Standing with an elevated heel (heel off the ground is an ancient symbol of holiness), has the physical effect of unlocking the bones in the forefoot which causes the edges of the forefoot to push against the shoe. Neural pathways (proprioception) convey this event to the brain, which in turn is interpreted as comfort. Condemnation of heeled shoes has a long history and can be dated to the time prior to the French Revolution when aristocratic men and female sex workers wore the heels. Physicians began a tirade of criticism aimed at the prostitutes (but not the males) about the unhealthy effects of heeled shoes. Post French Revolution fashionable ladies wore heelless pumps and the fashion for men changed from the ostentatious to the conservative. In New Orleans by the turn of the century the French prostitutes were famous for their laced heeled boots and the young American males were so taken they encouraged their fashionable women to adapt the style. As a result the footwear fashion industry in the US began. Fear of a STD epidemic meant doctors took a very misogynistic approach and condemned all women who wore heels by promulgating ridiculous myths about the dangers of heels. The same tirade was repeated when later women entered the workforce. Despite the facts these myths continue. Provided the heeled shoe fits the foot comfortably and these are worn for short periods on flat surfaces, no detriment will accrue for the vast majority of wearers. Over use and inappropriate conditions may have other consequences.

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