These Boots…

Okay, you know you watch too much TV when you turn on The Tyra Banks Show and actually watch for a few minutes.

Recently, Tyra’s show included a discussion about women who will do anything for fashion. I only stuck around for two such women – the first had hammer toes and had surgery to shorten and straighten the second toe on each foot (only one had been done at the time). Uh, gross and ouch. But almost understandable. ALMOST – most everyone I know has funny looking feet, so why stress?

The second woman, though, kind of disturbed me. Her complaint was that she wore high heels every day at work – 8-9 hours on her feet, and it was getting to the point she was in so much pain she (gasp) couldn’t go out at night in even higher heels! Oh noes! She also complained that it was affecting her knees and lower back, and whinged about having to resort to wearing sneakers, and sometimes even flats, to work.

This was unacceptable. She wanted her heels, dang it all! So what did she do? She went to the doctor and had collagen injected into the balls of her feet. No more pain, yays. Now she can wear her heels all day and have no problems. Really? Collagen miraculously removes the side effects of bad knees and bad back?

When asked why he performs these surgeries, the doctor replied (paraphrase), “I’m liberating women. I’m giving them the chance to wear what they want, what fashion calls for.” Here Tyra confessed to hating heels and thinking they were very unnatural…but that she couldn’t stop wearing them. Yeah. Liberty and freedom for all feet.

Okay, now. Whatever. People can do what they want…but it really makes no sense to me that this woman found it more acceptable to inject collagen into her foot than to simply wear shoes with a smaller heel. There are plenty of cute shoes that have heels shorter than 3.5 inches. I should hope women would only be willing slaves of fashion if it didn’t damage them in some way.

Apparently that’s not always true. Why do we do this to ourselves?


  1. Nialla says

    I’ve never worn heels much, but I’ve twisted both of my ankles so many times that heels aren’t even an option anymore. I can take a dive while barefoot (I swear I can trip on my shadow), so I’m not strapping on 3″+ heels to make it even easier.

    I stick to flats and shoes with a max 1″ heel. Heels may “look pretty” but I’d much rather be comfortable. Even without wearing heels I have plantar fascistis that can cause a lot of pain. I can’t imagine purposely wearing shoes that would make it worse.

  2. scarlett says

    I never understood why tall women (and I assume they were all reasonably tall to get on the show in the first place) have a compulsion to wear heels all the time. I’m 170 – the tall side of average – and I usually wear flats or wedge heels, stilettoes only when I know I’m mostly going to be sitting down. That means I’m tall enough that when I go clubbing in pants and closed shoes, I can wear flats, and when the shoe companies of the world think to make nice, going-out sandals in flats, I’ll wear them clubbing, too :p
    Muscle tension tends to be the body’s way of telling you ‘hey! a little break here!’. What kind of person is so vain, so fashion-obsessed, that they ignore the body’s signs like that?

  3. sbg says

    I hardly ever wear heels, and maybe it’s this that’s keeping me from understanding how a person thinks it’s the best solution to have some kind of cosmetic surgery just so she can wear them. Because, to me, the best solution is simply not wearing them.

    Any back or knee problems I have now or in the future are not going to be because I wanted to look cute in shoes. Y’know?

  4. sbg says

    Muscle tension tends to be the body’s way of telling you ‘hey! a little break here!’. What kind of person is so vain, so fashion-obsessed, that they ignore the body’s signs like that?

    Heh. But she didn’t ignore the signs! She fixed everything with collagen. 😉 I wonder how she’s going to feel in 20-30 years, physically, I mean. Yeesh.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    I don’t actually think heels DO look pretty. I think small heels can – for men as well as women. Plus, I find a little bit of heel – no more than an inch – better for my arch than totally flat soles.

    My max is something like 1.5 or 2 inches, and that’s only if the shoe is so well-constructed that it’s perfectly comfortable despite the heel. All but two pairs I own right now are about in that inch-maximum category.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    I just don’t get it. There are exceedingly cute shoes out there with lower heels. Surely you can satisfy all your fashion desires without contorting your feet?

  7. Glaivester says

    The only reason why it would make sense to me for someone to go to that length to wear heels would be if she were very short and liked to look a little taller. Otherwise, it does seem ridiculous.

    To be honest, I’ve never understood the obsession with heels anyway, particularly the weird but apparently common fetish that an otherwise underclothed woman looks better in high heels – or any sort of really conspicuous boot (wearing something like that when not fully clothed just strikes me as unnatural-looking).

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    The only reason why it would make sense to me for someone to go to that length to wear heels would be if she were very short and liked to look a little taller.

    And even that is a poor reason for unecessary surgery, IMO.

    The best explanation I’ve heard is that high heels supposedly make a woman’s legs look longer or better or something. To me, that’s not true, so I remain mystified by the whole thing.

  9. baskerville says

    After Babe–the scene where the pig ‘sneaks’ across the wood floor–whenever I see wpmen in high heels, I imagine pig legs. I can’t help it. Heels make one walk in that same ‘Babe sneaking’ tippy-toe mince.

  10. sbg says

    I have no idea what difference a heel makes on me, though I have had people…okay, guys…tell me I should wear them more often because it accentuates my big calf muscles.

    I tell them to tell that to my aching feet, and that my calf muscles are just fine when they’re not all knotted up.

  11. sbg says

    I agree. I know I ranted about this insane insistence that every short woman looks so much better when she’s trying to make herself look less short once before, so I’ll refrain now. 😉

    I do remember once wearing my really quite cute 3 inch heels (this was years ago, before I came to my senses) to a meeting in someone’s office. Lots of people in there, few chairs. I had to stand. Halfway through, I slipped out of the shoes because, well, they were killing me.

    And my boss saw me lose 3 inches instantly and exclaimed very loudly at finally seeing my actual height.

  12. Revena says

    I think there’s a bit of a class issue that comes into play with high heels, too. If you’re wearing impractical clothing of any sort – heels, some kinds of skirts, starched white shirts, expensive suits – you’re making a visual statement about the amount of physical labor you won’t be doing in that outfit. So while I think the signal that most people will consciously perceive from a woman in heels is something like “she wears heels to be pretty” or “heels make her legs sexier”, there’s also at least a smidgeon of “she’s not been in a field all day in those” or “no way would she wear shoes like that while bricklaying” (to choose two random examples of physical-labor-intensive jobs – no disrespect to farming or bricklaying intended!).

    Why would anyone put up with the discomfort of heels? Fashion, yes, but also a different kind of social status, I think.

  13. Revena says

    There’s some interesting analysis and thought provoking discussion to be had here, but I’m gonna focus on the part of this post that really grabbed me, instead. 😉

    Holy crap! I had some minor surgery performed on my feet this summer – parts of both big toenails removed, to correct a persistent ingrown nail problem (because I have naturally splayed feet, for the curious. I’ve compensated all my life by wearing shoes with wide toe-boxes, and sandals for as many months of the year as I can stand, but biology finally caught up with me this year) – and it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.

    That’s saying something. I’ve been hit in the face with a board with enough force to split the tissue of my brow down to the skull. I’ve had fourteen teeth removed (not all of them permanent, I hasten to add!). I know pain. The only thing even close to the pain of the surgery was the pain of the ingrown nails themselves, which is why I had it done.

    But I can’t even imagine letting someone stick needles in my feet again, except in direst, direst emergency. Like, I dunno, to prevent amputation or something.

    Voluntary collagen injections?

    I think I’m gonna have nightmares tonight!

  14. Jennifer Kesler says

    Oh, that’s a fascinating point!

    I’ve heard similar remarks about long nails. Whether on modern women or ancient Chinese Emperors, long nails suggested these hands weren’t doing any hard work.

  15. Patrick says

    I’ve also had foot surgery for the same thing, and the idea of getting unnecessary foot surgery boggles my mind.

    I know there are men out there who have a fetishitic interest in women wearing heels, but I’ve never understood it.

  16. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’ve had an even more miserable foot surgery, too – for a bunion. They break the bones, shave off the calcium growth, and then it’s a year before you can get fully back to your exercise routine, and if your metabolism is like mine, you put on 20 pounds. Willingly subjecting myself to any kind of foot surgery… no.

    But there’s a reason I’m bringing up this woeful tale.

    Contrary to popular theory, bunions don’t come from wearing bad shoes, which I’ve never done: it’s a genetic condition that can be exacerbated by shoes, but can also develop no matter how you treat your feet. But my podiatrist did inform me of something very interesting: that all women’s shoes, even sneakers, are cut on a different bias than men’s – one that exacerbates one’s genetic tendency to form bunions. If we all wore men’s shoes – which I can’t, because my feet are too small – the incidence of bunions would be significantly reduced. And there is no reason cute feminine-looking shoes can’t be cut along the same bias as men’s. So why on earth would they do this? And why don’t they change?

    Hmm. Same reason Japan bound little girls’ feet? Men’s shoes are designed for what their feet are. Women’s shoes are designed for what women’s feet should be, according to someone.

    Everything in fashion is about men being, and women becoming.

  17. Nialla says

    Supposedly, high heels change a woman’s posture, pushing her chest out more and arching her back and accentuating the buttocks, which is supposed to be a subliminal mating signal.

  18. Patrick says

    Just a note: foot binding was practiced by the Chinese, not the Japanese. IIRC, Japanese women traditionally wore sandals that were pretty much identical to men’s sandals.

  19. scarlett says

    In all fairness – a couple of dresses I’ve got I’ve had a hell of a time finding heels with less then 4″ heels on that work with the dress – I think shorter, wedgier heels tend to work with ‘cute’ outfits, but not ‘sexy’ or ‘professional’ outfits.
    Of course, if someone were to DESIGN a 2″ heel for ‘sexy’ and ‘professional’ outfits, I’d be buying them by the armful – and so would a lot of women, I think. I really think a lot of this obsession with heels is that the kind of shoe you want – sexy or profssional looking – is only available in 4″ stiletto.
    Mind you, Perth is an odd city like that. We have no middle ground between ‘Steve Irwin’ and ‘Nicole Kidman’. My goal is to check out the availability of shoes in Sydney. Or better yet, Paris ;p

  20. scarlett says

    haha, you do make a point there – I do a lot of work with my hands (you’d be pushing to call it ‘hard labour’ but nightfill is still ‘phsyical labour’) as well as working in a warehouse in the summer – I see no point in taking care of my nails, they’re only going to get wrecked.
    Maybe that attitude permeates my semi-indifference to wear heels; yeah, I know what it’s like to stand for eight hours in the things.
    Funnily enough, when I got temporarily transformed to the admin part of the warehouse and, after a few days, started wearing dresses and heels, all the women commented about how nice I looked. I was very tempted to retorted ‘yeah, I can afford to look pretty, I don’t have to walk up and down a converyervelt all day in heels and a skirt’ :p

  21. Jennifer Kesler says

    There’s no better availability of shoes. I wanted to get some knee-boots this year, but they’re all 3-inch heels or more.

    The thing is, they COULD make short-heeled shoes that are very fashionable. Right now I’m actually wearing a very feminine, very flattering pair of sandals with a delicate little inch-heel – I never thought the heel would be stable enough, but when I tried them on, I found out I can actually jog a bit in these things! So it is absolutely possible to have style and comfort.

    But an awful lot of short-heeled shoes are rather masculine-looking (according to fashion standards). The implication is pretty clear: if you refuse to wear high-heels, you must be butch.

    Of course, the whole idea that fashion conveys sexual interest or orientation is pretty wacked, but that could become a topic unto itself. 😉

  22. Pat Mathews says

    Hammer toes aren’t just a matter of funny-looking feet unless you wear nothing but sandals – that work around the toe – all day. I know. I have one. The top of the bend bumps up against the fabric in my trainers unless I go out of the way to stretch the shoebox, which makes the rest of my feet loose in the shoe. I went out of my way to acquire shoe trees so my shoes would accomodate the hammer toe.

    I went in for bunion surgery because the bunion hurt when I walked on it and threw off my stride so I didn’t walk nearly as far and as fast and as long. The hammer toe was a little bent when the bunioned toe came out of the bandages. So that surgery actually makes sense, though I won’t do it now because big shoes and heavy socks are easier than the crippling aftermath of foot surgery.

  23. Jennifer Kesler says

    Oh, those are nice!

    And if they go on sale for about an eighth of those prices, I might be interested! 😉

  24. Jennifer Kesler says

    Yeah, women have a definite reward/punish system for letting you know if you’re dressing femininely enough or not.

  25. Revena says

    They do run sales on their shoes, periodically, so it’s worth checking back every now and then.

    I got a pair of their boots last year for my birthday, and wore them nonstop all winter, and they still look fantastic. J. Jill usually has very good quality stuff, which makes the prices a little easier to cope with. 😉

  26. Jennifer Kesler says

    That’s very true. Hammer toes are actually a flaw, and they can cause misery, and surgery can be the better alternative – it all depends how much you’re suffering without the surgery.

    But the collagen injections for the purpose of wearing heels? I’m not seeing the logic.

  27. sbg says

    Oh, I know, which is why I took very little issue with that particular lady – her reasoning for the surgery(given on the show, probably not her only reason) might have been for looks, but hammer toes have to be quite painful.

  28. Patrick says

    Personally, I’ve found that I’m often more attracted to women with short nails, as long nails imply to me that they are impractical or fixated on appearances.

    (Of course, it has several times turned out that the woman in question had short nails not because she was “down to earth,” but because she was gay. So maybe I need something else to go with.)

  29. sbg says

    And for the record, I work a second job that requires quite a bit of manual labor/working with my hands…and I have long nails. Not acrylic. Sometimes they break and they’re short for a while, but then they grow back.

    Don’t judge a girl by her fingernails. Tee hee. 😉

  30. MaggieCat says

    I actually grew out my nails when I first got a job, since I was suddenly spending all day looking at my hands while filing, typing, and dialing multi-line phones and they looked awful. (I’m a reformed nail-biter.) Not exactly physical labor, unless you count changing 5 gallon water jugs and lugging 50lb. boxes of printer paper around though.

    More importantly, my 22 year old house cat complains when I cut my nails too short. Apparently it affects my head and chin scratching abilities, and of course her happiness is much more important. 😉

  31. MaggieCat says

    Most of the shoes I own are heels, about 2″ or a little higher, although I own very few shoes with narrow heels (I’m accident prone enough on wide ones). I’ve been wearing at least a moderate chunky heel since about 13 or 14 (which may have something to do with relatives making fun of my height). I have weird arch issues that make true flats generally uncomfortable, and after I had to have one ankle practically reconstructed after smashing it in three places, flats tend to make that hurt too. I own one pair of sneakers and that’s an increase from years previous.

    I take it on a shoe-by-shoe basis: I own a pair of very cute flats that if worn for more than 20 minutes tend to make me cry (I keep them because they’re fine for running to the mailbox or taking the trash out) I also have a very cute 3″ stiletto heeled ankle strappy pair that look like they should be crippling but are perfectly comfortable for hours at a time- they’re just at that mysterious and elusive perfect angle. I’ve worn 2.5″ heeled boots to an amusement park and been the only person who wasn’t limping at the end of the day because, again, perfect angle/height combination. (I could run in those boots. I miss them.)

    However even as a devoted heel wearer, I do not understand what would possess anyone to have surgery to continue wearing them. Ew. And this is coming from someone who had to have a needle poked in her EYE once a week for nearly a year, I should be able to take anything.

  32. scarlett says

    From time to time I’ve stumbled across pretty, feminine shoes which are flats or have small heels, but they’re pretty rare :(

  33. scarlett says

    It wasn’t obvious, no-one put me DOWN for wearing scungy clothes, although it might have been more obvious if they hadn’t been aware I’d come from the warehouse and did half-and-half shifts… but when I was doing full days in admin I took the time to wear pretty dresses and heels and the other women seemed to go out of their way to say ‘that’s a pretty dress, Scarlett’.

  34. Jennifer Kesler says

    (Of course, it has several times turned out that the woman in question had short nails not because she was “down to earth,” but because she was gay. So maybe I need something else to go with.)

    Something beyond superficial appearances might be a good start. 😉

    I can’t quite believe that anyone keeps her nails short because she’s gay. I’m sure the two things coincide, but there are myriad reasons to keep one’s nails a certain length (short or long), as evidenced by other comments here.

  35. Patrick says

    Several gay women have told me that they keep their nails short as a courtesy to their girlfriends.

    As for going by superficial appearances, certain choices that people make about their appearance say quite a bit about them, as the discussion on this column has noted.

  36. Jennifer Kesler says

    As for going by superficial appearances, certain choices that people make about their appearance say quite a bit about them, as the discussion on this column has noted.

    Sure, every single choice a person makes says something about her, but you don’t know what that something is until you find out – by getting past the superficial.

    I wear my nails short because I can’t be bothered with long nail maintenance, and I find long nails a nuisance with a lot of my daily tasks. I have a friend who has the same attitude as I do, except she finds having just a little bit of nail to be invaluable for certain tasks she performs. So she keeps her nails not too long, but certainly not short. And she paints them because they tend to break otherwise.

    We’re both equally down to earth and heterosexual. In our cases, two different nail lengths are representing the same values and character.

  37. Jennifer Kesler says

    Yeah, but the comment “So maybe I need something else to go with” is what sparked my remarks that. Of course one needs something more – knowledge of the person herself.

    And of course, now you’ve got me thinking maybe my choice not to fru-fru my nails is the reason more women hit on me than men in bars. Which would mean people are just as shallow and foolish as I’ve always thought, and totally reaffirm my general misanthropy. 😉

  38. sbg says

    I don’t usually watch Oprah, but I happened across her yesterday evening, just as she brought on a designer who’d discovered the miracle to making high heels comfortable. “Fat chance,” I thought to myself, “That’s an oxymoron.”

    I watched anyway, just to see. His remedy? He worked with the folks at Nike, famous for their innovative shoe designs/shock absorption (on a side note, I’ve never once been able to tell the difference between a regular sneaker and one that’s got special gel and/or air in it) to design tiny little cushion inserts that are sewn right into the shoe.

    Exciting, no? I mean, I can’t believe no one’s ever thought of that before!

    They said the innovation had been tested for a year before putting these special (and super expensive) shoes on the market, claiming satisfaction. I believe that to a point, but I still doubt I could walk a mile in the enhanced pumps.

    I wanted to find information on that actual airing of Oprah but had no luck. I did find this article, which I found interesting. It’s several years old already…

    And I still don’t get cosmetic foot surgery.

  39. Jennifer Kesler says

    Remember Easy Spirit’s first commercials, with women playing basketball in high heels? They claimed they’d put the inside of a sneaker into a high heel, and voila, the same comfort. It didn’t work. Now Easy Spirit makes sneakers. 😀

    That article is wrong about one thing: heels alone don’t cause bunions. That’s a myth. You have to have a genetic predisposition to develop a bunion. That said, bad shoes can cause all the other stuff listed, AND arthritis (at least, that’s the theory – not sure anyone fully understands arthritis). This arthritis looks just like a bunion, and I get the impression that in the past most podiatrists didn’t distinguish between the two, which led to a lot of misconceptions about bunions.

    That said, I find it appalling that someone would be so desperate to get cat calls on the street that she would get her feet surgically trimmed to fit into high heels. She must have some serious problems she can’t face, to need to distract herself with such a self-created drama.

  40. MaggieCat says

    That said, bad shoes can cause all the other stuff listed, AND arthritis (at least, that’s the theory – not sure anyone fully understands arthritis).

    High heels can cause osteoarthritis, which is basically the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. It’s also called degenerative joint disease, and it can be caused by anything that puts unnatural and/or excessive strain on a joint for an extended period of time. Osteoarthritis is most common in older people since it usually takes time to develop. Most of the other forms of arthritis (most notably rheumatoid arthritis) are caused by autoimmune disorders and are systemic diseases, but they can certainly be exacerbated by wearing bad shoes. (Or anything else that causes pressure- I have a friend who can’t carry a handbag or shoulderbag without difficulty due to arthritis in her hands and shoulder/neck.)

  41. sbg says

    That said, I find it appalling that someone would be so desperate to get cat calls on the street that she would get her feet surgically trimmed to fit into high heels. She must have some serious problems she can’t face, to need to distract herself with such a self-created drama.

    People actually enjoy cat calls? They always make me embarrassed and self-conscious.

    And, yes, surgically altering your feet so you can wear shoes that accentuate your legs and buttocks is supremely disturbing.

  42. Jennifer Kesler says

    Cat calls are not personal. A polite smile from a strange man on the street – that I actually find flattering. I never get cat calls, but I do get smiles.

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