Sunday, December 24, 2017

Rekindling My Love For High Heels

Ever since temp worker Nicola Thorp, a receptionist at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, was sent home from work for not wearing heels I've had a tumultuous relationship with the shoe myself. Even though Thorp has gone on to bag a part in Coronation Street and successfully draw attention to the sexism that's rife in the City, the concept of heels has left a bad taste in my mouth. Coupled with the fact that over the last few years fashion has shifted dramatically towards athletism and comfort, this style of footwear has been easy to ignore.

However, slowly but surely ludicrously impractical footwear has found its way back. The ugly shoe trend that rose the ranks to haute couture standing, courtesy of Céline, Prada and Chanel, is having its watershed moment. Birkenstocks and Crocs are no more uncomfortable than kitten heels; just nobody talks about it. The excessive expenditure of sneakers for purely fashion's sake is no less vain than investing in a wedge. Quelle surp, like all trends, when the pendulum of fashion swings away it will almost certainly swing back at some point. And, that point is this winter.

This season, footwear isn't an afterthought. The trends that came out of the autumn/winter 17 shows started foot first. Saint Laurent's epic eighties disco boots, Off-White's tulle-wrapped pumps and Gucci's raised cowboy boots were a visual validation of the heel's return.

More idiosyncratic than before, the humble heel now comes tilted, bent or in a geometric shape. Designers have let their creativity loose and reconfigured them into surreal and distinctive new shapes. Soft spandex sock shoes with knife-point heels were debuted at Vetements and Yeezy. Thick rubber soles held chunky boots aloft at Louis Vuitton and Coach. Go-go boots with tiny princess heels were the order of the day at Miu Miu, Chanel and Gucci. Translucent crystals and perspex cages elevated Dries Van Noten and Marni's pumps. With enough pomp to rival Marie Antoinette's dressing room, Mary Katrantzou and Céline showcased the little-known ‘fluevog' heel for winter. Initially, its sumptuous curved silhouette looks preposterous, but the reality is it's sturdy and every inch a scene-stealer.

But really, the heels comeback moment came at the hands of Cardi B who shot to number one while spitting about her love of Louboutins. ‘It's a status symbol that the masses can relate to', the rapper's stylist Kollin Carter explained in an interview with Billboard. But, it's more than just a status symbol. Type the word shoe into your phone, what comes up? A red stiletto. If this isn't a vertiginous sign that it's a design classic, I'm not sure what will convince you.

I understand the argument for abandoning this style of footwear. They aren't practical. They cause blisters. They are designed by and to please men. But, I feel elegant and put-together in them. At just 5ft 2inches my stature isn't what anyone would deem mighty. But, with a pair of heels on my feet I suddenly enter the world at eye-level. The groceries I can never normally reach are within grasp. My stature changes. Renee Engeln, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University told the New York Times that they are designed ‘to lengthen your legs and change the way your shape looks from behind. That's not accidental.' Echoing this, Valerie Steele, the director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, explained, ‘High heels are the number-one sartorial symbol of erotic femininity, and that's not changing anytime soon'. They are the final flourish that adds interest and excitement to even the dullest of ensembles.

Attire is commonly mistaken for self-expression, which means it's something that can then be wielded as a chalice of judgement. Wearing flats or the ‘ugly' shoe trend makes me no less a feminist, in fact, it's got nothing to do with it. My principals are not related to my footwear. Those that perceive my feminist credentials to be weakened by the decision to wear heels need to have a stern look at the reason they are appraising women in the first place. My love for heels is back, and I won't let anyone judge me for it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Are killer high heels killing your feet and damaging your health?

A beautiful pair of Louboutin or Jimmy Choo shoes with high heels might make you feel a million dollars but they come at a price to your health.

Naturally, there's the issue of toppling over after a few gin and tonics but experts are worried that killer heels are causing health problems for women.

And perhaps a few men as well.

The general rule of thumb is that the higher the heel, the greater the damage.

How high is too high?

This depends. Understandably, high heels cause problems for feet. They put pressure on the front of your foot.

A two-inch heel increases pressure on the ball of your foot by about 52% with each step. Wearing a three-inch heel will increase that pressure to 79%.

This extra strain on the forefoot can lead to hammer-toe deformities, bunions, callouses and Morton's neuroma, a thickening of the nerves between the toes which can cause pain and numbness.

Jan Vickery, lead physiotherapist at AXA PPP healthcare , said: "If you wear high heels daily you may also find that your Achilles tendon at the back of your ankle changes, becoming tight, thickened and shortened.

 Body and sole

High heels tend to push your body weight forward and so you need to work harder to counteract this and prevent yourself from toppling over.

This can place extra strain on your knees and can even alter the natural curvature of your back. This can lead to knee and back pain. If you already have problems in these areas, wearing heels for extended periods could make them worse.

"High heels can be a great fashion accessory but, from the point of view of the foot, wearing high heels habitually isn’t a good idea. The joints of the feet can be damaged by wearing high heels, and this can cause deformities and some forms of arthritis," said Jan.

 A time to heel

Keeping your high heels for special occasions will save you some of the problems that come from wearing them on a daily basis. For everyday wear, try to keep to heels no more than about 1¼ high.

Jan recommends moderation.

"Wear your heels for as short a period as possible, taking them off when you need to walk longer distances or when you’re sitting, and carry some flat, supportive shoes to change into."

Designer Vivienne Westwood would probably not agree.

She said: "Shoes must have very high heels and platforms to put women's beauty on a pedestal."

Listen to your body

Taking care of your feet doesn’t mean a lifetime in flats. These tips should help you reduce the impact that wearing high heels has on your feet and body.

"Try some shock absorbing pads and callous protectors for the parts of your feet that hurt the most. You should find these in most chemists," said Jan.

"When you take your high heels off, move your foot in a circular motion. Stretch your Achilles tendon by stretching your legs out in front of you and pushing your heels down and your toes up or stand with your front foot on a step, keeping your knee straight drop your heel below the stair level.

"Keep fit and work on your overall body posture and muscle tone. Pilates-type exercises are excellent for building good postural control.

"Wear shoes with varying heel heights. This will give your tendons and joints a rest from holding the same position.

"Most of all, listen to your body. You’ll know when high heels are placing too much strain on your body."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

All the Women's Shoe Emoji Are High Heels but a ballet flat icon might be the newest addition to your texting vocabulary.

The humble ballet flat might be approaching its zenith.

A proposal to create a woman's flat shoe emoji is up for a vote by the Unicode Consortium's Emoji Subcomittee on October 23rd. If approved, it would add a blue ballet flat to what — besides a gender-neutral brown oxford and a white sneaker — are currently only high-heeled emoji.

It would also signal another step forward in the efforts to mitigate sexist and gendered imagery in what has become the international visual language.

According to Jennifer 8 Lee, who is vice-chair of the ESC and a co-founder of the Emojination organization, which helps people propose new emoji, the likelihood that the woman's flat shoe will "make it through" — meaning be approved to become a new emoji in June 2018 — "is pretty high."

This comes at a time when dressing up (or down, as the case may be) can be a polarizing, or downright controversial, decision. Witness Melania Trump tiptoeing toward a hurricane-bound helicopter in August, or Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump reading to schoolchildren while wearing vertiginous stilettos in July.

That's in contrast to Gal Gadot, who in May wore flats throughout her Wonder Woman press tour, and Kristen Stewart, who spoke out the same month against the Cannes Film Festival's dictum against women wearing flats: "People get very upset at you if you don't wear heels or whatever," she told the Hollywood Reporter. "If you're not asking guys to wear heels and a dress then you can't ask me either."

The pushback against what can be an uncompromising, restrictive dress code is right up there with wearing a pantsuit as a nod to feminist activism. To wit: Evan Rachel Wood's year of red-carpet suiting. "I myself felt pressure a lot of times that I had to look or dress a certain way, especially growing up in the industry," Wood told Vanity Fair. "I thought I would go the other way and reach out to a little girl who is like me, possibly."

This follows Google's May 2016 call for a more balanced representation of genders and professions in emoji, and the introduction in June of three non-gendered emoji (a child, an adult, and an elder).