Killer heels: How women defy the pain barrier

High heels, London, 2016Are women mad? That’s the question that often springs to my mind when I see a woman hobbling by in a pair of crazy heels. Having given up high heels after a few brief years of experimentation back in my late teens, I can strike an air of pitying superiority whenever I see someone in hobble heels (despite the fact that my flats make me look even shorter than I am and make my legs more trees stump than sexy).

But I digress. A new international survey from specialist fit retailer Long Tall Sally tends to agree that yes, women are, possibly, mad.

The company spoke to 3,000 women in the US, Uk and Germany and what did it find?

  • Ninety percent of women in the US have at least one pair of shoes that they cite as being agony to wear, and one-third of women worldwide have damaged their feet by wearing a pair of ill-fitting shoes and were unable to walk properly for at least two days afterwards.
  • More than 80% of women in the US wear uncomfortable shoes during the day at least once each month, and 41% of women wear painful shoes at least four times a month.
  • Forty-four percent of women worldwide go out at least two evenings each month in shoes that they know will hurt their feet.
  • Forty percent of American women own shoes that they know they can’t walk in, but they wear them anyway.
  • Not all women can endure the pain of an ill-fitting pair of shoes for long.  The average woman claims she can last just two hours in painful shoes before taking action which, for more than half of them, means dancing or walking in bare feet, while a third carry a spare pair of comfortable shoes in their handbag to swap. 
  • Fourteen percent of women have cut a night short because they couldn’t stand the pain.
  • The average woman owns three pairs of shoes that she knows are the wrong size, but most women don’t know what their correct shoe size is!  More than 60 percent of women around the world haven’t had their feet measured in at least five years, and more than 40% haven’t had their feet sized for 10 years.

Scary stuff, and I have to admit that the last time I had my feet measured was in a Clarks store in 1970. Given that a number of factors can influence and change the size of a woman’s foot (pregnancy, ageing and weight gain or loss) and while I’ve only been through number two in that list, I’m probably well overdue to be measured.

So why do we carry on buying shoes that are basically bad for us and occasionally downright dangerous?

The survey found that half of us knowingly buy shoes a little too tight simply because we want them. That’s even more the case with women who have larger feet as they feel they can find better styles in smaller sizes. And with a 2014 UK study by the College of Podiatry finding the average shoe size has increased by around two sizes since the 1970s,then there are a lot of women wearing shoes that are too small. 


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