High Heels in the Spotlight Again

The visual delights of high heels were the subject of a post on this website on 24 March 2008 – go back and have a look. Recently however, the “high heels issue” was the subject of a motion at the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC), in September this year.

High heels

High heels

The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP) tabled a motion calling on employers who promote the wearing of high heels………..to examine the hazards involved. They suggested further that employers should not be able to insist on the wearing of high heels by female workers as part of a dress code.

It received massive media coverage, even pushing  Prime Minister Gordon Brown off the the early pages of some newspapers.

The dangers of long term (even short term) wearing of high heels are of back, hip and knee pains caused by the change in natural lower limb alignment. The forces placed on the metatarsals (balls of the feet) are estimated to increase sevenfold as the heel height increases. In addition there is an increased risk of  falling or tripping.

Needless to say there was intense debate of the issue. With one newspaper calling  it ‘raucous.”

If you compare your gait (way you walk)  barefoot or in low heeled shoes, with your gait in high heels, you can easily see that in heels your knees don’t extend, the heel can’t hit the ground first followed by the rest of the foot going over it – ‘heel over toe walking’ – so the muscles act differently and the joints get stressed. High heels shorten stride and cause a jarring to the joints.

There is evidence of the use of lower heels on airplanes, when female cabin crew use lower heels for their in-flight duties when they often spend long periods on their feet.

However, when we look back at the post of 24 March 2008, we get to see that high heels are all about image! The hunter and the hunted. The allure of a long leg attached to a 9cm stilleto heel and the associated ‘rock & roll’ of the hips, arms, shoulders and anything else, is why high heels are worn by women and men will watch whilst women endure!

So until your bunions get really painful, your feet look like the front of a bricklayers trowel, the varicose veins resemble a set of train tracks, your corns are hard and yellow and your joints ache all the time due to arthritis. Ladies strut your stuff and visit your podiatrist regularly.

On the other hand, according to the SCP, this is a serious health and safety issue  in the UK, with ‘two million days lost each year to ilness resulting from lower limb disorders.’

Ultimately, it comes down to the right to choose. Or should that be Jimmy Choo’s!


Andrew has taught at the University as well as providing podiatry services in South Africa since 1977. Twice chair of the Podiatry Association of South Africa and a commentator on care of your feet on both radio and television he now works in private practice in Cape Town and Hout Bay.

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Naledi Koapeng - April 28, 2010 Reply

I have corns on two of my toes and I would like to have them surgically removed. They were caused by a bad pair of shoes and I have since thrown them away, but now i cant wear any of my open shoes because it looks untidy. Can you please recommend a good and reputable Podiatrist that can remove because they’re embarassing and can’t the sight of corns.


    Andrew - May 9, 2010 Reply

    Hi Naledi,
    Look on the SA Podiatry Association website for a podiatrist near to you.
    However, podiatrists reduce the callus and try to ID the cause and correct it, they won’t/don’t surgically them.


Noms - September 27, 2010 Reply

I have corns on four of my toes – 2 each foot. They are very painful and I am ambarrased to wear shoes that show my toes. I want surgery, can a Podiatrist do this for me as they are extremely painful, makes me dread putting my shoes on.
Please help.

    Andrew - November 17, 2010 Reply

    Hello Noms
    Please go to see a registered podiatrist. He/she will assess why you have the corns/callus and provide the correct advice and treatment. Foot Surgery is done by an Orthopaedic surgeon, often after referral from a podiatrist. However, as I have said before, surgery is always the last resort after all conservative measures have been exhausted.
    To find a podiatrist near you lok in Yellow Pages or Google Podiatrists or http://www.podiatrist.co.za


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