Heels are ridiculous torture machines, and there are places where women have to wear them to work by law
In the U.K. it’s still legal to force women to wear heels to work. That’s right, you could be forced to jam your feet into high heels for no other reason than that your employer thinks they look better than flats.
The law is plenty absurd on its own, but it took a video of men enduring the torture of heels for a day to highlight just how ridiculous it really is. Stylist asked some men in their office to don heels for the day. As you can imagine, it didn’t go well.
For the record, having a vagina doesn’t make it easier to walk in these things. At all. How this ever became a strictly female expectation is mind-boggling. Especially when you consider that the trend started with men.
According to Mental Floss, “In 1599, the Persian shah sent a diplomatic mission to Europe, and an interest in Persian culture and fashion swept Western Europe. Aristocrats took a liking to Persian high-heeled shoes—they were bold, masculine, and perfect for asserting status.” The height of the heel sent a message about social class: the higher they were, the less the wearer presumably had to walk.
“UK employers can dismiss staff who fail to live up to ‘reasonable’ dress code demands, says employment law firm Thompsons, as long as they’ve been given enough time to buy the right shoes and clothes,” writes the BBC. “They can set up different codes for men and women, as long as there’s an ‘equivalent level of smartness’.” What about an equivalent level of comfort?
High heels elongate the leg and add height. Some people would argue they “look better” than flats, whatever that means. But anyone who’s gone eight hours on a pair of pointy-toed heels will tell you: it’s absolute torture. Like anything else, it’s probably something your body could get used to putting itself through, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less harmful.
According to research, high heels lead to shorter muscle fibers and a toughening of the Achilles tendon. They put more pressure on your knees and reduce your ankle’s range of motion. The higher the heel, the worse it is for the balls of your feet. A one-inch heel puts 22% more pressure on the ball of your foot, a two-inch heel 57% more pressure, and a three-inch heel 76% more pressure.
There are plenty of women who enjoy heels and wear them every day of their own choice. If a woman wants to torture herself in the name of fashion, that’s on her. But it’s absolutely not okay when it’s a distinctly female expectation. If the pain in your feet is in the back of your mind all day — your work will suffer, it doesn’t take a doctor or a genius to figure that out. Why should women be expected to suffer, for purely superficial reasons? Earlier this month an image went viral of a waitress’ bloody feet after her shift at work. She was forced to wear heels. It took the social media firestorm circulating around the image she shared to convince the restaurant she worked for to change its archaic policy.
It may be fun to giggle about a bunch of men hobbling on heels for the day — but what’s really happening to some women forced to wear them isn’t cute or funny.