When it comes to high heels, you either love them, or you hate them. Or, you pretend to enjoy them while you’re wearing them, even though you secretly hate them.
However you feel, high heels are a fashion trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. For decades, women have been displaying this fashion-forward footwear to all kinds of events, parties, and in their everyday lives.
When did this style of shoe become so popular, and just what types of high heels are out there? We’re going to discover the answer to these questions and more in the forthcoming article.
What is a High Heel?
Simply stated, a high heel is a shoe in which the height of the heel is significantly higher than the height of the shoe. It would be easy enough to leave it at that and call it a day, but high heels come in such a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles that it can be hard to figure out which one is right for you.
When it comes to heels, the most common factor a woman considers is the height. Some women find it outrageous and painful to walk in heels that are two or three inches – or higher – tall. On the other hand, many women love the idea of a towering heel and have mastered the art of walking in one.
About 72% of women will wear high heels at some point in their lifetime, and 49% of 18 to 24-year-olds wear them daily.
But what is the point of balancing on such a high heel when you can just wear flats? There are several well-researched reasons for women to wear heels that you may have never considered. Let’s take a look.
For one, many women love the idea of looking taller. Shorter women can use heels to elongate the look of the body, emphasizing their legs and merely appearing taller to those around them. Still, even tall women love the bold look of a high heel.
Women who are about 5’5” or shorter can experience a real boost in confidence by wearing high heels. There’s something about the added height that tends to even the playing field. If you’re short enough and surrounded by taller individuals, you can frankly feel everyone looking down on you.
While that may not be conducive of how they feel about you, it’s just physically what someone has to do to make eye contact. Wearing high heels for a shorter woman can make them feel more apart of something rather than a sidekick. It can also help them command more respect and attention.
A Better Walk
Lots of women wear heels because it gives them a better walk. This may sound like a silly reason to some people but just think about the way you walk in sneakers compared to the way one walks in heels. Research has shown that walking in heels as opposed to other shoes boosts a women’s attractiveness.
When a woman wears heels, according to this research, there is less focus on her age, her face, her weight, and other features and more emphasis on the way their body moves. Wearing heels change their gait, and therefore reduces their stride and increases the rotation of the hips.
If you’ve ever heard anything about a woman strutting her stuff, it likely involves her wearing heels because doing so quite literally makes her strut, thus making her appear more attractive.
As an added bonus, walking in heels requires a little more muscle use and effort, so doing so can really accentuate your calf and thigh muscles.
A More Feminine Look
Regardless of individual taste, in the history of our society, it’s far more likely for women to wear heels over men. This is because high heels make you look more feminine.
The same research that was used above to test attractiveness with high heels was taken a step further to determine femininity. Participants were asked to identify people walking on treadmills in the dark as either male or female. Some were in heels and some in flats.
All of the treadmill walkers were females, but several of the participants consistently identified ladies walking in flats as male and the ones in heels as female.
This test showcased the idea that high heels are inherently ladylike and feminine.
So, when a woman wants to display herself as extra girly and feminine, it’s not uncommon for them to choose high heels to help them do so. Of course, there are several other things they can do: wear makeup, put on a dress, style their hair; but wearing high heels is a sure-fire way to accomplish this task.
Professionalism and Power
High heels for women often hold a sense of power when it comes to the professional world. Personally, I think part of this has to do with how difficult it can be to walk in them. If a woman can confidently and easily rock a pair of 3-inch heels while serving as the CEO of a company, she’s got my respect and then some.
However, the idea of power and high heels dates back long before CEOs and promotions even existed. Aristocratic men and women used to wear heels for ceremonial purposes. The additional height added to the heel was done to set them apart from others – quite literally lifting them higher than the social classes that they considered below them.
While that notion certainly does not literally translate today – I can’t think of anyone who puts on heels and thinks, “there, now I’m higher than my subordinates!” – There is a bit of a lingering subconsciousness that comes with wearing heels to demonstrate power.
Many businesswomen can be seen wearing high heels in the workplace. Business owners, secretaries, celebrities, authors, and politicians wear heels more often than not – and for some reason, we automatically think they look very professional and powerful.
Finally, some women wear high heels simply because they want to look sexier. A particular style of heels, like stilettos or strappy heels, give off more of a sexy vibe than close-toed, 1-inch heels for the office do. On a girls’ night out, you would probably choose a strappy high heel to go with your little black dress over your nude, close-toed office heels.
Because they make you look sexier – and nothing’s wrong with a woman wanting to look and feel good in a sexy dress and a nice pair of high heels.
At the same time, research has shown that high heels render more male attention. When faced with approaching a woman wearing flats or a woman wearing heels, most men responded more quickly to the woman wearing heels.
This could be for a variety of reasons that we have already gone through. Wearing heels can make you more confident, which is also attractive to men. We also already know that heels can elongate your legs and accent your muscles, making you appear more attractive. And if you’re walking, we are now well aware of how much more appealing your movements have become.
All of these things combined are likely to capture male attention, so if a woman wants to appear sexier and possibly attract herself a new date, high heels are an excellent component to her strategy.
Are High Heels Safe?
Many of us ladies have suffered through a long night of wearing high heels just so we could nail the look. I’m sure you have heard the phrase “beauty is pain” on more than one occasion. For some women, it seems apparent that it’s crazy to put yourself through pain just to look good. But for others of us, we like the look enough to justify it.
But the real question here is: are we doing some severe damage when we force ourselves to wear high heels?
For starters, when we wear high heels, our whole body has to adjust to the position they put us in. A woman wearing flats has a generally straight spine, relaxed calf muscles, and an even distribution of their weight throughout their whole foot.
Meanwhile, a woman who is wearing high heels has to adjust, whether she consciously recognizes it or it’s just a natural reaction of her body.
When wearing heels, an individual’s chest is pushed forward. Going down from there, the lower back also pushes forward while the hips and spine come out of their natural alignment. In addition, there is also extra pressure on the knees and the calf muscles.
Finally, heels give the body the same sensation it would feel if you were walking on a ramp. Therefore, there is more pressure on the balls of the feet through the downward force and less distribution of weight.
So, we can see the difference in the body’s positioning and posture, but what does all of this mean?
Let’s look at the spine first. The natural curse of the human spine is an S-shape. Because of this shape, the spine acts as a shock absorber to reduce stress on the vertebrae. When you wear high heels, the lumbar spine can flatten and displace, causing you to lean forward more and decrease the S-curve.
Over long-term wear, high heels can lead to poor alignment that causes muscle overuse and back pain. It can also negatively impact your posture due to the amount of pressure placed on the ball of your foot.
In other areas, wearing high heels consistently and over a long time can actually shorten your calf muscles and thicken your tendons. It can also cause the slippage of a vertebra forward, causing great pain and medical attention.
So, What Now?
After reading all of that, even the biggest high heel-lover may start to question whether she should rock the extra 3 inches or not.
There’s good news though: you don’t have to stop wearing heels! There are things that you can do to counter these adverse effects.
For one, you should try to minimize the amount of time that you are wearing high heels. It may not be the best idea to wear them for your breakfast date, then straight into a long workday, then out for dinner with some dancing afterward.
Instead, pack a pair of flats in your purse. Wear your heels in and around the office, but switch to your flats when you’re sitting at your desk. Wear them out to lunch with your girlfriends, but throw your flats on when it’s time to go grocery shopping.
You can also help by limiting the height of the heel you buy. Try to set your limit to 2 inches or less, and never go above. The higher the heel, the more likely you are to hurt yourself.
Consistently perform leg and foot stretches. Do so both before and after you wear your heels, but also try to remember to do them every day for all-around better health.
Finally, when purchasing heels, try to head to the store in the afternoon. The afternoon is when your feet are the biggest, so you will get a better idea of the perfect fit for you. If you buy them first thing in the morning, you may find them extremely uncomfortable by the afternoon.
Types of High Heels
Now it’s time to get into the fun part: the types of high heels.
Maybe I’m a part of a walking stereotype here, but there are very few things in life that make me as happy as when I find the perfect pair of new shoes.
So, let’s take a look at common types of high heels for you to check out.
Stilettos are the most popular and common type of heel. If you don’t know much about women’s shoes or specifically high heels, you have probably still heard of a stiletto.
Stiletto heels are thin and tapering. They vary widely in height, ranging from as low a 1 inch to as high as 7 or 8. No matter the height, their heel remains thin. However, some stiletto heels are more delicate than others. Think long, thin, black heels.
Stilettos are versatile because you can wear them in the office or rock them on a girls’ night out. Their height, rather than their style, are likely to be your determining factor.
Wedges are fabulous spring and summer shoes that add a touch of adorable to any outfit, whether it’s shorts, jeans, or a dress.
Wedge heels add extra height to the heel with a block of material – usually cork or wood – with leaving the gap that a stiletto heel would leave beneath your arch. Many people describe them as chunky rather than sleek.
Many women find wedges easier to walk in and more comfortable than other heels. They also work better for long maxi dresses or skirts because a stiletto heel can get caught on the fabric.
The typing of a platform heel has less to do with the heel and more to do with the sole of the shoe. Platforms have the same kind of heel as a stiletto, but they feature a platform on the front of the shoe to allow for a high heel.
When a heel is super high with no platform, it can be incredibly difficult to walk in them. Platforms make it easier by evening the playing field between the toes and the heel a bit.
A stacked heel uses layers of material to give the look of a higher heel with a different shape. Stacked heels usually come in the form of a chunkier block, rather than a thin stilt to walk on. They are much easier to step in and maintain balance because of their larger surface area.
The kitten heel has become quite the vintage look for women today. When it was first introduced in the 1950s, it was designed with young ladies in mind who were thought to be too immature for high heels. It almost served as a kind of stepping stone between little girl shoes and women’s high heels.
The kitten heel is the same shape as a stiletto, just much shorter. They usually don’t go any higher than 1.5 to 1.75 inches.
Block heels can easily be described as a mix of the stiletto, the wedge, and the platform heels. This heel is super chunky and is often made with the same material as a wedge but features a distinct separation between the heel and the toes like a stiletto does. The toes also hold a significant platform.
This trend offers more support and distributes weight better than a stiletto, making them easier to walk in. Though the style isn’t as popular today, it was a big hit in the 90s. The height ranges from a low heel to several inches.
Cone heels are very appropriately named due to the shape of their heel, which greatly resembles that of an ice cream cone. The heel takes on a triangular shape with one flat side.
Some consider this shape to be a bit quirky, but others find it slightly curved appearance to be cute and sassy. All in all, the cone heel is easier to walk in and gives extra support, making it easier to wear for a whole day.
Some of us women love to own the look of a good pair of high heels, while others prefer to keep it lowkey and comfortable with flats, sandals, and sneakers. Regardless of your personal style, high heels remain consistent as a staple in the fashion world and serve many purposes to us both in business and pleasure.