Parliament will debate the petition entitled “Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work”(1) on Monday 6th March 2017. The petition received over 150k signatures before it closed in November 2016. News reports about Nicola Thorp being sent home for wearing the wrong height of shoes sparked the petition. This news also prompted Susannah Davda of The Shoe Consultant Ltd to carry out a UK-wide survey(2) on the heel heights that women wear at work.
The survey found that women are less likely to wear glamorous towering footwear in the workplace than we might think.
According to Davda of The Shoe Consultant Ltd “Women are reluctant to wear shoes with high heels to work because they’re used to such footwear causing them pain”. “Being in discomfort can affect your mood and even your productivity”.
The results of The Shoe Consultant Ltd’s survey revealed that women only wear heels of three inches or higher to work on average once a week. This statistic didn’t differ between the South and North of the UK. Davda told us “Although women residing in the North are more likely than Southern women to wear high heels in the evening, we found that work habits were similar across both regions.”
Naturally, those women surveyed who usually stand up at work were less likely to wear high heels. “Only one woman we spoke to who mostly stands up in her job, said she wears footwear with a heel of three inches or more to work” says Davda. “This lady said she wears high heels to work around three times a week. Wearing lower heeled footwear on the other days will give her feet some time to recover from the effects of the elevated footwear.”
We wondered whether you can ever wear trainers to work. What has Susannah Davda noticed on the feet of clients and contacts? “In the creative industries, certain elements of the media, and some IT companies, it has become acceptable for women and men to wear smart trainers to work”. Writer Kara Godfrey tweeted “So lucky that my #dresscode allows me to wear trainers to the office.”(3)
This shift towards more casual footwear is certainly a change from dress codes in the past, and has resulted in higher sales of so-called “sports footwear”. Mintel carried out UK research in this area in 2016(4), and reported that “37% of UK women who have bought footwear in the last year bought trainers, compared to 33% who bought shoes with a heel…in 2015 35% of women bought trainers and 35% of women bought high heels”.
Would Susannah Davda like to see trainers being worn in all workplaces? “Actually as much as I love trainers for comfort, it’s important to alternate heavily cushioned sports footwear with more structured leather styles.” “This is so that your foot muscles don’t get lazy and lose the ability to support your feet”. We also asked her what changes in the law she would like to see as a result of Monday’s parliamentary debate. “The MPs report on High Heels and workplace dress codes(5) emphasised the gender inequality which results from the insistence on high heels by employers.” “It’s my view that women should have the freedom to choose whether to wear flats or shoes with a raised heel at work, as long as high heels won’t jeopardise their safety.”
Does Davda have any tips for wearing high heels in the workplace? “High heels can be comfortable, but you need to know what to look for.” You can find Susannah’s tips and tricks on how to find comfortable, beautiful shoes on her website www.shoeconsultant.co.uk
(2) The Shoe Consultant Ltd surveyed 106 women living in the UK – September-October 2016 https://shoeconsultant.co.uk/
(4 ) http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/fashion/high-heels-take-a-tumble-more-women-buy-trainers-than-high-heels-for-the-first-time-in-2016