Today parliament will debate the petition entitled “Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work”(1) A report by MPs “High heels and workplace dress codes”(2) went into detail about the issues primarily facing women in the workplace. They also analysed the Equality Act(3) as it stands. The timely petition was provoked by news stories about Nicola Thorp, who was sent home for wearing flat shoes to work at PwC(4).
Whether you think companies should be allowed to specify heel height for female workers in their dress code or not, many women prefer to wear heels to work.
We’ve noticed more and more new brands such as Shoes by Shaherazad(5) and Thesis Couture(6) using innovative technology to make high heels which they claim are comfortable. Shoes by Shaherazad even uses the phrase “18 hour heels” and describes their footwear as suitable “from board room to bar”.
Concerned that we may have suffered unnecessarily in our stilettos for all these years, we asked Susannah Davda of The Shoe Consultant Ltd(7) to help us uncover the truth about high heeled shoes.
Q. Are shoes with high heels uncomfortable by nature?
A. To a certain extent they are. Although you can walk on tiptoes in your bare feet for a little while with no pain, the most natural position for the foot is flat to the floor. When the heel of the foot becomes elevated, it needs to be supported in the right areas to have a chance of being comfortable.
Q. Interesting. Tell me more.
A. The most important aspect in making high heels comfortable is that the footwear should follow the shape of your foot. From the curve of your instep, to the width, length, and depth. Wearing ill-fitting shoes or those which are not ergonomic will almost guarantee discomfort.
Q. So why do you think so many brands get this wrong?
A. There is often a focus on aesthetics over function. Comfort is not considered to be a sexy thing, and some shoe brands think that all a woman wants is to be sexy. Those companies are missing a trick, as with a few minor tweaks their styles could be much more comfortable, and would sell many more pairs. It’s especially important that work styles such as court shoes are manufactured to be comfortable. Being in discomfort or pain can detrimentally affect a woman’s confidence, meaning she is less likely to feel able to express her opinions.
Q. Do you think this can change?
A. Yes, we just need to vote with our feet. When we stop buying uncomfortable, ill-fitting work shoes, brands will stop making them. In the meantime, I’ll continue to use my expertise to guide shoe brands keen to develop comfortable high heel ranges.
Q. How do I know what to look for when I’m buying high heels?
A. I have lots of tips to help you select the perfect pair on my website www.shoeconsultant.co.uk and in my book The Shoe Shopping Kit(8).