Why Do You Wear High Heels?

Why Do You Wear High Heels?

“High heels bring you closer to heaven” – Brian Atwood

High heels. Pumps. Stilettos. Talon haut, zapatos de tacón, salto-alto, tacchi alti. No matter what you call them, you know that most women have at the very least 1 pair of high heeled shoes with which they have a passionate love-hate relationship.

From a superficial, though, not untrue perspective, they look awesome. They’re sleek and sexy. They do wonders when trying to complete an especially elegant outfit. They’ll lift your butt, make you look taller, and some even say they make you look more mature. But in a good way!

On the other hand, or rather, on the other foot, nothing will give your dogs a run for their money like carrying your whole body weight on your toes and tendons for a whole evening. Truth be told, wearing them for prolonged periods of time can result in serious pain and injury ranging from metatarsalgia (a painful inflammation in the ball of the foot) to nerve damage, ankle injury, and general discomfort.

Make sure you get the right fit when shopping for heels!

How did it come to pass that such satanic shoes were constructed in the first place? How did anyone ever think it was a practical idea? Before we get into answering those important questions, it’s important to first state the fact that they were never meant to be worn as something practical. They are, after all, an aesthetic choice, and offer as much practical use in life as do an oil painting or a sculpture. Meaning, that they’re just super nice to look at! Plus, not all high heeled shoes are the same. A lot of your haute-couture labels put a lot of thought into creating stylish and comfortable heels using high-quality, long-lasting, ergonomic materials and designs that have been proven to lessen the strain on your petit pied.

Perhaps one of the reasons wearing heels seem so counterintuitive is because they were not made for long evenings spent dancing in the local discotheque or strutting around in glamorous galas. Believe it or not, the current incarnation of women’s high heeled shoes has a history going back some 400 years, originating as riding wear. As in riding horses!

The Bata Shoe Museum is a museum in Toronto, Canada, located in the Bloor Street Culture Corridor district of Downtown Toronto.
Anatomy of a formal high heeled shoe for women. Christian Louboutin’s Palais Royal in Magenta.

According to the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada, (yes, there’s a whole museum dedicated to shoes), the immediate ancestor of today’s high heeled shoes were what soldiers of the 16th-century Persian cavalry wore while on their saddles. Not only does the top piece and heel breast (as indicated in infographic shown below) give the equestrian an extra grip when pressing their feet against the stirrups, but they also used the heel to stand up while riding their horses in order to improve the accuracy of their muskets.

These heeled riding boots were first introduced to the royal courts of various European nations when in 1599, an embassy was dispatched by the Persian Shah, Abbas I, in order to enlist the support of European monarchs in an alliance against a mutual foe, the ever-expanding Ottoman Empire. Suffice it to say, when the first Persian cavalryman dismounted in front of these foreign aristocrats, the members of the European courts of Moscow, Prague, Munich, and Mantua were impressed, and they quickly moved to adopt the style. But at this time it was more intended for use by men than for women.

400-year-old footwear of Persian cavalry. Reputed to be the ancestor of modern high heels.

Don’t act so surprised. Lots of popular women’s fashion originally came from the domain of men. Pants, for instance! At first, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the actual height of heeled shoes became extremely regulated and revealed something about the social class and position of the wearer. With lower social classes forbidden from wearing heels taller in height than their social betters.

Portrait of King Louis XIV, King of France circa 1643-1715, in high heels.

After nearly a century and a half of this high heel fad, they began to fall out of fashion with men.  The age of Enlightenment captured men’s minds and so did the virtues of reason, which, as previously mentioned, clashes with wearing torturous footwear.  Noblewomen, however, weren’t so discouraged, and heels have remained a part of women’s wardrobes ever since.

Fast forward to the present in the 21st century, high heels not only continue to be extremely popular, but they’ve also been reinvented countless times. Not just to improve the level of comfort of the wearer, but also to change up the look. This is haute-couture after all, which is really just another form of artistic expression that just happens to be wearable. There are wedge heels aka wedgies, slingbacks, corset, platform, cone, cork, spools, mules, ballroom, French, Oxford, chunky, comma, and the list goes on and on.

Uh… I’ll take them all.

Regardless of their obscure origins, heels remain a hot item despite the occasional ouchie they might cause. They’re all about fun, elegance, strength, and sex.  And as much as we would all like to wear comfortable sneakers all the time, you just can’t pull off a pair of comfy basketball kicks in a formal gathering. But nobody said you have to wear them all the time. Heels are best worn for a few hours at a time, when you’re having a night out on the town, enjoying life and being beautiful.

Strap them on and have some fun.

ShopUnder’s got loads of high heeled shoes from some of the world’s hottest haute-couture fashion houses like Dior, Christian Louboutin, and Alexander McQueen. They’re great for special days or for just looking hot. Be sure to check our collection of luxury shoes and stay tuned to our social media posts for news on all the latest additions to our stock and for our upcoming sales!