High heels to hell

Women continue to buy, wear and love painful shoes for the sake of fashion and legs that look sexier.

Abby Bar-Lev

Women, brace yourselves. There is a scary new cosmetic surgery that is becoming increasingly popular. This surgery has nothing to do with your face, and everything to do with your feet.

In order to fit into more high-end high heels, women have begun surgically altering their feet to fit the shoe. That’s correct: cosmetic foot surgery. Read it and weep Ö or rather, read it and freak out.

Cosmetic foot surgery does not include surgery to relieve pain or improve function; it is merely to change the appearance of one’s feet. Common cosmetic foot surgery includes shortening toes, injecting silicon or collagen to the ball of the foot, and/or surgery to narrow feet.

Demand for cosmetic foot surgery has soared in the past three years. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer have all gone under the knife for fashion. Business boomed beginning in 2003 for Dr. Suzanne Levine, the prominent cosmetic foot surgeon who preformed the operations on the aforementioned celebrities. She undertook 40 percent more cosmetic foot surgeries in 2003 than she did three years before. Levine was quoted in The New York Times saying, “Take your average woman and give her heels instead of flats, and she’ll suddenly get whistles on the street.” High heels make us appear taller and make our legs more attractive. They also cause distortion of the foot’s natural function. Women may end up suffering from bunions, claw and hammertoes. In addition to foot pain, women who wear high heels often suffer from shoulder, back, pelvic, knee and even jaw pain. Issues related to wearing high heels often lead to foot surgeries necessary for improved daily function. A 1993 study found that “women have more than 80 percent of all foot surgeries,” and that, “women have more than 94 percent of bunion surgeries.” These surgeries that are performed to alleviate pain and are not cosmetic foot surgery.

Cosmetic foot surgery is not just expensive, but invovles serious risks that could take a toll on one’s health. Possible complications of cosmetic foot surgery include nerve damage, swelling of the toes, infection and chronic walking pain. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society issued its opposition to cosmetic foot surgery. When women put their health at risk for such a trivial reason, like wanting to fit into high heels more easily, that demonstrates how entrenched society has become in the patriarchy.

According to Dr. Gary Jolly, president of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, men may have bunions but no pain because their shoes fit the natural contours of the foot and contain plenty of room inside the shoe. High heels force the foot into an unnatural position and often create problems where there once were none. If high heels can instigate so many health problems, why do women continue to buy, love and wear them? Actor John Berger, once said, “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” I am sure a lot of women are planning on writing letters in to The Minnesota Daily contesting that they wear heels because they like the way they look and feel in them. Even I, at a meager 5 feet tall, often feel a boost of confidence from the 2 inches or so of height. But where is the line drawn between what actually makes us feel good and what society and culture have told us should make us feel good? Where is the line drawn between our health and our vanity?

Looking down at blistered feet this summer, I was complaining about aching after a long day of work in high heels. My friend Brandon asked me, “Why do women wear high heels if they are so uncomfortable?” I am still searching for an answer. Now another question nagging in my mind is, What would you rather lose, the shoe or the foot? Until I find an answer to Brandon’s question, and being confident in the answer of my own, I am putting my heels on the shelf and buying a pair of comfort soles.

Abby Bar-Lev welcomes comments at [email protected]