Elevate Difference

Bad Shoes and the Women Who Love Them

With my feet encased in a pair of red Mary Jane pumps, I sat at my desk reading Bad Shoes and the Women Who Love Them. As a self-described “shoe girl” and vehement hypochondriac I nervously turned the pages, bracing for bad news.

In her book, author Leora Tanenbaum outlines some of the extreme practices women have undergone in the name of footwear—like the practice of foot binding in tenth century China—and gives anecdotal evidence about the serious foot, knee, and back injuries that can arise from wearing modern-day heels. There is a section of the book dedicated to foot maladies. I squirmed through it. Another section discusses cosmetic surgery of the foot, followed by accounts of surgery “horror stories.” Throughout, women discuss the pain their high heels have caused them. All of this is coupled with inconvenient, scientific facts that all confirm high heels can, over time, cause physical pain and deformity.

According to Tanenbaum, shoes are not supposed to hurt, a fact I had never considered. Truth be told, even my “comfortable” office shoes—a beautiful pair of open-toed ballet flats—squish my toes together and dig into my heels as I walk. This, according to Tanenbaum, is neither normal nor healthy for the foot. I’ve never taken the time to find a pair of shoes that are both comfortable and beautiful—mostly because I didn’t believe that such a pair existed.

Tut, tut, Tanenbaum would say. There are countless brands of foot-friendly shoes, some of which are provided in the book. One that I have recently become enamored with, thanks to Tanenbaum’s recommendation, is the Born shoe brand. A recent shopping trip yielded me a stunning (and comfortable!) pair of silver gladiator sandals that leave me feeling as though I am walking on air.

Generally speaking, I love my shoes very much. Any book that will try to scare me away from them will only temporarily divert my attention, and Tanenbaum is aware of this fact. Although she concedes that there are social pressures encouraging women to wear pumps, she does not believe that high heels are “unfeminist.” Bad Shoes and the Women Who Love Them does not attempt to stop women from wearing the shoes they love; it simply suggests that the indulgence be limited to a few hours a week and that comfortable shoes with orthopedic inserts are worn when possible.

Bad Shoes and the Women Who Love Them should be a prerequisite for all shoe-enthusiasts. The book offers practical advice that can easily be incorporated into even the most fashionable of wardrobes. As I type this I am wearing a great pair of black bootie pumps. Although once uncomfortable, I’ve made them substantially more wearable, thanks to the over-the-counter orthopedic inserts I picked up as per Tanenbaum’s suggestion. With a little practical planning, it appears—to borrow from a tired cliché—that women can have their shoes and wear them too, so long as they are smart about it.

Written by: Cheryl Santa Maria, May 20th 2010