Heels for all!

As we celebrate one of the most fashionable weeks in New York, we are also celebrating an iconic moment when Sam Smith said “no” to gender restrictions, and “yes” to heels. 

For the first time ever, the “Latch” singer wore a pair of heels on the red carpet. Smith donned patent leather Gucci boots for the GQ Men of the Year Awards in London. Not only was it fashionable, it was practical. 

During its earlier days, heels were originally targeted towards men to support their everyday activities. Heeled shoes date back to the tenth century, specifically for warriors so they can grip their saddle with their feet more easily while riding horses. 

Women did not wear heels, as it posed a threat to carrying children in fear of falling over and miscarrying. The first recorded instance of a woman wearing a heeled shoe was Catherine de Medici during the 16th century. Standing only 5’4”, the Italian Noblewoman wanted to appear taller for her wedding. While de Medici broke barriers with her choice in footwear, this trend did not become popular among women. 

During King Louis XIV’s reign, heels took a turn from being a practical shoe to more of a fashion statement. He wore heels that were heavily decorated in order to tower over everyone. Quickly, this became a symbol of status and power, allowing only the nobles to wear heels. While Christian Louboutin took the red soles and made it his trademark, King Louis XIV was the first to do it, as red soles were reserved for a very elite class of nobles.

When heels became more accessible to commoners, they began to lose their popularity. The working class started to realize that wearing these shoes are in fact impractical. King Louis XIV’s influence pushed it into being purely aesthetic, as opposed to its original purpose of practicality. 

While the cowboy boot steadily stayed true to maintaining a slight heel through time, the advancement of technology (cars) eliminated the need for heeled shoes. The changing times also changed gender roles. Heels began to represent men who were not capable of getting their hands dirty (or feet for this matter,) reserving this look for the “dainty.” During this time, the “damsel in distress” image was heavily popularized, pushing this trend exclusively towards women. 

Today, fashion no longer adheres to gender roles. Heels are meant for everyone. However, a common mistake often made while shoe shopping is either choosing between comfort or style. Traditionally, the image of comfort pointed to a totally flat shoe, which may feel like the right choice, however, this can lead to your arch collapsing. The shoe that will most benefit your feet is the one that best supports your arch. An arch angle of less than ¾ inch in relation to the front is actually better for you than one that is completely flat because it takes the stress off the Achilles which can help with the alignment of your posture, ankles, knees and spine. An arch angle over a ¾ inch is not recommended because it causes you to shift your body weight forward leading to postural misalignment which will negatively impact your gait and biomechanics. Ultimately, this misalignment will lead to pain in your feet, ankles, knees and lower back. 

Smith’s choice to wear a block heel gave his feet the necessary arch support. Not only that, but the heeled boots gave him a spacious toe box that allowed his toes to move freely with no restrictions. 

While we love that this was a moment in fashion, we love that this promotes foot health. It is recommended to have an inch heel to give our arch that necessary support. Next time you go shoe shopping, don’t let a little bit of a heel scare you away with the stigma that it’s bad for you or it’s restricted to certain genders. A good heel can make a world of a difference to your feet health!


Dr. Miguel Cunha Dr. Miguel Cunha, founder of Gotham Footcare and a leading podiatrist in Manhattan, is a highly trained and skilled foot and ankle surgeon with experience treating a wide array of foot and ankle conditions from minor problems to complex reconstructive foot and ankle surgery. Dr. Cunha takes pride in having a genuine interest in each and every one of his patients while providing them the utmost compassion and exceptional care.

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