Ballerina flats hurt feet
In the U.K., from where this article came, “pumps” means “flats.” “Court shoes” are what we call pumps, a high-heeled shoe. Anyway, Sky News reports that flat shoes (“pumps” in Britspeak) are bad for the feet. The lack of arch support causes the inner arches of the foot to “roll in,” and the lack of padding on the very thin soles (the thinner the better in the ballerina flat, from a fashion perspective) can cause soft tissue damage to the ball of the foot.
Heels are no better, as Helmut Newton’s iconic x-ray photograph of a cramped foot shows. Newton’s photos, by the way, often thought to be about sex, are really about power, both embodied (a sensual woman in a stiletto, running an executive meeting) and desired (a woman wearing a very high heel to attract a man and feel his power). There was an amazing issue of Vogue several years back where Helmut Newton photographed models feet and legs in very high, black shoes. Yet the women were shown as handicapped: using canes, crutches, and being literally bent by their constricting fashion and footwear. Repulsive, maybe, but mesmerizing and sexual at the same time. Originally shot for French Vogue in 1994, and reproduced in American Vogue in February 1995, Helmut was prophetic with his take on the “empowered woman,” as the following photograph will show. She is empowered, she makes her own money, she is in control of her own life. But now social roles are skewed, and women feel themselves lacking support, despite their increased power in the world. See how Helmut Newton envisioned it in 1994, nearly 15 years ago.
Unfortunately, Helmut died, in a rockstar way that seems fitting to him, in 2004. Were he alive today, despite the damage pumps err flats, that is, may do to the feet, I doubt he would be photographing them. They do not convey the same messages as do high heels. When one wants to “tone down” an outfit, one easy way to do it is to slip on a flat shoe. When one doesn’t want to stand out, put on a flat shoe to blend in with the crowd. Could the resurgence of flats have something to say about how mass culture prefers their women today? Sanitized, little girlish, non-threatening, and definitely not 5’10” Amazons in pencil skirts and stilettos (unless you live in NYC, where this type of woman still exists). I subscribe to InStyle’s “Look of the Day” email which allows users to vote amongst five selected looks. I’m always a bit alarmed when a sexy, somewhat edgy dark outfit is chosen by the editors but the people vote in some frilly, often white, pink, or pastel outfit that is “pretty.”
If there’s any doubt, I love high heels. I do sometimes wonder what I’m doing to my feet. But for what it’s worth, sometimes flats, and especially flip-flops, leave my feet just as sore at the end of a long day. I’m trying to buy better heels now, with better construction, less pinching. Girls, whatever you “save” in a cheap shoe you will be paying for the night you wear it when after a mere 30 minutes, you can’t think about being young and beautiful because you will be thinking about the pain. In some respects, wearing high heels can be a very Zen persuit: focus on each step; come back to the present; your body is giant fleshy distraction, contain it with your mind. Sometimes I want to rebel against the whole thing and think the Barefoot movement makes some very interesting arguments.
I’m not wearing very high heels right now. I’m wearing a boot with maybe a 2.5″ heel. My feet don’t hurt today. You could say I’m obsessed with shoes: I have two pair under my desk that just arrived in the mail this week, and another pair (make that two) that need to go to the cobbler for repairs. Despite what is the occasional pain and regret of wearing high heeled shoes (especially for long nights of standing. WHY do I keep doing this to myself?), I don’t think I will stop, and the news that ballerinas are just as crappy for my feet as heels…well then, what’s the difference?
For further reading:
Camera Men– NYTimes, 2004. Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, et. al.
Helmut Newton & The Invincible Woman– NYTimes, 2004
Interview– Designboom, 2001
Helmut Newton birth chart – he’s a Scorpio
Too Many Naked Women– at home with Helmut Newton, in Salon