If the high heel fits, proceed with caution

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My oldest daughter used to have a real passion for high heels when she lived in the Lower 48. Now that she’s officially an Alaskan — she gets her first Permanent Fund dividend this year — the stilettos have been sidelined in lieu of sensible snow and hiking boots for much of the year.

I’ve never understood women’s fascination for teetering around on 4- or 5-inch heels. A few years ago, the shoe industry was touting “super stiletto” shoes with heels up to 7 inches.

I think every mother owes it to her high-heel-wearing daughters to share an infographic I recently ran across that shows what heels actually are doing to their wearers’ feet. In horrifying detail, the graphic published by The Washington Post illustrates how high heels affect posture, bones and muscles.

For example, there’s something called Morton’s neuroma that creates a thickening of tissue around a nerve between the third and fourth toes that can lead to pain and numbness in the toes.

Those fashionable heels also can cause bunions, corns, blisters, hammertoes, ankle injuries and something called metatarsalgia, or joint pain in the ball of the foot, according to the Post graphic.

“Pump bump” is an other popular ailment caused when the rigid backs of heels irritate the heel creating a bony enlargement known as Haglund’s deformity. That sounds plain nasty.

And men apparently don’t even notice when a woman wears high heels, Time magazine reports. Northumbria University in the United Kingdom actually researched this and found that men’s reactions to women in heels versus women in flats were no different.

“The researchers wanted to know whether the changed posture that comes with high heels — longer legs, accentuated rear and tilted torso — get noticed by men,” Time wrote.

Now we know what women have always noticed: Men just aren’t the most observant people on the planet!

But women remain convinced those heels will make them more attractive.

A survey done by the American Podiatric Medical Association showed these results: 82 percent of women wearing high heels do so for fashion or style; 73 percent slip into heels to complete their professional attire; 54 percent do it to look sexier and more attractive; 39 percent say they want to appear taller.

With high heels carving out an ever-increasing portion of a nearly $195 billion global footwear market, it’s doubtful we’ll see the return to saddle shoes and penny loafers any time soon. High heels for young girls have become a $4 billion industry, apparently because of a “mini-me” craze started by Tom Cruise’s young daughter.

At least here in Montana, where fashion and style tend to be more relaxed, there’s less pressure to flaunt those spiky shoes. A pair of Keen sandals is perfectly acceptable footwear at most venues in these parts. I like that.

Marilyn Monroe is said to have declared: “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.” Heels may make us look pretty, but to go the distance I’ll take a pair of flats any day.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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