The Scottish Mail on Sunday Article: Ban girls from wearing killer heels
Scientists have warned high heels are a public health hazard that should be agerestricted in the same way as knives and alcohol.
The dramatic claim has come amid new research linking the fashion staple to aches, pains and falls. Nearly one in five women wears highheeled shoes such as wedges, platforms, sling backs or stilettos every day, and they have soared in popularity among younger girls and teenagers.
However, a study in a leading academic journal warns that though high heels are a ‘powerful symbol of modern female sexuality’, they are also a public health problem.
The report also expresses ‘ concern’ about the ‘expectation’ for women to wear highheeled shoes at work or when attending functions. High heels are a wardrobe staple for many celebrities including Victoria Beckham, Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian – who wore them during her pregnancy last year. But they have also caused a number of highprofile accidents when wearers have ended up falling victim to their precarious height.
ACTRESS Jennifer Lawrence has fallen over twice at the Oscars, Madonna fell at the Brit Awards last year while wearing fourinch heels and a cloak, and supermodel Naomi Campbell fell on a Vivienne Westwood catwalk wearing nineinch platforms.
As well as accidents, the research, published in the scientific journal BMJ Open, linked heels with bunions and body aches and pains.
Researcher Dr Maxwell Barnish, an epidemiologist at Aberdeen University, looked at the evidence on the risks of high heels from a number of international studies. He found that wearing the heels had a ‘significant association’ with bunions and musculoskeletal pain as well as ‘evidence of a significant injury toll’.
One study estimated that over ten years in the US, more than 4,000 girls under ten and more than 17,000 teenagers ended up in A&E departments after hurting themselves while wearing high heels. The study states: ‘High heels are a powerful symbol of modern female sexuality that have been shown to increase women’s attractiveness to men. This is the first review of the potential health impact of high heels from an epidemiological perspective.’
But it added: ‘We recommend health organisations engage in dialogue with governments regarding the compulsion to wear high heels at work as well as social events and regarding access to high heels among girls under the age of adulthood.’
Yesterday Dr Barnish said women should not be ‘expected’ to wear heels to work or social functions. He added: ‘The purchase of knives and alcohol is agerestricted, so policymakers could look at making the purchase of high heels restricted to those over the age of 18.‘Our study shows that highheel shoes are a public health issue because of the damage that they cause to women’s feet.
The evidence shows they are linked with bunions, musculoskeletal pain and injuries. ‘The key message is that women should be able to wear heels if they want to, but they should not be expected to wear them – for example by their employers or to functions. ‘Society expects women to wear heels, but we need to have more health promotion so that this culture changes. ‘Girls also come under peer pressure to wear them to events such as school balls when their feet are not fully developed.’
The study was welcomed last night by foot care professionals – though podiatrist Tracy Byrne, owner of Londonbased Holistic Health and a member of the British Association of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, said it would be ‘nigh on impossible’ to stop retailers copying shoes from the catwalk in children’s sizes.
She said: ‘In an ideal world we should ban high heels in children, but it’s a bit like banning sugar.
Flat shoes can also cause problems in children’s feet and the best thing is for them to go barefoot as often as possible.’ Research by the College of Podiatry, which promotes foot health, found that 18 per cent of women wear high heels regularly or daily.
A spokesman said: ‘We have seen evidence of children as young as eight wearing high heels. This sends the wrong message to children about keeping their feet healthy.