Do you wear high heels to work because of company dress code or because you simply like to wear them? Do you know that wearing high heels for longer periods of time can affect your concentration and productivity at work?
Woman Fired for Not Wearing High Heels to Work
Newswires went frenzy in 2016 when Nicola Thorp, a London receptionist, was fired for not wanting to wear heels at work. She complained they were too uncomfortable to wear through her work shift. This story was all over the news in 2016, and corporations still continue discussing this topic.
Ms. Thorp’s incident led to over 150,000 signatures which then led to a legal petition by the House of Commons, which requested The Petitions Committee in the UK make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work.
The Petition Report mentions there is medical evidence that verifies high heels can have a medical and disabling effect when worn for a prolonged amount of time.
According to the report, the medical validation comes from the College of Podiatry which stated that high heels impair the wearer’s ability to perform at work. It reads there are three main reasons for this: “firstly, high heels can leave the wearer in significant pain which, as with other conditions causing chronic pain, makes it difficult to focus; secondly, high heels are ill-suited to the duties required to be performed; and thirdly, high heels affect breathing patterns and concentration and may thus reduce executive-professional presence”(p10).
Jobs Requiring High Heels for Their Female Workforce
If you work in finance, insurance, legal, sales, air travel, luxury hotel, or other higher end service-based sectors, you may have found in your job offer packet a “dress code” clause where dressing feminine and wearing high heels are encouraged or mandatory. Have you checked yours?
The Big Problem is a Bigger Problem
While mandating a culture of good looking and well-dressed employees sounds very shallow, there’s a problem with making high heels a requirement at work.
The bigger problem with making high heels obligatory at work is most heels (traditional heels) are painful to wear for a few hours, much less for a long 8 hour work day. That pain translates to knee, hip, and joint pain after repetitive wear (among other health issues), and it promotes fatigue which then affects concentration and productivity at work. How can a professional woman work under this type of pain daily?
Chronic Foot Pain = Debilitation = Lack of Concentration and Performance
How Long Can Women Endure Heels Without Pain
In the subject petition, the College of Podiatry researched the length of time women can endure high heels without pain. It found women start complaining of foot pain on average 1 hour and 6 minutes after wearing “ill-fitting’ high heeled shoes. And in 2013, in a similar study, The College found that 90% of the 2,000 women surveyed had self-reported foot problems (p.11).
Given these findings, you are probably not the only woman in your office who hurts in heels just after a few hours in them. Here’s a difficult question? Do you have any foot problems- bunions, Morton’s neuroma, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, or metatarsalgia? If you suffer from any of these foot conditions, do you think it started when you started wearing heels? I have all those conditions except bunions and heel spurs. And yes, they started in my early 20s when I started wearing heels, the ill-fitting heels.
High Heels and Foot Problems
The College’s research seems to suggest a correlation between wearing high heels and foot problems. It’s okay to come to terms… But there comes a time when we have to take a more proactive approach to finding better suited heels for all day wear. Later, I will explain and recommend the types of heels to wear which are more comfortable. (HINT: High Performance High Heels)
Wearing Ill-Fitting High Heels Reduces Corporate Presence
In addition, the petition mentions:
“High heels cause shallower, more frequent breathing due to tightening of the abdominal muscles. Breathing in this way sends the body into “fight or flight” mode, causing blood to rush to the legs and arms, away from the brain.
The physical instability caused by wearing high heels reduces the wearer’s presence and authority when communicating. Shallower breathing inhibits effective vocal projection, sometimes leading to vocal cord damage and sickness absence” (p12).
So, if your breathing is affected when wearing heels, your vocal presence will suffer too! Ask yourself, how can you perform a killer-winning presentation on your feet at 2pm when your feet are hurting? And if your feet are killing you, naturally your body will protect your feet by bringing blood flow to your lower extremities first (the parasympathetic nervous system) instead of your brain, where you would need it the most for a bad-ass presentation.
I know you expect me to be against this petition and what it represents, given I am a high heel advocate. It’s only natural for you to think so. But contrary to popular belief, I have to side with women who simply don’t want to wear heels to work.
I think wearing high heels is a job in itself, and I don’t think women should be mandated to work in heels at work if they don’t want. I can appreciate a well-groomed, suited, and manicured Wall Street broker. But I wouldn’t expect her to wear high heels to look professional.
I am in 100% agreement with this study’s report on the long term effects of uncomfortable high heels, however. I have been a victim of those hard to walk on heels, and I know how debilitating and energy sucking they can be after just a few hours in them.
A Side Note:
Have you ever not wanted to walk to the next building to your 3pm meeting all because your feet were sore? Have you ever skipped going to your favorite lunch spot because you were so tired and preferred walking to the closest nearby cafe?
Working Professional Women Should Have a Choice
I believe women should wear the footwear of their choice for work. And I think women shouldn’t have to feel forced into wearing shoes that will impair their concentration or energy at work. I mean it’s so uncomfortable to have to wear the wrong kind of shoes daily!
We have discovered chronic foot pain is debilitating to the the point it decreases your focus and work performance.
If you must wear heels for work, then wear High Performance High Heels. These types of heels are made with supportive shock absorption elements in the foot’s key areas (heels, arches, and balls of the feet) and are scientifically validated for being more comfortable than traditional 4 inch heels.
Tips for Longer Days in Heels
1. Always carry flats in your bag.
2. Take your shoes off when sitting in your office/cubicle (whenever possible).
3. Add extra inserts to your shoes in the areas that affect you the most.
4. Minimize your daily work-bag weight. The less weight on your body and therefore feet, the better.
5. Exercise your feet whenever possible throughout the day. Stretch, flex…
Tips for Buying Longer-Lasting Heels
Choose heels with:
1. Leather (insole and upper)
2. Baby calfskin or soft butter leather (for stretch)
3. Shock absorption properties (foam padding/cushion in the balls, arches, and heel areas)
4. Stable heels made with shanks (for sturdiness)
6. Wider toe boxes (for those with wide widths)
7. Orthopedic Insoles
Recommendation: High Performance High Heels
Serafina engineered with Roccamore Insole Technology
Serafina is an Italian comfortable suede heel made in the color plum with elegant nappa straps across the foot for postural support. The secret of this handcrafted shoe lies in the insole. The insole is breathable, and it molds to the curves in your foot supporting your foot in all key areas. This shoe is comfortable all around. It almost feels like a wedge. Learn More…
Vanessa engineered with Roccamore Insole Technology
Vanessa is an Italian shoe made with baby calfskin leathers. The satin laces add a feminine touch and aid in postural support to keep your feet in place. The external platform aids in providing leverage and comfort. This shoe has a glove fit and great cushion through its secret ingredient, the insole. Learn More…
Strap Black Nappa engineered with Sargossa Intelligent Design Technology
Strap Black Nappa is a trendy bootie with gold accents. This shoe is built with a bouncy springpad (which acts like a shock absorber) and a footbed of medical grade memory foam for extra comfort. Learn More…
Blue Louise engineered with Roccamore Insole Technology
Blue Louise is a chic pump with satin blue laces that adorn your feet and tie to your ankle. This comfortable Italian suede leather high heel has a special designed insole designed with a cupped heel, memory foam on the footbed, and an arch support stabilizer for weight distribution. Learn More…