Who wears those spike-heeIed shoes displayed in the windows of designer shoe stores? I have come to the conclusion that they were developed for masochists with an Olympic ability to balance. Yes, they look incredibly hot and give shape to the leg, but stepping out in them is like walking the tight-rope on tiny stilts.
You don’t see men's shoes elevated on five-inch spikes or pointed like elves’ feet at the toe. Men have sensible shoes with a spacious toe box that does not render them limping at the end of the day. No one seems to care how shoes affect the silhouette of a man’s leg. Perhaps that is because they do not—normally, at any rate—wear nylons. Men just go clomping around in spacious banana boats without a care.
As I have gotten older, I have found that my choices in shoes have steadily dwindled. Even the slightest elevation of heel sends pain reverberating down my toes like tiny thunderbolts. Then this past summer, I broke my foot and discovered that the quality and design of the shoes I wore was essential to avoiding radiating foot pain at night. No more discount shoes. I have entered the well-padded, wide-toe-box, sensible-shoe era of my life. My feet have been put out to pasture.
We certainly do love our shoes. The American public bought 2.4 billion pairs of them in 2007 according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association. With a population of about 310 million people, that averages out to almost eight pairs of shoes per person. They are worn for work and for play. But they do not merely protect our feet from sharp objects, grime and plantar-wart viruses. They are a symbol of status and as integral to fashion as cosmetics, hairstyle and apparel.
Shoes can even transcend style. They are a part of our psychological makeup. Some people are addicted to shoes—like Imelda Marcos and her infamous collection—and others sexually obsess over them, trembling at the thought of holding, smelling or surreptitiously wearing them. They can be used to drink champagne or to toss at heads of state, giving them social and political utility. They are the subject of children's stories, such as Cinderella, teaching us all at an early age that it takes small feet and good balance to capture the interest of a handsome prince.
So who, I repeat, wears those damned spike-heeled shoes, anyway? Well, not me. At this point, they are only good as windowsill planters or to hammer nails when I’m hanging a picture. I can admire the pluck and fortitude of women who wear them, but I no longer wobbily run with that wolf pack. Such tiny torture chambers remain the domain of the young, the strong or the pedi-vain.