High heels are under fire as sexual harassment and assault allegations skyrocket

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  • Over the weekend, The New York Times published an examination of the way women view high heels, finding that for many, heels had gone out of favour.
  • From a practical standpoint, ditching heels can be a nod to safety, with more comfortable alternatives allowing women more freedom of movement.
  • And as sexual assault and harassment allegations dominate the news, the rejection of heels seems to be a way for women to reclaim their well-being more generally over being sexually appealing to men.

As powerful men in industries from the restaurant world to tech are hit with sexual assault and harassment allegations, women are ditching heels – both for safety and as a way to reclaim control.

Over the weekend, The New York Times published an article examining how women were increasingly rejecting high heels, instead turning toward more comfortable options from super-utilitarian Crocs to trendy sneaker brands like Allbirds.

The Times discusses many factors behind the trend – but a through line seems to be how women are treated in 2017.

First, there are questions of safety. High heels are often painful creations that are typically more difficult to walk in than the average flat, making it difficult to escape dangerous situations.

“You only need to spend a few minutes on the internet these days to see that, yes, there are quite a lot of times when, unfortunately, it would help to be able to run,” Renee Engeln, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, told The Times.

“Men have no clue that this is something a lot of women think of,” the shoe designer Eree Kim said of making shoes in which women could defend themselves.

Still, ditching heels isn’t only a strategy to fend off physical violence. At a time when women are exposing sexual predators across countless industries, ditching heels can be a way to show that they value their own well-being over men’s desires.

“High heels can lead to corns on the toes, corns in between the toes, damaged and thickened toenails, cause bunions to worsen, create hard skin on the sole of the foot, lead to changes in the shape of the foot, affect knees and hips, and affect foot function later on in life,” Andrew Gladstone, a podiatrist, told Business Insider earlier this year.

With the obvious health repercussions, women – even women who wear heels – are increasingly protesting the fact that high heels have become so widely accepted as a way to appeal to men.

The Times interviewed Florie Hutchinson, a woman who is campaigning to get a flat women’s shoe emoji to be added to the iPhone in addition to the current red high heel. Cannes was forced to apologise in 2015 after women wearing flats were reportedly turned away from a viewing of “Carol.” And last year a temp worker named Nicola Thorp petitioned the British government to make it illegal for companies to require women to wear heels to work.

The Times noted that shoe trends change over time regardless. After the 9/11 attacks, for example, flats and sneakers skyrocketed in prominence after a peak of high-heel popularity; however, The Times said, heels eventually began creeping back.

With women’s political power and unequal treatment having dominated headlines over the past year, it now makes sense that fashion will also evolve – if not to kill the high heel altogether, at least to make room for safer options for women.

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