The History And Science Behind High Heels

by Kevin Burton

   Gather round kids, because it’s National High Heels day and boy do I have news for you.

   According to multiple websites, high heels were invented for men.

   It seems the heels helped warriors on horseback, providing leverage for them to stay in the saddle and stand up to fire their arrows.

   “High heels were originally intended for men’s use. Due to the military benefit of heels, Persian culture associated high heels with more masculine features,” according to “Some of this inspiration can be seen in the slight heel found on modern cowboy boots and English riding wear from the 18th century on.”

   “Heeled types of shoes became a symbol of status for the nobility of a variety of cultures. Height was also an important feature for European aristocratic men, and these high heels helped them achieve their goal of looking taller,” wrote. “Being tall was seen as a sign of prosperity, with the belief that taller men generally were seen as more powerful or wealthy.”

   “Persian-style heeled shoes were particularly popular with the French king Louis XIV. Many of his portraits depict him in various heeled footwear.”

   “These types of shoes were impractical for the working class, being that the roads in 17th century France were often muddy and difficult to traverse. The upper class of society wore these impractical shoes as a way to display their privileged status. Heels and soles during this time were red. Red dye was expensive and helped portray the luxurious and expensive nature of the heels.”

    In the 1700s women became the primary wearer of high heels with men stopping wearing them altogether in 1730, according to, where I found out about National High Heels Day.

   Oh how things have changed in the last 300 years. 

    I don’t remember which one, but a female comedian on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson said that if she wore red high heels she could make a man bark like a dog. That’s very funny and very true, judging by a story written by Thomas Adamson of the Associated Press.  It’s under the headline, “Science Proves it: High Heels Give Women Power Over Men.” 

    “The well-heeled Marilyn Monroe once said, ‘Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world,’” Adamson wrote.

   “The allure of high-heeled shoes is no secret among women, who have used them to entice men from the streets of Ancient Rome to the New York City sidewalks of Carrie Bradshaw. Heels have also been a controversial symbol in the battleground of sexual politics.”

   “Now a scientific study in France has measured their power.”

   “Scientists from the Universiteit de Bretagne-Sud conducted experiments that showed that men behave very differently toward high-heeled women. The results, published online in the journal ‘Archives of Sexual Behaviour,’ may please the purveyors of Christian Louboutin or Jimmy Choo shoes — yet frustrate those who think stilettos encourage sexism,” Adamson wrote.

   “The study found if a woman drops a glove on the street while wearing heels, she’s almost 50 percent more likely to have a man fetch it for her than if she’s wearing flats.”

   “Another finding: A woman wearing heels is twice as likely to persuade men to stop and answer survey questions on the street. And a high-heeled woman in a bar waits half the time to get picked up by a man, compared to when her heel is nearer to the ground.”

   “’Women’s shoe heel size exerts a powerful effect on men’s behavior,’ says the study’s author, Nicolas Gueguen, a behavioral science researcher. “Simply put, they make women more beautiful.’”

   “Gueguen’s study had 19-year-old female volunteers wearing black shoes with heels that were 0.2 inches or 2 inches or 3.5inches high. Then they asked men ages 25-50 for help in various circumstances.”

   “One situation involved a woman asking passers-by: ‘Excuse me, sir. We are currently conducting a survey on gender equality. Would you agree to answer our questionnaire?’ Flat heels got a 46.7 percent answer rate, medium heels a 63 percent rate and the highest heels a whopping 83 percent success rate from the men.”

   Medically, high heels can cause back pain and increase the risk of ankle injuries. Prolonged heel wearing can even permanently shorten calf tendons,” Adamson wrote.

   “And in social terms, women’s rights advocates have objected to high heels, saying they reinforce a misogynist stereotype: women as sex objects to be ogled by men.”

   “’If a woman … never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?” famed feminist and flats-wearer Germaine Greer, author of “The Female Eunuch,” once asked.

   Those who disagree note that high heels have other uses.

   “Heels don’t subordinate women — they empower them in romance,” said Paris-based sociologist Jean-Claude Kaufmann, who was not involved in the study.  “The important thing to remember in seduction is that it’s all a game.”

   Some game. Back-to-back High Heels Day FAQ answers on are:

   “Wearing heels higher than two inches can be harmful to your posture and spine. There are many issues related to wearing high-heeled shoes every day” and “A three-inch heel is considered to be the average heel height.”

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