Wearing Heels for Work – A choice or a command? – Katie Owen
MPs are debating whether it is right, or even legal, for companies to impose uniform requirements on women, forcing them to wear heels to work after a petition was signed by almost 150,000 people opposed to sexist and discriminatory workplace practices.
Women should absolutely have the right to choose “appropriate” footwear to wear to work and they certainly shouldn’t be forced to wear shoes that are ill-fitting and cause them pain, discomfort and more worryingly long term foot problems.
I run my own shoe business and I also work part time for a bank which requires that I look smart and wear “appropriate clothing” when in the office environment and meeting clients. They absolutely do not stipulate that I need to wear heels and many of my female colleagues wear flats or loafers. Given I am not particularly tall at 5 foot 4, I choose to wear heels.
The reason I now run a shoe business alongside my “day job”, however, is because years of wearing heels, especially being wide footed, was wreaking havoc with my feet. I knew if I didn’t take remedial action I would end up with badly shaped and painful feet. Having been unable to find stylish wide fitting shoes, I set up my own company making them.
The reason I like wearing heels is because I like how they look. Being 5 foot 4, they make me appear taller, which I feel is quite important when surrounded mostly by taller men. From a vanity perspective they elongate my not very long legs. Finally, they better suit the outfits I wear than flat shoes would.
Office policy at my work is that we have “dress down Friday” which gives me the opportunity, if I wish, to wear casual clothes on a Friday. The fact is, even on those days, I choose not to. In an office environment I simply prefer to look smart.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that wearing heels all day long, even more comfy wide fitting ones, is not a sensible decision when it comes to foot-care. However, I spend most of my weekend in trainers and I wear a more “sensible” shoe when commuting to and from work. But in the office, well I like to wear heels. It is part of my “uniform” and it is what makes me confident. Also, do not be fooled that flat shoes, many which lack support, are any better for your feet than heels. Just ask a podiatrist.
It is not the heels themselves that women necessarily object to. Rather it is the fact that wearing heels can be so painful. Often the fact the shoe has a heel is not the issue. It is that heeled shoes tend to be slimmer and ill-fitting, and it is therefore ill-fitting heels which will cause long term damage to feet. I know at least 3 women in my office who have recently had to undergo painful foot surgery, with extremely long healing times, partly as a result of years of wearing ill-fitting shoes. Believe me, it is those companies that force women to wear heels that will eventually pay the price. Foot surgery generally has a 6 week heeling time and only one foot is usually treated at any one time. That is a lot of sick pay and lost working hours. They will soon be imposing a no heel policy!