Shoes: Fashion vs. Function

louboutin heelsFootwear is a fashion statement, and women, in particular, will sacrifice function for fashion even when it can be painful.
First there were rigid corsets, bustles packed with horsehair and lice, hobble skirts so walking was almost impossible. Now the fashion must-haves are huge handbags, Spanx®, decorative contact lenses, tight jeans, platforms and extreme Stilettos. On one hand fashion has taken a step backwards, on the other, the footwear industry is progressing forward to fashionable and healthy shoes.


Humans have been protecting their feet since pre-history. But only in the last two decades has mass fashion embraced function, and function embraced fashion. This shift has resulted in affordable comfort-fit footwear which combines comfort with style.

Despite progress by industry, a new study suggests 25% of the shoes Americans own are too uncomfortable to wear*15. High heels are bad for your feet…here’s what you can expect from wearing high heels:

  • Bunions and Hammer toes
  • Shortening of the Achilles tendon
  • Stress fractures and enormous pressure on the ball of the feet
  • Squeezed toes, eventually turning your feet inward

Also, high heels are bad for your body. . . “A heel that is three inches high creates seven times more stress than a one-inch heel,” reports the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine *16




Choose your shoes wisely

1. Small heel no higher than 1.5 inches
2. Purchase by fit not by size. Make sure there is a ½ inch from your longest toe to the tip of the shoe.
3. Wide toe box helps avoid bunions, hammertoes and corns.
4. Arch support can prevent and relieve foot pain while providing comfort by distributing your weight more evenly. This will result in better posture and more balance and make you less prone to falls or twisted ankles
5. Choose good quality materials like soft leather or mesh so your feet can breathe.
6. Flexibility at the forefoot so the toes can bend.
7. Stretching shoes rarely works – don’t buy them if they’re tight.
8. Shop later in the day – your foot swells as the day goes on.

Seriously consider the styles of your shoes

  • flip flopsFlip flops, sandals and ballet flats should be worn only for short periods of time. Without arch support, your heels absorb more pressure when you walk and can aggravate conditions such as plantar fasciitis. Constantly wearing these styles actually change the shape of your feet and can cause the bones in your feet to actually spread out. Because of the lack of support your knees and the muscles in your calves will suffer, and even change your posture placing more stress on your back!
  • womens dress shoesDress shoes. Remember try to avoid high heels and pointy toe shoes.
  • womens bootsBoots. Wear them only if they feel comfortable when you try them on. Don’t buy them if you think you have to break them in.

Since the nomadic hunter-gatherers, footwear has evolved to combine function with fashion:

  • 500,000 years ago – Homo erectus experimented with crude forms of footwear to protect feet and improve hunting abilities.
  • Classical Greek period – Greeks wore simple sandals for protection from rough terrain during military and sports activities.
  • Medieval times – Italian cities introduced fashion to footwear with Stiletto heels and winkle-picker pointed toe boxes.
  • Renaissance era – France further enhanced shoes designs with buckles, brocade, and jewelry.
  • 18th & 19th Centuries – England reintroduced the practical side of footwear for the functions of military combat, walking, and specialized sports.
  • Mid-20th Century – Two distinct camps surfaced: fashion became more bizarre and impractical, and function became more scientific.
  • 1990’s – The Dawning of the Biomechanics Era is helping footwear styles combine function with style resulting in attractive, everyday lifestyle shoes *19.

“Let’s face it, there’s nothing like walking
around in really sexy shoes, but if you can’t hide the grimace of pain or oozing blood or
swelling toes…”
Renee Sedliar - Victim of 4 inch red sandals.

Shoes with pointed toes and high spike heels are cruel because they cause crowding of the toes and increased pressure which can result in hammertoes and bunions*17.



foot binding in china

In traditional China (10th through 20th century), the practice of female foot binding stunted the growth of the feet of young girls, resulting in a very tiny, intensely painful and deformed foot *18.