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Posted by on May 16, 2016

The curse of the stiletto

Should women be liberating themselves from high heels?



I have written about shoes before. Shoes are important to me. There is nothing exceptional about that, shoes are important to any woman who hasn’t yet undertaken hip or knee replacement surgery.

To me, a beautiful pair of shoes is like poetry or a piece of art that must be acquired once my heart is set on it. I have stayed awake at night more than once, thinking about, amongst other things, maid related issues, teenage behaviour, the Bhakts, Donald Trump, melting glaciers, and that achingly beautiful pair of stilettos that I failed to buy.

Now, as most of you will agree with me, most good-looking shoes come with high heels. I don’t feel the need to appear any taller than I already am but walking away from a beautifully crafted pair of shoes only on account of the height of its heels to me is no different from praising a woman’s beauty but complaining that her nose is too sharp. The latter is something that my mother and my Punjabi aunts do rather well, incidentally. “Very pretty girl but her nose is verrry sharp, like a hawks, makes her look very mean” I have heard them say.

So coming back to the allure of high heels, there is no denying that stilettos can make an ordinary outfit look chic apart from adding elegance to your gait and making you appear slimmer.

When I was younger I could wear stilettos and last an entire evening without looking like I was slowly dying. Yes my calves did feel sore the next morning, but they recovered rather quickly, thanks to the human growth hormone that my endocrines were generously ingesting in my blood stream.

However, today, when those blessed hormones have ebbed, I find that wearing a pair of high heels on an evening out means having to cancel most of my appointments the next day and the day after. The after math of stilettos at 40 means lying in bed like an invalid smelling of Iodex and waiting for the massage lady to show up. It isn’t only the calves that hurt now, the toes, the soles, ankles…every single suffering bone in your foot lets you know just what a fool you have been.

It only recently occurred to me that over the last few years, I have avoided wearing some of these glorious looking but torturous shoes that continue to acquire so fervidly because I know just how sorry I will be an hour into the evening. My stilettos I have come to the unhappy conclusion, are to lie immobile in my closet like some Indians display Swarowski and Lladro collectibles in well-lit glass cabinets in their living rooms.

I have decided that it would have to be very special occasions, like me receiving an Oscar for instance, that will make me step out in my snug high heeled pumps.

And I encountered one such special occasion only last week when the husband and I were invited to a big fat Indian wedding in Austria. Since I am not about to get an Oscar in this lifetime, I decided I would carry my beauties to this wedding and if I could muster the will, I would wear them too.


The wedding celebrations, an elaborate three-day affair, started off with a black tie dinner on the first night. I haven’t completely dispensed with my vanity yet and there was no way that I was going to show up in matronly flats. One had to be well-heeled on a night like that.

So I mustered my will and squeezed my feet into my spiked pumps as I set out in my party threads.

Forbearance, as they say, is a virtue and ever so often, I prove to myself, yet again, just how remarkably virtuous I could be in this regard. There were many virtuous women like me at the venue that night floating about in their floor length gowns. A few hours into the evening though, quite a few of us were seen sitting on the couch, tending to our aching feet with a sense of resignation. Our evening, as we knew, was over long before it was actually over.


By the time I returned to my hotel I was like an injured soldier. My toes throbbed with pain, the kind of pain that even sleep could not manage to dull. I hobbled across the streets of Vienna the next morning and all the mornings thereafter like a cripple.

I wasn’t the only one in shoe-induced purgatory, most women who had shown up in high heels were in agony themselves, barring the wise ones who had blithely kicked off their shoes on the dance floor and chosen to party with absolutely bare feet.

I asked myself if I was utterly mad for inflicting such pain on myself willingly. Are all of us women who wear heels really quite idiotic? Who knows if the clock striking twelve had anything to do with Cinderella fleeing from Charming’s ball? Maybe it was her shoes that were killing her and she could not bear the agony any longer.


I wondered if women would be willing to liberate themselves from these painful contraptions, their aesthetic appeal notwithstanding and look forward to a middle age without bunions and calloused toes?


Haven’t we watched women all over London and Manhattan walking purposefully to work in killer heels. With my mind constantly on my aching feet, I wondered how these women survived them? Did it not render them irritable and make them unproductive?


While these thoughts were darting across my mind, in a peculiar case of synchronicity, I read about the PWC employee, Nicola Thorp, who was shown the door in London for turning up in flats on her first day at work by her employment agency.

She has since set up a petition calling for the law to be changed so women cannot be forced to wear high heels to work.

I am thinking of setting up a petition myself, a petition asking designers to have mercy on us weak-willed women and forbidding them from selling killer heels that belong in hell. Even as I type this, I cannot say with confidence that in a few months I will not succumb to wearing one of my newer purchases to another ‘special occasion’ because wearing heels is like childbirth in some ways. Your brain obliterates the memory of the discomfort and pain your body suffers to enable you to go through it another time in the future.

I can only hope though, that my brain has finally learnt its lesson this time.


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