During the 15th and 16th Centuries the Ottoman Empire was the dominant military and intellectual force in the world. At their peak they had 15,000,000 people within their borders speaking a multitude of languages and worshiping a variety of gods. The Ottomans had the Persian Empire on the eastern border and the Western Europeans on their Western border. It is well known that the Persian warriors wore high heeled shoes that enabled them greater leverage when standing up in their stirrups and it is thought that the Ottoman’s had adopted this practice by the 16th century.
In 1529 Suleiman the Great reached the pinnacle of the Ottoman Empire’s greatness, besieging the Austrian capitol of Vienna. This was the end result of 100 years of Ottoman military dominance throughout eastern and central Europe. However it didn’t quite work out for Suleiman the (now not so) Great. The Ottomans fled, leaving the image of high heels and apple pastries in their wake. The pastries would go on to become Apple Strudels, the national dish of Austria and heels would dominate Western European fashion circles for the next 300 years.
Functionally the knights of Europe adopted the high heeled shoes of the Ottoman’s. Fashionably it took a little longer but when a convoy of Persian Aristocrats appeared in the late 16th century pleading help from the Europeans, decked out in very dapper high heeled shoes, the Europeans fell in love.
At least the men did. It took a few more decades before women began wearing them.
Then high heels evolved, and spread, and changed in shape and design. They become representations of wealth, of style, of class. In fact, in 1670, because even the plebs had begun wearing heels, Louis X1V, made it illegal for anyone but a noblemen to wear red heeled shoes. Then, as now, the French were the style gurus of the world. And in France the largest a heel got for a long time was a 1-inch wedge.
However in America the high heel slowly made a resurgence. By the late 1880’s in the Land of Opportunity heels had come to represent the delicate, the feminine, the non-indentured servant, the delicate foot of a landowner not a land worker (or slave). In 1888 the first factory devoted to the manufacture of high heeled shoes was established, in the USA.
The roaring 20’s got heels back in the limelight but again, in times of economic hardship the Depression years of the 1930’s, high heels were associated with profligate money wasting, upper class snobs, and therefore they disappeared once more. But in the post-world war world of the 1950’s as the West was attempting to regain its sense of normalcy and fashion was slowly remerging from the poverty of the 1930’s and 40’s, Christian Dior designed the Stiletto.
How to Survive Wearing Heels Today
Now… Well… in 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported that $38.5 billion was spent on high heels in the USA alone.Heels are beautiful, attractive and sexy, but studies have shown that high heels are the leading cause of female foot pain.
Here are some tips on how to make wearing heels bearable and harmless for your health and wellbeing.
Like any injury that occurs slowly you have to think of how heels change your posture and then do an exercise that is the opposite to it. Heels raise your heel, place your body weight through the front of your foot, bend your knee more so when walking, anteriorise your pelvis, increase the curve in your low back and make you stick your head forward more.
- I suggest doing 2-3 minutes of slow, straight legged calf raises where you really focus on the slow downward motion. Make it a habit every time you leave or enter the house. Stand with your toes on the front step, raise your heels up and very slowly lower your heels, lower them so that they are below the level of your toes, allow the stretch for 10 seconds and then quickly rise up on your toes again before slowly lowering your heels below your toes again.
- If stuck in a situation (for example at the Races) where you are on your feet for long periods it can be tough in heels. The tip is to move and change your weight distribution regularly. Spend time with your weight on the right hip and then time on the left hip. Alternate your weight between the front of your foot and the back.
The human body has a neutral position where your head sits comfortably on top of your chest, your chest sits on top of your hips and your hips are on top of your ankles. The longer time you spend beyond this position, the more certain muscles have to activate to hold you there and also the longer certain joints are compressed. Think of the low back pain in heel wear. This is usually due to the increased curve that occurs in your low back when on your heels. The joints in the low back get compressed and over a long period start to get sore.
With years of research into high heels the majority of studies have focussed on foot, ankle, knee, hip, pelvis and low back injuries and the occurrence of them when wearing heels. However, there are studies that indicate that wearing high heels may increase the pelvic floor activation.
- The advice for heel wearers and flat wearers is the same in the sense of physical activity. Move, move in different ways, and challenge your feet muscles to balance under different loads and directions. If you do this, regularly, then when it comes to walking, dancing, running in any type of footwear your muscles will be more prepared and more resilient to the strains and stresses they get placed under.
For more information visit Osteopathy Australia at: www.osteopathy.org.au