I am a sucker for shoes. I would like to say it is all Sarah Jessica Parker’s fault but I should take at least some of the blame. The real problem is that I didn’t get the shoe bug until really late in the game. I didn’t get why people were always talking about this women and shoes thing. And then when I was about 19, I got it. I found this pair of pointy black flats with buckles that were just gorgeous. And the compliments I received made me feel special. I had joined the fashion club. People thought I had good taste. It was awesome. Now, was this a practical shoe for me to be wearing in 10 degree weather in upstate New York where it starts to snow in October? Probably not. But what is frostbite for a little bit of beauty?
That’s when you realize you have gone over to the dark side. You start saying yes this shoe hurts and I am bleeding but gosh darn it, I look good. And I hadn’t even discovered high heels yet. Because I got into the shoe game so late I had never really worn high heels so the first time I put on a pair I resembled Bambi in the first scene when he learns how to walk, except I was no where near as cute and precious. I just looked stupid.
Over the years I have gotten slightly better at walking in heels. I have gone from baby fawn to child during his second ice skating lesson. But have I stopped buying high heels? Absolutely not. They make my legs look great and in a city where actual models and actresses are walking around, a pair of good gams is essential. And if I go to a party where I can sit or perch I am quite pleased. I am always looking for my next pair of sitting shoes.
But at times the shoe thing can get ridiculous. I was recently at a friends wedding in Alabama and the rehearsal dinner was held in a barn and my Zara stilletos looked incredible but I had to jump over the spaces between the floor beams because I could have actually fallen through. I didn’t exactly look smart while doing this. And then the next day at the wedding, my wedge heels were fine for about two hours but then I was dying. I had to sit down when everyone was dancing and that is just a shame because my slide is totally electric.
But the worst was probably when I was breaking in a new pair of pointy flats and they were just pinching and cutting me everywhere as I walked around the city. My ankles (which are pretty much just scar tissue now) were ripped to shreds as were the corners of my feet. My friends kept asking me if we should stop walking and I refused because this is just what you have to do. But then a lovely French woman literally stopped me, made me sit down and gave me her children’s band-aids (see picture below.). She said I used to be like you and then I realized I wanted to walk when I was 50. It is moments like that that I wonder what am I doing this all for?
Clearly I am not the only one. According to a recent survey released by the College Of Podiatry, 2,000 women (and men) reported foot pain within an hour of wearing their shoes. At least 20 percent reported that the pain begins within 10 minutes and a third reported walking home barefoot after a night of dancing. Research from LiveScience finds that wearing heels all the time also causes joint degeneration, shortened calf muscles, and hips and spine degeneration.
And of course it is not just shoes. It is clothes, makeup, hair, plucking, primping, etc., But that is just part of being a woman, it is just a very tough part. This has been going on since we stuffed ourselves into corsets. As the great Sallie Krawcheck said recently, even if she and her husband get up at the same time, she has to spend extra an 15 minutes a day on hair and makeup. That 15 minutes adds up to an extra hour and 15 minutes a week, which is 60 hours a year, which is one whole work week (and that doesn’t include shaving your legs, so factor that in).
But it is not like I am going to stop wearing ridiculous shoes or stop putting makeup on but I may try to do it less. When I have downtime I will try to just be comfortable and care less about what people think of my outfit. I pledge to wear sneakers instead of flimsy sandals and go for the au natural look.
It is super corny but sometimes you just need to have inner beauty days. They leave you with way less blisters.
How do you feel about sacrificing for beauty? How far are you willing to go? Tell us in the comments!
Ask Levo Mentor Binta Brown, Partner at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP, how she manages heels in her competitive workplace and how far she goes to feel beautiful!