One of my first transitional "adult" experiences was studying abroad in London when I was 19 years old. I was old enough to drink legally in the UK but also too young to know how to basically do anything correctly on my own, at all. As you can imagine, it was a potent combination.
Yet, in addition to all of my ultimate various youthful missteps, I clearly remember that I took it upon myself to use my intimidating time on my own in a strange city to learn how to finally master walking in high heels. This may seem completely ridiculous (as well as not exactly the best time to master a new life skill), but I was determined. Before age 19 I had occasionally worn heels on special occasions, but either due to cheap brands, lack of practice, or an innate clumsiness, I had always looked somewhat like a foal trying to stand up for the first time. It wasn't exactly a hip look for a 19-year-old trying to become a sophisticated city dweller in one of the coolest cities on the planet.
It took me about a month of traipsing around Baker Street and Camden in pumps, heeled boots, and stilettos whenever it was even moderately appropriate (and even sometimes when it wasn't), before I finally felt that I had won — I was the master of heels and no one could stop me. Then, of course, disaster struck. I was gallivanting around Brick Lane one night with a group of friends when my brisk walk suddenly stopped short on a stray pavement crack, and I badly twisted my ankle. Because I was a student abroad, I only managed to limp to the free clinic, but one ace bandage and 2 weeks hobbling around later, I had ended my brief and torrid affair with high heels.
Since then, though I definitely incorporate heels — especially heeled boots — into my grown-up wardrobe, I have a healthy skepticism about heels overall. The medical and scientific community seemingly shares my trepidation, and various studies throughout recent years have found that wearing heels can contribute to various ankle, foot, and leg injuries, as well as weakening ankles and worsening balance and coordination over time. However, a few other studies have apparently discovered links between attraction, power, and high heels — something that is fully anecdotally supported by my own experiences and what I perceive in media portrayals of the footwear. Even more importantly, many jobs have a dress code for women that, either overtly or subconsciously, requires heels.
So, given these contradictory opinions, and taking into account the many women who have to wear heels every single day or risk losing their jobs,
I decided to put my feet and body to the test — I decided to wear high heels every day for a week. The rules were simple: I had to wear high heels for the majority of my day, every day, for seven days in a row, and I could only wear different shoes to work out, run, or travel long distances carrying heavy things (I live in New York, so I determined this exception had to be included). I also didn't have to wear heels when I wouldn't normally be wearing shoes (like around the house or while watching TV).
Day One started off perfectly. I took the subway to work in my (remarkably comfortable) Aldo heels, and the only concern in my mind was the fact that my at-home pedicure was looking a little worse for the wear. By the end of the day, my feet were tired and my ankles were a little achy, but it was no different from any other long day in heels, and nothing that was too distracting or unbearable.
Shoes: Michael Kors Black Carla
These shoes are really really tall, something I only remembered when I got to work and realized that I was taller than pretty much all of my coworkers. However, despite my new Amazonian tendencies, the shoes were actually very comfortable. I will say however, by 2:30-ish in the afternoon I really wanted to switch to flats. It wasn't even that my feet hurt, it was just annoying to still be wearing heels that changed the way I moved naturally. I was very happy to throw on gym shoes after work.
I'm obsessed with these boots, as I've mentioned before, and they are possibly the comfiest shoes I own, heels be damned. This day was pretty much a freebie, which was actually good in the end, because when I awoke I did notice a tightness and soreness around my ankles that I usually only note when I'm waking up after a night out dancing in heels.
Shoes: Thrift Store Zip Up Black Heels
These heels were a little on the newer side, and they were the least comfortable of all the shoes I had worn so far. By the end of my commute to work I was in a lot of pain, but I soldiered on until blisters made them unwearable around 1:30 in the afternoon. This day was about half a fail.
Shoes: Dolce Vita Platform Wedges
In order to recover from my failed Day Four, I decided to wear my favorite platform wedges — and shoes that I've gotten reheeled more times than I can count — to my college reunion on Day Five. (Seriously this is an actually a picture of me where I'm stapling the bottom of these shoes back on in the middle of my old office because I wanted to keep wearing them). I wore them from the beginning of the evening (around 4:30 cocktail hour) through the end of the night (3:00 AM calzone runs and back to the throwback dorm room I was staying in). I didn't notice anything other than the fact that I was having the best time ever and loving all the free drinks.
I may not have noticed any pain on Day Five, but I woke up on Day Six with a wicked hangover and a ton of pain in ankles and — even more worrisome — my notoriously bad knees. Not only were they achy and still, I felt some swelling around my knee caps, I surefire sign that I was not in good shape.
I threw on some heeled ankle boots for the day — but found myself limping and constantly readjusting my weight when I was standing for long periods of time. After a few hours in the boots, I switched to flats.
On Day Seven, I officially failed the challenge (hopefully this doesn't become a pattern for me!). I woke up with continuing pain in my knees, and rather than risk seriously injuring myself, I reverted back to sneakers for the duration of the day. So, what does this mean?
Does it mean heels irreparably damage you when you wear them too often? Or does it mean that I have knees that are on the weak side and it was ill-advised to drunkenly traipse around in heels for 6 hours? Because I am not a scientist (or a politician) I will refrain from making any sweeping conclusions based upon the experiences of one person, however, I will admit that I did not expect my youthful ankle injury in London to come full circle in this experiment. Maybe I just need more practice walking in heels? I'll ice my knees and get back to you on that one.