I love high heels. I love how pretty they are, I love how I feel wearing them, I am a big fan of high heels. But reading recent news articles (like this bbc one) on the subject of women being forced to wear high heels in work really makes me angry. Do the people who make these rules have any experience of wearing high heels? Why do they feel they make up a necessary part of a professional work dress code? How can they possibly be considered necessary? What function do they have? In a modern, multi-cultural society, whose antiquated ideas do these rules adhere to?
I can only report on my own experience of shoes in my working life. I used to work for a technical lighting company, with a massive warehouse, and high heels were not really allowed. Steel cap boots were the mandatory foot wear there. I won’t lie, I was not best pleased with this footwear demand, and I would only wear the boots when I ventured into the warehouse. Steel cap boots do not go well with dresses, my preferred clothing choice. However, this footwear dress code was mandatory for a really good reason – health and safety! I could suffer massive injuries or lose my toe if a heavy flight case full fell on top of it. Valid and necessary mandatory shoe!
These days, I work in a far more low risk environment, a sunny office in Oxford Circus where the only risk to my feet is people stamping on them hurrying to and from the tube. We have a “business smart” dress code here at Hasson. I was really excited when I started working here, thinking to myself, “Finally, I can wear high heels to work and feel fabulous”. And I did. I felt professional and like I was living my London working life dream. Silly I know. However, the important thing to note here is that wearing these high heels was not a requirement. Most of the staff wear flat yet professional shoes that are comfortable & allow them to do their job. No one ever felt the need to comment on my choice of foot wear or impose their idea of what “professional” looks like.
As it happens, I no longer wear heels to work. Not because I stopped loving them, but because my feet did. I have collapsed arches in both feet, and have now developed arthritis in several toes (despite being under 30). The mechanics of my feet were determined at birth, I always had collapsed arches, but wearing high heels every day exacerbated the problem massively, giving me all sorts of additional foot, back & leg muscle problems. I had to go to an Orthotic specialist and now wear insoles every day, and I have to specifically buy flat shoes that will accommodate these. If I don’t, I am in severe pain when I walk and I will never be able to wear high heels all day in work again.
I am lucky enough to work for a company that trusts its employees to wear professional, business appropriate clothes to work without dictating exactly how that is defined, especially on our feet. I am not forced to wear high heels. The problem with insisting on women wearing high heels is that they actually damage feet. They injure you. They are also bad for your back and leg muscles. There is no logical reason to force women to wear high heels, there is no health and safety consideration. In fact, you can’t escape from a fire very quickly if you are tottering in high heels.
Companies need to move with the times and accept that women can look professional in flat shoes. Wearing high heels is something a women chooses to do, as a personal style preference. It is not something that can or should be mandated or made compulsory, and it shouldn’t be legal for companies to enforce these rules. It seems ludicrous that we are having this argument in 2016!
There is now a petition to change the law on forcing women to wear high heels, which is located here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/129823