The heel challenge

Throughout my last two years in Boston I lived in heels. Kitten heels, stilettos, platforms, peep toes – I had them all and in multiple colours. I didn’t even own a flip flop or ballerina flat during this time and nights out certainly never had a hidden pair of flats for the journey home.

But something changed: I moved to London I bought a pair of Dr Martens and they became my uniform shoes. Gone were the days of being taller with better posture, and in was a more punk look that allowed me the slouch much too comfortably.

After a year of this behaviour I decided to challenge myself to only wear high heels for a week, thus banning the Dr Martens from my wardrobe. May I now present my week’s worth of findings:

Wine coloured Italian vintage, 2.5 inch heel

DAY ONE: wine coloured Italian vintage, 2.5 inch heel

This morning I tottered down the stairs, struggling with the decline as I got used to the extra 2.5 inches of height. I’d just made it out the door when I saw it: my bus, the 341, looming in the distance and quickly gaining speed.

On any other morning I would have run into the danger zone, dodging oncoming cars and praying for my safety and the ability to board the bus before it departed. Turns out today was no exception. Which means at 8.05am I was running across Green Lanes in the heels I was still getting used to.

Heel damage

And as I boarded that bus a woman commented that my mad dash through rush hour traffic was impressive. The man next to her looked at me as though I was an escaped mentalist. either way, I was able to make a cup of tea and get settled at my desk before it was time for me to arrive at work.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful heel-wise, right down to my feet not aching one itty bit. (Perhaps because I was seated at a desk most ofthe day?) But when I came home I noticed that the heel on one of my shoes had been damaged. But not to worry – I’m sure the local cobbler can sort that.

Brown suede vintage with silver metal detailing

DAY TWO: brown suede vintage with gold detailing, 2.5 inch heel

After work I went to the Hayward Gallery for Members Lates with my mate Emma. While you all know how much I love the current exhibition, I was beginning to hate my shoes and absolutely resented the amount of time I had to stand at this exhibition. (Which is most of it because most art is designed for people to look at while standing.)

Thus I decided to sit down nearly every time I saw one of Pipilotti Rist’s hand-crafted pillows just to give my feet a break; each time I stood up I wanted to cry. Specifically, I wanted to cry about how much my big toes hurt as though someone was trying to rub the insides off of them so that they would become thinner.

Well, my toes didn’t get any smaller or change shape at all so my feet continued to hurt.

I decided to take the bus home so I wouldn’t have to change tube lines and minimise walk as much as possible. I seriously hope that this was the most my feet will hurt this week.

Jessica Simpson, black suede, 1 inch hidden platform, 5 inch heel

DAY THREE: black suede Jessica Simpson (2009) 5 inch heel, 1 inch hidden platform

Normally I can not reach the rail at the top of the tube carriage.

However, today I learned that the one inch platform plus five inch heel I’d strapped onto my feet meant I could comfortably hold on to this rail. Yes! What an excellent discovery to make halfway through what is typically an uneventful commute.

But that wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on my commute to work today: young men also gave/offered their seats to me. Brilliant! Perhaps these heels possess a power for procuring seats. Actually, I think men are just trying to be chivalrous so they can ogle my legs while many feminists would tell me heels were created by men for their viewing pleasure. And I’ll admit it: I identify as a feminist, went to a women’s college and was even a part of The Vagina Monologues for three years in a row. Throughout that time I always argued that part of being a feminist was having the right to make the choice about how we treat our bodies and what we wear, including heels.

And that’s what I say today: I like the choosing what I wear and today I think it’s great to get a seat within the first three stops of my eight-stop journey.

Showing off my black boots by Primark, 2.5 inch heel

DAY FOUR: black boots by Primark, 2.5 inch heel

Primark is filled with trending fashion at affordable prices, allowing us to look good without breaking the bank.

For whatever reason last winter I thought I was clever for buying a cheap (under £10) pair of black heeled boots. I wore them a few times then forgot them in my closet. As you do with Primark fashion.

Today I decided to dust off these boots (literally) and giver them a whirl.

That’s when I remembered why they’d been forgotten: these shoes hurt my feet. A lot. In particular, the middle of my feet hurt and I was limping a bit by the time I got home. And while that is definitely not attractive behaviour, I received so many compliments on them I want to wear these boots every day. (Even if they do temporarily cripple me.)

Let’s be real for a moment: receiving compliments all day long is not something I’m used to but it feels pretty damn good. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and rockin’ the last set of heels I’ve chosen to wear this week.

black leather lace up boot, 3 inch heel by Hush Puppies designer colab (2008)

DAY FIVE: black leather lace up boot by Hush Puppies designer colab (2008), 3 inch heel

My feet hurt when I woke up this morning. Screw wearing Primark boots on a daily basis! At least with all the other shoes my feet felt fine the following day.

Also, I’m starting to feel like a serious sex object, and not in an appealing “I feel sexy and confident” way, but in a “I feel disgusting and dirty” way.

Today on my commute in to work I chose to stand on the tube and everyone who passed by me – male and female – took at least a moment to stop and glance over my legs. I felt so awkward standing there, feeling judged for wearing heels and a bit slimy from all the pervy looks I was noticing. I could feel myself trying to shrink into my denim jacket, pulling my scarf over my chin as I began to sweat inside the over-crowded Brixton-bound tube.

I thoroughly felt disgusting.

The rest of the day saw me through work before meeting a mate for the late night at the British Museum, dinner and drinks. The phrase: “Can we take the tube so we don’t have to walk as far?” actually escaped my lips at one point and I am totally ashamed. I actually tubed it from Holborn to Oxford Circus, but I honestly couldn’t bear to walk that in heels.

I am thoroughly glad today is the last day of my heel challenge and I can not wait to spend a full day in my Dr Martens.

Dr. Martens, my best friends forever


I was so unbelievably excited to put my Docs on that it’s actually a bit embarrassing. In fact, I polished them Saturday morning before lacing them up so they would look extra nice after being neglected for an entire five days.

Regardless, I lived in them this weekend and enjoyed every moment of how comfortable my feet felt.

However, I noticed something that surprised me: I didn’t feel feminine anymore. I felt a bit rougher and slightly edgier. No one offered me seats on the tube but standing without a bar to hold on to was no longer a problem. In general, strangers weren’t as friendly or polite to me as they had been all week but I ignored that as I was now able to easily manoeuvre through London’s tourist crowds.

So while I’ve found heels to have both pros and cons I think I may need to reconsider their retired status and strike a healthy balance.

2 thoughts on “The heel challenge

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