A petition entitled ‘Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work’ is to be debated today (Monday, 6 March) in Parliament.
It has been provoked by news stories about PwC employee Nicola Thorp, who was sent home for wearing flat shoes to work and follows a report by MPs on ‘High heels and workplace dress codes’ which explores the issues primarily facing women in the workplace, as well as analysing the current Equality Act.
The brands jumping on the bandwagon
Whether woman should or shouldn’t be required to wear high heels as part of their uniform, more and more new shoe brands, such as Shoes by Shaherazad and Thesis Couture, have been developing technology to make high heels they claim are comfortable.
Shoes by Shaherazad even uses phrases in its marketing such as “18 -hour heels” and “suitable from boardroom to bar”.
There is even a company which helps women, brands and retailers make better decisions about footwear.
According to The Shoe Consultant, which provides VIP services for busy women who need help finding comfortable, beautiful shoes, and consultancy and training to businesses, high heels are – to a certain extent – uncomfortable by nature.
Director and founder Susannah Davda said: “Although you can walk on tiptoes in your bare feet for a little while with no pain, the most natural position for the foot is flat to the floor. When the heel of the foot becomes elevated, it needs to be supported in the right areas to have a chance of being comfortable.
“The most important aspect in making high heels comfortable is that the footwear should follow the shape of your foot. From the curve of your instep, to the width, length, and depth. Wearing ill-fitting shoes or those which are not ergonomic will almost guarantee discomfort.”
The companies missing a trick
When asked why so many brands get this wrong, Davda said: “There is often a focus on aesthetics over function. Comfort is not considered to be a sexy thing, and some shoe brands think that all a woman wants is to be sexy.
“Those companies are missing a trick, as with a few minor tweaks their styles could be much more comfortable, and would sell many more pairs. It’s especially important that work styles such as court shoes are manufactured to be comfortable.
“Being in discomfort or pain can detrimentally affect a woman’s confidence, meaning she is less likely to feel able to express her opinions.
“This can change; we just need to vote with our feet. When we stop buying uncomfortable, ill-fitting work shoes, brands will stop making them.
“In the meantime, I’ll continue to use my expertise to guide shoe brands keen to develop comfortable high heel ranges.”