Whenever I see a woman (or man) wearing heels, my first thought is always “SLAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” followed by: “Wait, how the hell are you doing that?”
Take, for example, this recent disaster.
A few weeks ago I went on a date with my boyfriend. He took me to a nice restaurant, we had dinner, and then I dragged him to CVS so I could buy medical socks to put on underneath the pair of skin-tearing heels I decided to wear that night. We stood on the sidewalk and I made him hold my purse while I took off my heels, put three socks on each foot, and put my heels back on — a picturesque night in New York City. Just like Nicholas Sparks always wrote it. I looked ridiculous, but as I assured my boyfriend, "This is probably something Rihanna would do, so I'm actually being fashionable."
But I knew the truth. I can't walk in heels. I've never been able to. And it's not fair.
How It Always Begins
For a lot of aspiring heel-wearers, our first experience with heels was at our first middle school dance. With a just-about-to-tip-over gait in a dress from DELiA's, we'd awkwardly hobble from location A to location B. Here are two pictures of me in 7th grade. You can see I am struggling to stand up straight. It's been eleven years and not much has changed.
Let's get one thing straight: heels are inherently and innately hard to walk in. It's easier to walk without heels. Wearing heels is putting yourself in a constant state of being on your toes at all times, literally. The straps slice away at your ankle skin. Your calves burn. With each step, your toes are being jammed into the front of your shoe.
Why do we continue to put up with this trash? It's 2016. How have we not harnessed technology to make heels more comfortable? Can't we cushion the inside of the straps somehow? Gel soles aren't enough. What are we supposed to do about the straps that chew away at our ankles?
You might be saying: “Grace, you beautiful idiot, what about kitten heels? Remember kitten heels?”
Kitten heels used to be a cool thing cool people wore. Uh... just look at this picture of the Olsen Twins on TRL in 2004:
This option isn't good enough for you? Fine.
Look, I've Googled "how to walk in heels" about a kajillion times. I've seen the video tutorials, combed through the message boards, and read the fashion blogs, all while hoping to find the minimal-effort secret that will make walking in heels easier. (Like how people tell you clenching your fist while performing oral sex is supposed to stop the gag reflex.)
For heels, it appears there is no secret. There are products you can buy that will dull the already-existing pain (soles, toe tape, bandaids for inevitable blisters), but that's pretty much as far as it goes in terms of actual solutions. Really, the only thing everybody on the internet and in real life has told me is that you need to "practice."
That brings me to solution #2.
Practicing wearing heels alone just seems unfair. For those of us who can't walk in heels, where would we even do this? I need to be at work every day. If I wore heels to work I'd get nothing done because I'd have to leave for my meetings 20 minutes early just to get there on time. I'm not going to practice in the privacy of my own home. I'm a very busy woman, and the time I do get to spend at home I want to spend in my native sloth-like state: lying on my bed, laptop on my boobs, munching on food.
This is why I think there should be Centers For High Heel Learning.
In 2013, a studio in New York City briefly had a class where a pro would teach you how to walk in high heels. It was a brilliant idea with a very short life span (the classes are no longer being taught and only lasted about a year.).
It's time for a new business model.
Here’s what I imagine:
A tutoring system that pairs those of us who struggle to walk in heels with women who can run down a city street in heels and gracefully walk over subway grates. Someone like, say, Rihanna:
What I’d really like is a Kickstarter. I would pay so much money for a product that makes these shoes:
Feel like these shoes:
I’d start the Kickstarter myself, but I can’t because I’m not smart enough, and didn’t pay attention enough in physics to invent a product that would actually work. And if you don't believe me, here’s a look at my one and only idea:
At present there exists no high heel that is equal parts sexy and comfortable.
And finally, a FAKE, not-real solution: "Buy better shoes."
Now, I'll admit that a lot of the pain I experience from heels is probably owed to buying low quality pairs of heels from places like Forever21 and H&M. It's just hard to bring myself to spend a lot of money on something I know will cause me physical pain. However, cheap heels hurt even more. For someone who is often motivated by the prospect of instant gratification, buying heels is a maddening cycle. If I buy bargain heels, I end up in a lot of pain. And if I buy expensive heels, I STILL end up in a lot of pain. There's no way to win.
I don't want to wear any of these. Is it so much to ask for just a little discreet foam padding underneath the straps of my heels? I once saw a Project Runway where the designers had to make a dress out of trash.
Even though I imagine the fashion world to be full of creative, poised, swan-like people, I'll bet there are a handful of naturally clumsy designers. They may be our last hope. Remember when Spanx were invented and everyone went batshit crazy for them? High heels need their Spanx moment and they need it quickly. (Preferably before my vacation next month xoxo thank you.)