Perhaps a rose is a rose by any other name, but when it comes to footwear, not all shoes were created equal. In studies related to orthopedic footwear, participants have reported that having to wear only sneakers to the office - even with a doctor's note - has caused them to experience "issues" at work. Perhaps even more surprising, one women stated she'd prefer to be in a wheelchair than in shoes she considered less than adequate for a given occasion.
Shoes obviously matter in a way that applies to no other wardrobe item a woman can own. In particular, heels. "When wearing high heels compared to flats," report the authors of a 2013 study in Evolution and Human Behavior, "women take smaller and more frequent steps, they bend their knees and hips less, and more rotation and tilt occur at the hips."
Or, in Fashionspeak: heels = hot.
Because heels make a girl walk with more of a wiggle, exaggerating her femaleness. "And like other overt signs of femininity," notes research psychologist Jesse Bering, an Associate Professor of Science Communication at the University of Otago in New Zealand, "donning high heels can add points, albeit deceptively, to a woman’s reproductive value." But there's more to shoes than just sex. "The character and style of a shoe present the wearer with a number of possible roles," says Dr. Valerie Steele, director and head curator for the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. "And don’t we women just love always being someone else! And roleplaying just to suit our pleasure or mood: now as the formidable woman, ladylike, avant garde, and then perhaps shifting into girlie style."
In fact, more than 60% of women report regularly wearing heels over 5cm (2"), considering them integral to their image. And until recently, there have been no prosthetic feet available for heels; rather, the standard is foot fixed for whatever height shoe was used during alignment in the clinic. Meaning that wearing a different height heel can significantly throw off the wearer's balance. "That is if they can get the new shoe onto the prosthetic foot in the first place," notes Dr. Andrew Hansen (left), a prosthetics expert with the Minneapolis VA Healthcare System.
Hansen recently teamed up with researchers from Northwestern University and Dr. Margrit Meier of Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in Norway. They are working on leveling (or, should I say, *stepping up*) the prosthetics playing field with a cutting-edge new design that mimics the way natural feet curve upward with each step (kind of like the rocker-part on a rocking chair). The Shape & Roll foot also has the added advantage that it's affordable and simple enough to fabricate readily in developing countries. “In resource-limited countries, all the material and information to make these feet is on the Internet," says Hansen, adding that stateside, they would probably be manufactured for the VA and then purchased to be provided to Veterans and others. “Having the ability to change your shoes, whether for employment reasons or just for looks, is an important choice,” he adds. “That goes for men as well as women."
(photo of Dr. Hansen by April Eilers via source)
Making prosthetics chic and making technology fashionable is something the Futurenetic Fashion Tribe is quite keen on - so it will be interesting to see how they adopt this development. For more of my posts and podcasts about this tribe, CLICK HERE. To learn more about each of fashion's four mega-tribes that I track, START HERE.
- Lesley Scott