Researchers have investigated the relationship between high heels, female sexuality and the femininity of a woman’s walk

Most women can agree that slipping into a pair of high heels (preferably a new pair) can give you a whole new outlook on life. Your confidence levels sore and to quote Shania Twain you just feel more like a Woman (cue guitar riff). But what is so special about those 5 extra inches that creates this distinct impact? 

When discussing the topic of heels, there’s a strong possibility that the king of red bottoms Mr Christian Louboutin will come up in conversation.  Designed in 2007, the Ballerina Ultima is the brands highest ever pair measuring in at 20.5cm, that’s just a little over 8 inches of confidence (and sore feet) to contend with and in 2014 the Louboutin ventured into nail polish with the launch of ‘Rouge Louboutin’ a raunchy red shade encased in dramatic bottle reminiscent of the Ballerina Ultima.

On Louboutin’s website, the fiercely designed nail polish was pictured next to the towering Ballerina Ultima’s accompanied with the by-line ‘Taking femininity to a [sic] new Height’. Is it true then, are high heels synonymous with femininity or are they just sold to us in that way?

I know I’m not the only one who feels like a mix of Beyoncé, Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie rolled into one when I’m walking in my heels. However, is it really due to the fact that high heels simply makes us feel more womanly or is it because in this day and age successful, intelligent and beautiful women are almost exclusively pictured wearing an enviable pair of stilettos? According to researchers, the relationship between high heels and femininity is more than just propaganda. 

Here comes the science bit…
In their study, Paul Morris and Colleagues from the University of Portsmouth investigated the relationship between high heels, female sexuality and the femininity of a woman’s walk. After observing women walking in both flats and high heels, results indicated that participants judged women in high heels to be significantly more attractive. Researchers concluded that heels actually increase the femininity of a woman’s walk. Whereas a male’s gait, is characterised by longer strides and minimal hip rotation, wearing heels increases women’s hip rotation and also encourages shorter strides. So, in essence high heels are actually increasing the femininity of your walk which appears to have a knock on effect on your persona. However, not everyone is as impressed by the power of the high heel.

In 2013, Jorge Cortell, CEO of the healthcare start up Kanteron Systems posted a picture of a woman in attendance of a Reverse-Demo event in New York wearing high heels. The picture accompanied by the hashtag #brainsnotrequired no doubt caused a stir. His unabashed argument went along the lines of: heels are dangerous can lead to health problems and therefore an intelligent woman would make a more sensible choice in footwear. 

Whilst the downsides of wearing high heels are widely known (we’ve all experienced the range of emotions from “ok this hurts a little but I can bare it” to “I will sell you my grandmother for a pair of flip flops right now!”) from an evolutionary perspective however, wearing heels would be the smart choice when you factor in things such as mate selection.

But by no means is anyone telling you to wear heels simply to attract men (that’s just an added extra). Through their leg lengthening, ass shaping and hip rotating effect, high heels can encourage you to harness your inner feminine power. And besides, who are we to argue with the one Ms Carrie Bradshaw “The fact is, sometimes it’s really hard to walk in a single woman’s shoes. That’s why we need really special ones now and then to make the walk a little more fun”. 


Shakaila Forbes-Bell is a Fashion Psychologist and writer who has been featured in Marie Claire UK, i-D, Who What Wear, All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, Fashion Bomb Daily, The Voice Newspaper, Gal-Dem, Black Matters US and more.

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