A controversy surrounding high heel shoes has made its way into the media yet again. Deemed “Shoegate” by some, multiple women were recently denied entry to a movie premier at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival for wearing flats. Though actors and actresses alike have made comments at the unjust nature of this incident, it has largely been through the lens of inequality. Furthermore, the media seems to largely be scrutinizing the dress code, and in this particular case, a dress code which is spelled out through tradition and not text. What has seemingly been lacking in the post “Shoegate” discussion goes beyond fashion and concerns our health.
A blog post by Dr. Kerrigan from nearly 2 years ago entitled “Why Heels Are Bad” rings particular relevance today amidst the Cannes shoe controversy. In this post, with links to her previous research and our own OESH investigations, Dr. Kerrigan lays out the relationship of high heel shoes as a factor in the progression of knee osteoarthritis. Moreover, the post introduces the struggle in getting people (especially shoe companies) to address this issue of elevated heels and health. As with many factors which adversely affect our health, it is hard to change the way in which the topic is discussed on a large scale. In the above mentioned post by Dr. Kerrigan, she shares what a seasoned reporter once told her, “Your research is very much like the first research showing the ill-effects of cigarettes in rats. Cigarette companies got away with ignoring it for over a generation on the basis that the research was inconclusive. Eventually enough smart people argued that ALL research studies are inconclusive.”
The Controversy at Cannes has ignited a discussion about high heels, and though this is certainly a good thing, the way in which the conversation is going is a reminder that our health is not the primary concern and that there remains a long ways to go in changing the discourse. These current events surrounding the appropriateness of flats in a formal setting does nothing more than beg the question; at what point does our health trump tradition?
We reprint here what syndicated columnist, and OESHer, Ellen Goodman, wrote, in covering one of Dr. Kerrigan’s research articles. Fourteen years later, her words remain all very true.