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The intricate and complex history of high heels has led to a variety of cultural thoughts and lens through which people view them today. Firstly, it is very exclusively gendered in the sense that few men wear high heels in present times. Secondly, magazines like Playboy, as well as other media sources portraying women in a sexual way, often do so using high heels. Paul Morris, a psychology researcher at the University of Portsmouth, argues that high heels accentuate "sex specific aspects of female gait", artificially increasing a woman's femininity. Respectively, the arching of a woman's back facilitated by wearing high heels signals a woman's willingness to be courted by a man. Keeping this sexual undercurrent in mind, heels are considered fashionable for women in most cases. It could be semi-formal with a "button down silk blouse…jeans and high heels." Or, it could be formal with a dress or pants suit. Finally, 20th and 21st century cultural values have dictated that high heels are the norm in professional settings for a woman. Some researchers argue that high heels have even become part of the female workplace uniform, and operate in a much larger and complex set of display rules. High heels are considered to pose a dilemma to women as they bring them psychosexual benefits but are detrimental to their health. The 21st century has introduced a broad spectrum and variety of styles, ranging from height and width of heel, to design and color of the shoe.
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First things first: How high do you want to go? If you love the look of being a statuesque beauty who towers over the crowd, a pair of sky-high heels for women will definitely do the trick. If you're wearing heels out for a night of dancing with your S.O., consider their height and yours: If you're already pretty tall, pick lower heels or they'll be staring at your chest all night, but if you're a bit vertically challenged, high heels can bring you up to eye level. Also, think about your comfort level: If you're not used to wearing high heels, it's better to choose shoes with a lower, thicker heel that make you feel more stable.
In a 2012 study, researchers examined the risk long time high heel wearers would have in regards to calf Muscle fascicle length and strain. The control group consisted of women who wore heels for less than ten hours weekly and the experimental group consisted of women who wore heels for a minimum of forty hours weekly for at least two years. The experimental group was told to walk down a walkway barefoot and in heels while the control group walked down barefoot as cameras recorded their movements to calculate muscle fascicle lengths. The data showed that wearing heels shortened the length of the medial gastrocnemius (MG) muscle fascicles in the calf significantly as well as increasing stiffness in the Achilles Tendon. The experimental group also demonstrated a larger amount of strain on the muscle fascicles while walking in heels because of the flexed position the foot is forced into. The researchers were able to estimate that when wearing heels, the estimated fascicle strains were approximately three times higher and the fascicle strain rate was approximately six times higher. Additionally, they were able to conclude that the long term usage of high heels can increase the risk of injuries such as strain along with discomfort and muscle fatigue.
It has not been popular for men to wear high heels since the late 18th century. Some men see the cultural norm, which often mandates that women must wear heels to look professional, as completely unproblematic. However, women report that they are often painful to walk in, and commonly result in negative side effects to joints and veins after prolonged use.
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In 2016, scientists from the Department of Physical Therapy in the Sahmyook University in Korea conducted a study to examine the effects of increased heel height and gait velocity on balance control. Balance control refers to the ability of the body to maintain itself along the line of the center of gravity within a base of support. This must be achieved with minimal postural sway velocity which is the horizontal movement of a body trying to maintain balance when standing still. Wearing high heels narrows the base of support that the body has in order to avoid falling and also restricts the area within which the body must sway. In this study, the participants were told to wear either a low or high heel and walk at a low and high speed on a treadmill. As a result of this experiment, the researchers were able to conclude that as heel height increased, the sway velocity of the bodies increased which also modified the position of the knee joint. Muscles have to realign the entire body especially the hips along the line of gravity. As the weight of the body shifted forward, the hips were taken out of alignment and the knee joints experienced stress in order to adjust to the shift.
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