In a 1992 study, researchers from the University of California, Davis and Thomas Jefferson University wanted to investigate the effects of increased heel height on foot pressure using forty-five female participants walking across a pressure plate in various heel heights.[24] A Biokinetics software was used to analyze the exact pressure locations on and along each participants' foot. The researchers were able to conclude that an increase in heel height lead to an increase in pressure beneath each of the Metatarsal bones of the foot. Additionally, they found that the highest heel heights caused constant pressure that could not be evenly dispersed across the foot.
High heels have been made from all kinds of materials throughout history. In the early years, leather and cowhide was preferred. As civilizations progressed, silk and patent leather were introduced, while cork and wood were utilized as cheap resources in times of war.[13] After the World Wars and the increase in production of steel, the actual heel was a piece of steel wrapped in some kind of material. This has enabled designers to make heels taller and skinnier without them snapping.[19] The soles below the ball of the foot of Ballroom shoes can also be made of materials like smooth leather, suede, or plastic. [20]
Research shows that heels draw attention to long legs and small feet. Some argue that "high-heeled shoes, perhaps more than any other item of clothing, are seen as the ultimate symbol of being a woman."[12] High heels often play a key role in emphasizing a wearer's, most commonly a woman's, arched back and extended buttocks. This "natural courting pose" sexualizes the wearer, and can turn them into objects subjected to the male gaze.[2] This research highlights the emphasis heels place on the appearance of the wearer, instead of their arguably more valuable internal traits such as intelligence, creativity, or strength.
Modern high heels were brought to Europe by emissaries of Shāh Abbās I of Persia in the early 17th century.[7] Men wore them to imply their upper-class status; only someone who did not have to work could afford, both financially and practically, to wear such extravagant shoes. Royalty such as King Louis XIV wore heels to impart status. As the shoes caught on, and other members of society began donning high heels, elite members ordered their heels to be made even higher to distinguish themselves from lower classes.[8] Authorities even began regulating the length of a high heel's point according to social rank. Klaus Carl includes these lengths in his book Shoes: "½ inch for commoners, 1 inch for the bourgeois, 1 and ½ inches for knights, 2 inches for nobles, and 2 and ½ inches for princes."”[9] As women took to appropriating this style, the heels’ width changed in another fundamental way. Men wore thick heels, while women wore skinny ones. Then, when Enlightenment ideals such as science, nature, and logic took hold of many European societies, men gradually stopped wearing heels.[8] After the French Revolution in the late 1780s, heels, femininity, and superficiality all became intertwined.[3] In this way, heels became much more associated with a woman's supposed sense of impracticality and extravagance.
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Further research reveals that another possible consequence of wearing high heels is an increase of pressure in one's veins. Experiments have proven that the higher the heel, the "higher [the] venous pressure in the leg." This means that after repeated use of high heels, varicose veins and other undesirable symptoms are much more likely to appear in the legs.[18] Other research supports these two claims when arguing that wearing high heels can lead to numerous long term effects, including accidental trauma to multiple areas of the body.[4]
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With the 1900s bringing two devastating world wars, many countries set wartime regulations for rationing almost all aspects of life. This included materials previously used for making heels, such as silk, rubber, or leather; these began to be replaced with cork and wooden soles.[13] Another one of the numerous outcomes of these wars was an increase in international relations, and a more proliferate sharing of fashion through photography and films, which helped spread high heel fashion as well.[9] Examples of this were the brown and white pumps with cutouts or ankle straps combined with an open toe.[13] Their practicality yet professional look appealed to the new, fast-paced lifestyle of many women.
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