When I stopped wearing heels.

I never wear heels.  I mean, never. They are banned from my wardrobe. No big deal, right?

Think again.

Turns out that there is this underlying cultural norm that we American women are taught from a very young age: heels are empowering.  high heels pugtato women self imageWant to look good? Wear your heels.  Want to look professional? Wear your best heels.  Want to snag a fabulous husband? Better head out in your super high heels.

Never mind you can barely walk by the end of the day/night and the next day your feet feel like they were just ran over by a FedEx truck.

So you tell me, what about this empowers women?  Nothing!

Here’s a nice list of the wonderful atrocities that heels do to our bodies:

  1. shorten calf muscles changing the anatomy of calf muscles and tendons,
  2. cause circulation blockage killing foot bones,
  3. create bunions, hammertoes, and nerve damage like my friend, the neuroma,
  4. result in long term back and knee damage,
  5. foster bony protrusions known as “pump bump,” from straps of high heels digging into the tissue around the Achilles tendon.

Thanks to my love for high heels, I developed an extremely painful Morton’s Neuroma, that can only be described as feeling like there is a marble in your sock and you are walking on needles.  Sounds fun, eh?

We tried to treat it conservatively with steroid injections (also fun), but after two years, it was clear that it was getting worse.  I could barely walk in sneakers.  I couldn’t do my favorite activities like running and walking my dogs.

I decided to have surgery to remove the inflamed nerve from my foot. The surgery was a success and you can barely even see the scar, but nerves are tricky. I had  an excruciating year-long recovery because the nerves in my foot were not so happy to part ways with their inflamed friend. I regretted ever having worn heels and still couldn’t do the things I loved to do. I would have given anything to have my life back.

I struggled with wearing flats to work and with dresses.  I felt ugly and frumpy. Certainly I felt like a midget next to my husband who is 11 inches taller than me. None of my pants fit any more because they were all tailored to my 3 inch beauties lined up in my closet.

Perhaps the all time low was having to wear athletic sneakers with my work pants for the first four months after surgery. One of my clients, who is like that funny grandpa kind of guy, said to me,

“You look like a dork. Don’t come back until you can wear some decent shoes.”

Ouch.  Thankfully, I think he was joking.  Or was he?

I got to thinking: Why is wearing flats so hard?

Logically, wearing flats makes sense. My feet feel great at the end of the day and I can walk home every night we go out with friends without wincing every step to the metro. Intuitively, it was a battle. I wish that it was an easier journey.

At some point, it became clear to me that pain-free feet were way more important than wearing killer heels.  (Pun intended.) I didn’t realize until I couldn’t wear them, that heels were a big part of my self-image. I felt confident and pretty in heels. Changing this thinking required a paradigm shift in my own vision of myself, what made me feel good, and my general self-image.

Fast forward to two years later.  Oh how things have changed.

You’ll never catch me in a pair of heels and you won’t catch me crying in the corner about it either.

I am finally living pain free, and there is no heel in the world I would risk that on.

You’ll find me in the flat aisle at DSW and The Walking Store now- scoping out all the cutest flats and seeing if my orthotics fit in them. That’s right ladies- it’s not just little old biddies like Betty White wearing orthotics these days!  I have multiple pairs of Dansko shoes I affectionately call, “the worlds ugliest shoes.”  They are looking less ugly to me these days- amazing what a little comfort can do for perception.

My feet are comfortable, pain-free, and I feel the best I have ever felt. I can go running, hiking, walk my dogs, you name it. At work, I don’t need heels to walk into a room and know I’m going to nail a client presentation. All I need is 5 foot 2 inches of  Liz-ness.  Life is good. Crazy to think that 2 years ago I thought I needed 3 inch heels to feel confident, pretty and professional.

The key takeaway is this:

Self perception is one of the most powerful tools that we have in becoming who we want to be.  Self perception impacts you and it impacts the way others see you. Heels don’t define you.  You do.

I ask you: what is impacting your self-image these days?

This is the upgraded Liz 2.0 and she’s just getting started.  I challenge you to find your inner awesomeness do the same.

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6 thoughts on “When I stopped wearing heels.

  1. What a wonderful read! I stumbled upon this article after searching “how old were you when you stopped wearing heels” because I recently turned 50 and I’m wondering when this “I love heels” phase of my life will end. But I have a heel-wearing regimen: I don’t wear them 2 days in a row. I don’t wear them if I’m doing a lot of walking. I stretch my calves and legs before and after use. I buy well-made shoes and I know in 2 seconds if a shoe is meant for me or not. I try and buy no higher than 3.75″ and most times, I have my shoe guy cut the heel because I prefer 3-3.5″) In other words, I take heel-wearing very seriously in the hopes that I can wear them for at least another decade.

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  2. Now that is a quality blog post Liz. You have earned a new reader. And you must’ve been in heels 98% of the time because I NEVER would’ve guessed you were 5’2 : )

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  3. I love this…you are right, clothes or shoes can’t make us feel good about ourselves…that has to come from within! I hate to be uncomfortable, and I’m on my feet all the time, so I wear a lot of comfortable, cute (but perhaps not the most stylish) shoes. I don’t want to be irritable just because of the shoes I’m wearing, no matter how good they might make me look!

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