New research shows that’s women’s long-held passion for high heels is waning. It’s not because the modern generation of women is dramatically taller, it’s down to multiple factors, including comfort, risk of injury and more.

High heels have been losing popularity for some time now, but the pandemic has helped to accelerate this trend. For obvious reasons, the pandemic has had a major impact on the sale of footwear. However, it seems that dressier and, in particular, high heels shoes are the ones being shunned the most.

According to new research from the NPD Group, the sales of dress shoes, including stilettos, fell by a huge 71% in the second quarter of 2020.

Here are the three main reasons why this has happened.

The rise of comfort shoes
The decline in the wearing of high heels can be linked to the rise of comfort shoes. For the last few years, footwear collections have become considerably more comfort-focused, catering to the demands of an increasingly modern, more-nonchalant society.

Last year, Lyst, a global fashion search engine, revealed that searches for Birkenstock sandals soared by 225%. In addition to this, sneakers, slippers, and slides have also been on the rise during the pandemic.

This transformation follows the casualisation of the working environment and the norms that dictate what is appropriate and respectable in a more formal space such as an office.

With the rise of athleisure—casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use—and pandemic-induced work-from-home policies, comfort seems to now be front and centre, with couture taking a back-seat.

The risk of injuries
High heels are known to be harmful to the feet. The constant wearing of high heels can damage the bone structure and even result in injuries like hallux valgus (bunion) and hammered toe.

According to Vytautas Kimtys, an expert surgeon at Nordorthopaedics Clinic, who is a leading orthopaedic surgery clinic for medical tourists in Lithuania, such injuries require serious medical attention and, most often, an intervention.

“When wearing high heels, the feet are put in the most unnatural position, which over time causes a variety of deformations in the structure of the feet,” he said.

“Most of the time, people with hammertoes, bunions, and other injuries require surgery to release or tighten tendons and ligaments because chances are they have been ignoring the developing deformities for far too long. Thus, it is especially important to seek medical attention when you notice even the slightest discomfort from wearing high heels.”

Feminist statement
Clothing choices are not only about fashion or comfort but also about making a statement. Traditionally, high heels have been seen as a way to express women’s sexuality or power, but lately, this trend has been fading away.

The transformation has mainly to do with the arrival of what social scientists call the fourth wave of feminism. Seeking to create gender equality and empower women, the new feminists also aim to change stereotypical standards, including the glamorisation of wearing high heels.

The rise of flats like sandals and flip-flops can also be seen as a feminist statement going against high heels.

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