Heel of the matter: Should women be forced to wear high heels to work or on the red carpet?

Whether it’s a night on the town or an important business meeting, women have often turned to a pair of heels for the added height and finish to their ensemble. However, recently the footwear has come into the limelight as more women feel compelled to wear them, either due to strict dress policies at work or at red carpet events.

Recently, Julia Roberts went barefoot on the Cannes red carpet for the premiere of Money Monster as a sign of protest against the Heelgate controversy, where last year, women were not allowed to attend in flats. It was her way of taking a stand against the unequal dress code. Actress Sasha Lane followed suit. Nicola Thorp, a working professional in the UK was sent home from her job for showing up in smart flats instead of two to four-inch heels that her company deemed necessary. As a result, she started an online petition to make it illegal for companies to put such restrictions on women, saying the current work dress codes are outdated and sexist. Photos of the blood-stained feet of a waitress in Canada have also gone viral as she was told to wear heels throughout her eight-hour shift. As a result, the hashtags #myheelsmychoice and #FawcettFlatsFriday have been trending as women and men have been voicing their opinions on these rules.


Celebrity stylist Nitasha Gaurav feels it’s archaic to say women should wear heels. “They should always have an option. It’s fine to have a dress code like formal or casual or smart casual but the extent of specifications should be checked. Men are not asked to wear footwear that’s inconvenient to them. How a woman chooses to interpret formal wear, is up to her. If it’s applicable for clothing it should be the same for footwear. There is a sublime understanding that if it is a red carpet event then it has to be heels, but one needs to slowly change the mindset. If a woman has to wear footwear for a few hours and smile and pose on the red carpet, she should choose a comfortable pair that works with her outfit. There are some actresses like Alia Bhatt, Sonakshi Sinha and Anushka Sharma who are often spotted in flats for events,” says Nitasha.


Personally, I’m more comfortable wearing flats says Aastha Sharma, celebrity stylist. “One should wear heels when the situation demands it. I think it was a great move by Julia Roberts to show up barefoot. Wearing heels shouldn’t be compulsory, but optional. In fact, today, there are so many alternatives to heels whether it’s wedges or flats or sneakers — it’s not like heels are your only option to look smart and fashion-forward. People shouldn’t be making such a fuss about footwear. Furthermore, if you’re going to work you should be able to wear comfy footwear, it should 100 per cent be a woman’s choice. With red carpet events, you do need to put some more effort to your look and heels can help you look taller and slimmer.”


Dr Sachin Bhat, Orthopedic Surgeon, SRV Hospital, says the ill-effects of wearing high heels range from the effects on toes all the way up to the back. “There might be bunions in the toes and it can also result into a hammer toe where the toes are pointed downwards as they are squeezed in the small footwear. As the balls of the feet take all the weight, there could be arthritis (inflammation of joints of the toes). The soles would be sore as they are stretched. There can be associated sprains and fractures of the ankle. As the posture changes while walking with heels there would be long-term effects on the back and spine, and could give rise to chronic pain. If you must wear heels, wear it on days when there is less walking intended. Remove them often, every 30 minutes, and stretch the calf muscles and the foot muscles.”