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This I Believe: I Believe In High Heels

Essayist Savita Iyer

I believe in high heels.

I can still remember prancing around the living room of my childhood apartment in my mother’s white satin stiletto sling backs. They were a gift from my father and she wore them for special occasions. When my mother took an afternoon nap, I quietly removed the shoes from their box, slid them over my small feet and stepped out across the parquet floor. I felt great. I couldn’t wait to grow up and wear heels every single day.

That, of course, took forever to happen. My mother, like all good mothers, forbade shoes with heels. I had to wait until 7th grade to convince her to buy me a pair of dark brown suede boots with heels. They were completely inappropriate for winter, not to mention the only size they had in the store was too small—but of course I convinced Mom they fit me perfectly.

Finally, I grew up. When I was in college and then out in the working world, I acquired many pairs of high-heeled shoes. I favored pointy-toed stilettos, and still do. I loved them even through the ’90s with its clunky, square-toed block heels, which I suffered wearing only because they were in style. I love how stilettos lengthen the limbs and slim the calves, how they make me feel strong, powerful and able to accomplish anything. In my early days as a business reporter in New York, they made me feel more confident when interviewing Wall Street wizards. I knew little about finance and many guys I came across were intimidating. My heels helped me stand tall and better overcome my hesitation.

Sure, I know that my pointy-heeled, pointy-toed footwear does me no favors, and my shoes have taken their toll on me. I’ve had a couple of bone spurs and several emergency visits to podiatrists, one of whom was openly condescending about my choice of shoes. It was clear from the unpleasant vigor with which she sliced off my calluses that she considered heels — and the women who wear them — frivolous, ridiculous, even. The only concession I made to her was to go up half a shoe size: she was right that my feet had grown with age.

But I have become increasingly conscious of the long-term health of my feet and back. While I once walked entire Manhattan blocks in heels, I now wear sneakers to and from the parking garage of my office, and on the weekends. I’ve actually wholeheartedly embraced the sneaker trend and find I can match them with a wide range of ensembles.

But if a situation calls for confidence, I will always don my heels. The pointy-toed ones. Because they help me feel my best. Perhaps it’s because of that first memory of me in my mom’s stiletto sling backs, but I believe in them; I believe in high heels.

Savita Iyer is the senior editor of the Penn Stater magazine.