Boots Not Made For Walking

These boots are made for walking, Nancy Sinatra told us in the 1960s. But it seems these days, these boots and shoes are made for tottering into a function looking like you’ve already drunk a bottle or three of wine.  The vertiginous heels you see women stumbling about in are certainly not made for walking.

I was watching the celebs stagger into an awards ceremony and only one thing occurred to me: “Why? Dear God, why?”

It pains me. Not the shoes, because  I don’t wear these towering five or six inch heels, having given up fashion for comfort some years ago.

It pains me because of what these shoes represent. Why are women hobbling themselves so they can’t stride out and take their rightful place in the world? Is looking good more important than being strong? In my view it is the equivalent of Chinese foot-binding – designed to keep women in their place.

Let me give you a little history lesson.

You can’t hear me but I’ve got my lecturing voice on – the one that makes my nephews’ and nieces’ eyes roll back into their heads with the expression, “I suppose I’d better look as if I’m listening to the boring old fart.”

Back in the mists of time it became the custom in China to bind tightly young girls’ feet so they couldn’t grow.

It was considered attractive and men liked it – of course they did, for some scholars say foot-binding subjugated women by making them more dependent on men. It restricted their movements and enforced their chastity, since women with bound feet were physically incapable of venturing far from their homes.

Let me tell you this process in detail (turn away now if you are squeamish).

Take a child of between four and seven and soak her feet in warm water or animal blood with herbs. Cut her toenails and give her a foot massage. So far, so good.... except for the animal blood.

But then you have to break all the girl’s toes except the big toes and wrap the feet extremely tightly and painfully in cloth, forcing those broken toes back towards the heel.

Each day, unwrap the feet and rebind them, pushing the toes back under the foot arch which will break under the strain.

This means the feet never get beyond three to four inches (7.5cms to 10cms) in length. If you can’t imagine how small this is, take a look at a ruler or tape measure.

In a euphemism that beggars belief to 20th century ears, this was called turning your feet into three- inch “golden lotuses”.  And these “golden lotuses” were seen as the ultimate erogenous zone, with Qing dynasty pornographic books listing 48 different ways of playing with women’s feet.

Personally I’d rather have huge clown feet which no one except a chiropodist ever touched, but that’s probably just me.

Thankfully, footbinding was banned in 1912, although some of the more rural Chinese villages continued the practice quite late into the 20th century.

Now, however, "hobbling" feet has become a status symbol yet again, although it's something women have done to themselves rather than have it imposed on them by men.  

Women who gasp in horror at any unhealthy junk food passing their lips don't seem to mind the prospect of  bunions, bony growths, hammer toes, foot pain and “pump bumps”, where straps and the rigid backs of pump-style shoes cause a bony enlargement on the heel.

I know, I’m old and boring, and admittedly some of these shoes do look rather stunning. But as my mother used to say to me when I refused to wear my school mac out in the pouring rain: “Pride feels no pain.”

Before you leave:

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  1. Foot binding was such a cruel thing to do and for such selfish and pointless reasons. Many of those women had to be carried everywhere. It also doesn't make any sense to put your foot in those ridiculously high heels pictured above. I have a friend who spent her entire career working in very high heels and her feet are grotesque looking now and painful.

  2. I had no idea foot binding was so cruel. Those stiletto things are ridiculous. I expect that years from now they will be looked on in amazement that any ever wore them.

    I have no idea why, but they are sexy.

  3. I have a very low tolerance for hearing about other people's pain, so I skipped the explanation of how to bind feet. I have heard of the practice. I don't get it. But then again, what a culture finds attractive can be so very strange, especially ours.

  4. I knew about the tight wrapping of foot binding, but didn't know about the broken toes and bending them back under the arch. I think it's a horrible thing to do to tiny girls and I heard it was often done as young as three. I fail to see how such misshapen feet could be erogenous.
    I also hate ridiculous shoes such as you've pictured here. I see similar heights of heels on women around town who probably don't realise how awkward they look when trying to walk with any speed down the city footpaths.
    I have never worn such shoes, not even "regular" high heels, yet I have a bump on the back of one heel, it popped when I sprained my foot about this time last year.

  5. I am sickened by the policy of foot binding. Way more horrid than I ever imagined. I once had a podiatrist tell me he would be out of work if everyone wore Nike or Reebok shoes.

  6. 'Stuff You Should Know' from the 'How Stuff Works' podcasts covered this topic well. I seem to recall that some wealthy mother's encouraged their daughters to follow this awful fashion trend, even going so far as to start them on it very young. ~shudders~ My towering heels were always worn for my enjoyment in the boudoir. ~wink~ Be well!

  7. I will stick with my size 11 feet and be pain free.

  8. My father was in the Royal Navy in the days when travel really was world-wide and he brought back from China a pair of tiny shoes. As a child I could not imagine anyone other than a very small child being able to wear them.