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Designers Try To Step On Women’s Toes

They’re baaaack …

No, not aliens from outer space. Worse. High heels. REALLY high heels. We’re talking spikes.

Fashion designers once again have joined forces against their fashion-slave constituents, and the result isn’t pretty.

After a long huddle to hash out the game plan, which the male caucus obviously won, the designers gleefully announced that this year’s fashion-conscious woman won’t be caught dead without a rainbow of spike heels in her closet.

From Paris and Italy, to New York and San Francisco, they speak of “the look” in sentences that drip with promises of glamour, seduction and fun.

They insist that women need a spike heel and maybe even a stiletto this spring to round out the look that begins with that creation of all creations, the Wonderbra. (If you don’t think push-up bras are all the rage, let me introduce you to a saleswoman at The Disney Store who wears a Wonderbra to work.)

Of course, smart women know better when it comes to high heels. They’ve been there. And we’re talking pain.

Now I usually stay as far away as possible from fashion news (you need a wardrobe to cover that), but the high-heel comeback is at least as newsworthy as TPS, or Tight Pants Syndrome, the latest male affliction to reach Ailment-of-theWeek status. (Hey, I don’t make this stuff up. I only report it.)

The point is this: For some, high fashion is indeed an ailment.

“I stopped trying to talk women out of wearing high heels a long, long time ago,” said Dr. James Kerbs, a friend and podiatrist in Sacramento. “But women wear them because they make them look great. They make them appear taller and thinner. It makes the muscles in the calves bulge out and gives the legs more definition and contour. They also make your back go in and your chest go out and, well, let’s be honest, people like that.”

But the price of tricking nature is always steep, darn it.

“The problem,” he said, “is you get all kinds of postural and foot problems with them. When your back is thrown in like that, it puts a lot of stress on your back and also affects your spine all the way up and down.”

Meanwhile, all your weight is centered on the ball of your foot instead of spreading it out over the entire foot as nature intended, and that’s dangerous.

This can result in “back problems, calluses, bruised bones and nerves that become entrapped,” Kerbs said. “It can cause the toes to contract up and you can get hammer toes or claw toes or …”

Yuck. “If you wear them long enough,” Kerbs continued, “your feet can actually freeze up like that.”

Now that’s a pretty picture, wouldn’t you say? What remains to be seen, then, is how many women will turn in their pumps, flats, tennis shoes and combat boots for the experience of wearing a sexy stiletto, especially on a regular basis. And will they want to?

“Most definitely,” said Danny Millikan, a shoe salesman at Nordstrom at Sacramento’s Arden Fair mall. He thinks women are tired of the dowdy, chunky look and want “something elegant, something feminine.”

“I don’t think they care about comfort. They’re more concerned about fashion and style,” he said, although I’m sure he won’t be wearing high heels anytime soon.

High-fashion styles such as the 5-inch, $455 Manolo Blahnik shown in this month’s Vogue haven’t hit Sacramento yet - and possibly never will. Nonetheless, Millikan and his manager, Dave Marsh, said the store can’t keep the most popular high heels in stock right now.

The 3-inch Moda Espana that Nordstrom sells for $56.95 is out in almost every color and size, Marsh said, and other 3- and 4-inch heels are selling well. Even Bally, a conservative designer shoe, is flaunting a 3-inch tapered heel on a $220 shoe called the Rosa. Toe cleavage, by the way, is really in.

“Sure, I’ll buy them. I like high heels,” said Wendy Garcia, a plant saleswoman who was wearing boots at the time. “But just for fun. For special occasions. I see them as a fun accessory, kind of like a funky bracelet you might have.”

“This is what I’m wearing to work,” said Gigi Forrest, a federal worker who was trying on flat black boots. She might wear heels for special occasions, she said, but not all day. “Those days are gone,” she said. “I’ve done that.”

The question for those who never really got the hang of high heels is whether wearing them is worth it if the best they can do is teeter along on them. Nothing is more pathetic than a wobbly woman picking her way down the street in high heels.

The nagging question for my friend, C.J., a corporate attorney and admitted shoe junkie, is whether she can be a feminist and fall that far into someone else’s definition of femininity. The answer: Sure. As long as it doesn’t hurt.

Me, I’m still wondering what a claw toe is.


The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Diana Griego Erwin McClatchy News Service

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