By Steve Biko Abuya
Published July 4, 2014
It is 6:30 AM when Janet rushes out of her house in Nairobi’s Kibera informal settlement. She has to make it to her stall at Toi market at Woodley behind Adam’s Arcade along Ngong Road in time. Careful not to spoil her ‘gorgeous’ look in her high heeled-stiletto shoes, she carefully picks her way in between the stagnant waste water pools and the narrow muddy footpaths. The high heels are slowing her down but she seems less concerned.
In another incident in Gicagi village of Ngong Town on the outskirts of Nairobi I notice a young woman, probably in her mid twenties, struggling to walk in pointed high heeled shoes on a muddy black-cotton soil footpath on her way to the bus stop to Nairobi CBD. You would think that she is a new-born calf trying to walk for the first time. It is so hard for her that she has to cling on an arm of the man she is with in order to manage her steps amid openly amused late morning onlookers. This immediately leaves me with the question as for what occasions high heeled shoes were meant for.
Let us try to answer this question. First of all, our infrastructure barely supports this kind of footwear. Walking in high heels on our largely unpaved and pot-hole-riddled roads (footpaths, really!) becomes a nightmare, especially when it rains.
I bet that you have also noticed that most women find it difficult walking on these ‘stilts’ even on good roads. Though wearing high-heels is a sense of fashion to women, everything, including high-, mid- and low-heeled footwear, has got its place and time.
Yes, the mass media relay to us images of celebrities like Nicki Minaj, Beyonce and Rihanna wearing high-heels. But did you know that they only wear them for special occasions and for a very short duration after which they remove them? You would spot them in heels for example during , say, a 30-minute product launch, a few minutes on the cat-walk or even at a music concert. But, unlike the Nairobi woman in Kibera and Ngong who remain in high heels for close to 10 hours daily per week, our media celebrities switch to ‘flats’ immediately after they have served their fashion statement before they are spirited away in limousines. But matatu-riding urban Kenyan women wear high-heels throughout the week!
Well, this isn’t to scare or alarm any one. But did you know that women who wear high heels are interfering with their health, especially that touching on reproduction?
Here we go. Studies indicate that women who wear high heels may be reducing their chances of getting pregnant. That their continual wearing of the heels may lead to menstrual dysfunction. That their wombs get damaged.
Continuous wearing of high heels shortens the muscles in the calves and the back of the wearer resulting in low-back pain. The altered posture of walking in these ‘killer’ shoes also places excess force on the knee joint that is a common cause for persistent pain in the knee-joint.
High-heels lead to a continual bending of the toes. This could result in in-grown toes or even in the breaking of toes at the tips as the foot slides forward in the shoes to accommodate the incorrectly redistributed body weight.
Do you now see why you should wear heels on days that require limited walking or standing just like your favourite celebrity does?
Yes, the developing world may be a dumping site for high heels. But that is no reason for you to let them kill you just because a pair costs just US$0.60 from used shoe dealers in Gikomba, Muthurwa and elsewhere in Nairobi.