It's safe to say that I love high heels. Whether it's pointy-toe patent leather pumps from Christian Louboutin, strappy stilettos from Manolo Blahnik, or mile-high wedges from Marni, the more vertiginous the footwear, the better. Apparently, I'm also a masochist, because my footwear of choice appear to be giving me bunions.
Let me stop you before an image of me, curled over a cane and hobbling, comes to mind. I am a youngish (alright, mid-30s) editor, a mother of two small kids and a New Yorker for whom her two feet are her primary mode of transportation. But let's go back to the beginning where my odyssey in open-toe pumps started.
I started wearing heels in college. Not often, mind you, since my college was more cerebral than couture-focused. But every once in a while we'd venture off campus to a bar in downtown Baltimore and I'd don my clunky Steve Madden platform wedges. Upon graduating, I moved to New York and started working in fashion, where heels became a norm and a compulsory component to our everyday uniform. One of my first jobs was at Elle magazine as Nina Garcia's assistant. A colleague and I made a sport out of attending Manolo Blahnik sample sales, where we'd amass endless pairs of shoes at bargain-basement prices. My colleague joked that these were "car-service shoes," otherwise known as shoes only to be worn for walking very short distances. We were in our early 20s and we'd spend long nights running around Manhattan, dancing in clubs and finally, dragging ourselves home at dawn -- all in six-inch heels.
Of course, the balls of our feet would become sore after hours of wear, but what was a little pain and suffering compared to blue suede Christian Louboutins? Like a hangover, the pain from the shoes receded quickly and we would continue to damage our feet for another decade at least, until we learned the lesson the hard way.
It wasn't until a few years after I'd left the fashion industry to have children that I noticed my right foot seemed a little bigger than the left. I don't mean longer, I mean wider. I dubbed my bunion the "horn of Africa" and sent photos to friends, asking, "Is this a bunion?" This was ironic, since I'd left magazines to teach first grade (where I only wore Birkinstocks) and then to stay home with my children (where I only wore Uggs). So why now, when I was wearing only the most comfortable of footwear, would my feet be expanding?
My mom, herself a heels-addict, blamed it on the flat shoes (she shakes her fist at anyone who dares her not to wear heels!). She said that my feet were "spreading out" now that they weren't bound in leather day after day. I had also undergone two pregnancies at this point, so my feet had grown, and I had become a serious runner, so my feet were taking a beating. But, like so many other things in my life since I'd become a parent, I pushed it to the back of my mind and kept moving.
Since then, my mom, the bastion of elegance for whom an outfit isn't complete without a pair of heels, has had bunion surgery. Her right foot was so painful that she finally bit the bullet and went under the knife. The operation was 18 months ago and her foot is still swollen and painful and she can still barely get her foot into heels. She gives me a grave look whenever I mention my ever-growing foot and says, "Don't ever let anyone cut into you unless it's absolutely necessary." She must be feeling hopeful though, since she recently bought a pair of strappy Manolo Blahniks.
I am now back in the fashion industry and happily wearing heels every day. Things have changed, though: I wear flat, comfortable shoes for my commute from my home in Brooklyn to our offices in Manhattan. I keep a large selection of heels under my desk (and in my filing cabinet!), from which I select a pair to wear. That said, if I wear heels for too long, I feel it the next day, and not just in the balls of my feet, but also in my quadraceps. Who knows if it's prolonged wearing of heels, genetics or some other twist from the universe.
I recently acknowledged, much to my chagrin, that the new Manolo Blahniks that I splurged on over Thanksgiving are just too painful to wear for long stretches of time. The combination of the high, stiletto heel and the pointy-toe silhouette makes even walking difficult. But they look so pretty when I'm sitting down.
I'm not the only one torturing myself in painful shoes -- check out 20 celebrities in their fancy footwear.