Flats or High Heels: A Woman Lawyer’s Dilemma and Much More

Almost every woman in the world knows that high heels are bad for her body. Yet, almost every woman in the world knows that high heels make her legs look great and sexy.

High heel shoes force you to walk on your forefoot, causing you to balance in a posture that makes your body work harder.  Podiatrist Terence Vanderheiden maintains that “walking in high heel shoes is like walking on a balance beam.”  This affects the back, hips, knees, ankles and feet.  Because the foot is pressed down, the skin and toes develop corns, callouses, bunions and hammertoes.  It is all pretty ugly when you think about it.

That’s not even bringing up how much it hurts to wear high heels. What is the first thing you do when you get home or even sit down at your desk?  Kick off your shoes.  Many women are even wearing flats to work and bringing heels to change into when they get there.  What is wrong with this picture?


So, we can all agree that it is better for your health to not wear high heels. Yet today, we see women following Lady Gaga in shoes that are almost as high as stilts. It is called “fashion,” and most of us give into the latest trend even if it is harmful. No doubt this will continue.

How about another weird fact about flats and high heels? If we end up with a great man who is shorter than us, we will wear flats when we are with him.  We will even go out of our way to get really glamorous flat shoes that don’t hurt our feet.  But we’ll go back to heels…if the relationship doesn’t work out.

Women have come a long way from Chinese foot binding, tight corsets, pantyhose and long obnoxious skirts. We don’t ride side saddle anymore or wear pants to some court appearances.  But we still wear high heels.

Why bring this up in an article for women rainmakers? After acknowledging the harm of wearing high heels but still having a closet full of them, maybe it’s time to see where else this phenomenon is lurking in our lives. What else might be bad for us, but for some reasons (mostly irrational), we do them anyway?

Let’s talk a little about the sexy part that we alluded to in the beginning. Don’t we all sometimes demean ourselves to appear desirable?  Many of us can remember at least one occasion where we struggled into ill-fitting Spanx although it wasn’t good for our body or mind, let alone our spirit.

How about the times you ran yourself ragged doing all the housework, working full time and supervising three kids by yourself?  This probably shortened your life by a few years if you kept it up for any time at all.

Certainly, drinking and drug use is a prime destroyer of women. Why would someone drink to excess, not caring how it will affect her health in the future?  Because it feels “necessary” to be part of a crowd. Or it keeps down unwanted feelings.

Somewhere inside ourselves, we feel that we can’t not do it, even if it is harmful to us in some way. Where does that nonsense come from?  Basically, it comes from the rules that we bought into very early in life. We see our mothers doing it and our friends condoning destructive behavior. We feel like we won’t get what we need and want if we don’t wear the right thing and behave in a certain way.

What about the child beauty pageants that have become so popular? My gosh, mothers and fathers have children as young as three and four, dressed in  inappropriate costumes and vamping on stage. After hours of preparing, rehearsing and enduring non-kid rituals, what message are the children getting? This is the way to happiness?

Now if you are looking to me to give you an easy answer to this, you are mistaken. I think perhaps the best advice at this point is just to try and identify the ways that you are harming yourself by doing mindless activities. Easier said than done, but if you can conquer one harmful action in your life, you have come a long way.

More importantly for women lawyers, let’s turn to your professional life and possible hurtful activities you are enduring. What really bugs you at work? Are you still asked to bring coffee to the boss? Does your assistant treat you like a child? Do your colleagues ignore your attempts to build a work relationship? Are you still getting assignments that are inappropriate for your level in the firm? Are you still getting 77 percent of the salary that men in your firm are getting?


No, these situations don’t create bunions, but will slowly eat away at your self-esteem and erode your confidence. They have a way of creating a constant ache in your life just like high heels. Only you can’t take them off at the end of the day.

My purpose is to help you identify the mindless situations that you have created that are destructive to you. Only then can you do something about them.  So, be courageous and see if you want to take action. If you do, plenty of support is out there.  Even your girlfriends can help. Their feet hurt just as much as yours.

I recently found out that I have a knee problem that can only be totally resolved by a knee replacement. I don’t want that. So I go to the doctor every three months and get a shot, but I also have to wear the dreaded orthopedic shoes. The shoes have little springs in the shoe that cushions the heel, so that there is no jarring of the knee — and it works.  I faithfully wear these every day to work, but I must confess, when I give a talk or put on my fancy dress, I sneak into those beautiful heels. I still drool at shoe store windows.

Now I have to take a look at my life and where else I might be destroying my body or mind for a foolish reason.How about you?


About the Author

Eleanor Southers (@coachingmaven) is owner of Professional Legal Coaching, where she coaches attorneys at all stages of their careers, and is the author of Be a Better Lawyer: A Short Guide to a Long Career.

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