Abstracts : Body Composition

  Int J Health Serv 1998;28(2):201-25
  A history of medical scientists on high heels.
  Linder M, Saltzman CL
  College of Law, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242, USA.
  For 250 years medical scientists have propagandized about the health hazards of high-heeled shoes, which originated four centuries ago. Physicians, however, largely unaware of their own profession's tradition, keep reinventing the diagnostic wheel. This professional amnesia has held back the momentum of the process of educating the public. Consequently, despite these warnings, millions of women continue to wear high-heeled shoes. This article describes the history of the medical profession's recognition of this worldwide health problem and the current understanding of the deleterious and often irreversible biomechanical effects of high-heeled shoewear. The article emphasizes that the reemergence of high heels and of medical interest in them in the third quarter of the 19th century, following their disappearance in the wake of the French Revolution, was associated with increasing pressure by employers to wear such shoes for long hours at work. Although medical scientists have recognized this specifically occupational phenomenon for more than a century, full-scale epidemiological studies may be necessary to bring about substantial social-behavioral change.