Saturday, July 9

Book review on the run: Bad Shoes & The Women Who Love Them

Given the barefoot running craze, I thought it would be interesting to explore the other side of the sartorial spectrum. I picked up Bad Shoes & The Women Who Love Them and devoured the book in a single flight.

I was fascinated by the chapters on foot physiology and the damage constant high-heel wear does to tendons and calf muscles. But I have to admit that I was not pleased by the utterly bizzare chapter on the Freudian sexuality of feet (chapter 6). If you read the book, you'll know what I mean. I was scratching my head, wondering "Where is she going with this?" But then again, I've never been a fan of Freud's theories.

Freud aside, this book was well researched and well written. The author, Leora Tanenbaum, is not a bra-burning extremeist. Rather, she suggests that we should treat our heels like candy - reserving them for special occasions, instead of indulging all day every day. Because just like too much candy is bad for our health, long term high-heel wearing can have some deleterious effects including (gross out alert!) bunions, corns, shortened tendons, and a host of other problems - all of which (not incidentally) are bad for runners.

I gave up my heels a few years ago (except for a recent calf-strain incident, in which wearing heels allowed me to walk without having to painfully flex my foot). My fancy, pinchy, pretty-heeled shoes were noticeably affecting my running. So out they went!

This book made me feel better about my choice to swap my stilettos out for sandals and ballet flats for everyday wear. The best quote:
The practice (of wearing heels) proves that one is able to handle pain and exert a sense of control and discipline over her body, demonstrating a perverse kind of strength.
The sociologist in me recalls all the times I have listened to women (myself included) talk about how our heels make us feel powerful, sexy, and strong. Heck, there's even a new song titled "Hell On Heels" by the Pistol Annies.

But when it comes right down to it, I'd rather feel strong running 400s at the track.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like my review of Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

Photo courtesy of: The State Library of New South Wales

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