Why I Don’t Wear Heels

Beth Hankoff
3 min readDec 18, 2022

Serious stuff about sensory issues and weird feet

Photo by Zuzana on Unsplash

The last time I remember wearing heels was at my sister’s wedding. That was in 1996. I went barefoot for the reception, as did most of the ladies. I heard once that if I just bought good heels, expensive ones, I wouldn’t have these problems. I went and tried them on. I don’t think this is true for me.

When I was a child, I had an awful time finding shoes that fit well enough to a) stay on my foot while b) not being excruciatingly painful. My grandmother told me when I was in my teens (where are they when you’re suffering?) that I must have what she has — a “combination last.*” This is where the back part of your foot is one size, and the front part is another.

In our case, our heels are narrow. If our shoes are wide back there, they fall off or rub up and down, causing painful blisters. However, the toe of our foot — actually, the measurement across the foot, just below the toes — is wide. Our feet do not want to be squeezed into women’s dress shoes. She forced hers because she had to in the early 1900s. Her toes ended up on top of one another permanently. I just refused to wear shoes that hurt me.

I went to one school for two years where dresses and dressy shoes were required. We took forever to find shoes that I could wear, driving around to every store until we almost collapsed, and we may have gone out more than once. I finally found a dress shoe that was more of a loafer. Unfortunately, the only color was a pale yellow. My long feet in a yellow shoes looked a bit like a couple of bananas, but I had to agree to them because at least they didn’t hurt.

A couple of years later, I did the Birkenstock thing, and then it was back to sneakers. I also like clogs (no heel is great because you don’t have to worry about it slipping if it isn’t there!), crocs, etc.

I think by the time I got married, a year before my sister, it was too late to try to force my feet into that position. Most women had started at age ten or eleven, at least occasionally wearing them to formal events, whereas I would wear flats made of soft leather with a wide toe bed.

It’s funny how other women act shocked that I don’t wear heels or even know how to walk in them. Wearing heels is unnatural and man-made. They are designed to make you look sexy. Does it bother other women that I don’t look sexy enough? Why?

I wonder why people fear differences so much. I know why in terms of our anthropological history. But now, in our modern society, aren’t we logical beings? If the whole office likes sports, but I don’t, can we be okay with that?

Can I please wear my sneakers and crazy socks without judgment? I promise I’ll get more done if my feet don’t hurt.

*combination last, noun: a shoe last in which there is a variation from the standard measurements, the heel or instep portion being narrower than normal [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

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Beth Hankoff

Neurodivergent educator, changemaker, advocate, mother, and follower of Jesus. I write about my life, parenting, education, autism, and mental health.