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Heels vs sneakers: A willowy tie between footwear, emotions and ego

Ika Noorharini
Ika Noorharini

Occasional writer and barista

London  /  Wed, March 4, 2020  /  01:19 pm
Heels vs sneakers: A willowy tie between footwear, emotions and ego

Heels and sneakers illustration. (Shutterstock/Nesolenaya Alexandra)

Sneakheels? Do not be astonished if in one of our quotidian activities we notice someone in public places wearing a pair of sneakers, but with a heightened rear side. Yes, sneakers with high heels. Or shall we say high heels resembling sneakers? Many types of mish-mash shoes have been introduced but sneak-heels are particularly mind-boggling, although admittedly they are beautiful. One can assume that high heels are the ones that were adapted to look like sneakers, not the opposite.

Sneakers have permeated the world of fashion. Over the past years, many people seem to opt for a pair of comfortable (and clunky) sneakers. With the driving force from two chief trends, streetwear and athleisure, it is only natural to see women around the world swapping shoe types: from high heels to sneakers. It has even been suggested that the adaptation has outpaced the men’s sneaker category and effectively pushed down high heel sales. Fashion houses, including luxury ones such as Chanel, have produced sneakers as part of their collection to assimilate with the trend.

It is worth to note that many women of all ages are hooked on sneakers. This is only natural, considering that the price of some sneakers can be astronomical, jumping over a pair of handmade crafty high heels.

This phenomenon goes hand in hand with changing office policies of allowing employees to wear more relaxed attire, including footwear. In office areas or business centers, we may have seen females wearing formal tops and trousers but a pair of sneakers are their chosen footwear. Women might wear sneakers not only to work but also to weddings. There seems to be a major shift in what is considered “formal”. What’s even more riveting, women are also at the forefront when it comes to advocating sneakers. On online media outlets, social media and on the streets, one could easily spot a woman in sneakers. It is as if high heels seem to be something of a past, and the vacant position has been replaced by sneakers.  

It is a point in fact that once upon a time “the heels” actually belonged to men. This was a long time ago, circa the year 1600. From Persian horse rider soldiers, Italian bourgeoisie to French Kings, men used to wear tall footwear for functional and aesthetic purposes. It was not until a century later before finally women started wearing high heels. Long story short, beautiful relationships were formed. There was a point at which women were associated with high heels, and vice versa.

A woman could feel more beautiful and literally be taller on heels, although she could also feel pain. It is no secret that tall shoes may raise foot problems. This is because the bases of our feet are not underpinned in a balanced way. Being in this position for a period of time could lead to calf muscle pain and even beyond. True, sneakers are much more comfortable than high heels. Seeing as they are developed from sports shoes, this means support and comfort are a must. These, however, are arguably not the primary reasons for favoring sneakers. Trends on a sociological level and self-presentation seem to be more prominent as the influence. 

As a human being, one should adapt to the time. For footwear, we can start storing our formal shoes and pull out a contemporary pair of sneakers. But with our conscience intact, there are still times when we could (or should) opt for more formal footwear. 

The big question here is maybe more about how to improve (or refocus) one’s awareness to determine the best footwear for each occasion. Wearing high heels at an outdoor event is to say hello to disaster, but it is equally inappropriate to wear sneakers in formal occasions, such as a solemn wedding. Also, it may be unpleasant to see someone wearing flip flops at a board meeting, unless it is allowed to do so (as in the case of having the meeting by the sunny beach). Awareness is key here.

A well-organized event would normally suggest a dress code. But even without one, many factors can help inform the decision on what to wear. We may want to step back and re-evaluate how we want to present ourselves. Should we tone down our eagerness to feel comfortable or to be within the trending frame? Influential sociologist Erving Goffman once suggested that our ability to be considerate could strengthen links in our inner circle, and possibly, our society. Instagram Influencers can be very influential. But maybe without having to be one, we can help shape a small society in which we live to be more mindful. (wng)


Ika Noorharini is an occasional writer and barista. She lives in the United Kingdom with her husband and a handsome pooch, Java.

Instagram @fenomenologiwanitaberhighheels


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.