Friday, August 06, 2010

Footloose and fancy-shoe free

The National Geographic images that stay most with me from my childhood are those where “the natives” disfigured themselves to conform to their society’s appearance norm.

Elongated neck! Lip plates! Stretched out earlobes! Facial scarring!

I’d shake my head and marvel – no multi-culti for me – that people could be so crazy.

And I pretty much feel the same way when I see the pierced tongue, the pierced lip, the pierced nose (what about boogers?). Not to mention the taut, expressionless visage of Joan Rivers (And then there’s the cat woman.)

What some folks won’t do for beauty…

And on my list of what I won’t do is anything that involves the use of a scalpel and/or hypodermic needle that is not 100% medically necessary (as opposed to aesthetically desirable). I might consider laser eye surgery at some point, but I’ve lived with glasses for so long by now, why bother. I did get veneers for my front teeth a couple of years ago, but those puppies were so chipped from years of deploying teeth-as-implements – they really do make a rather handy vise or pliers – that getting them fixed up was more out of necessity than vanity.

And as anyone who has seen my hair knows, the dye-job is certainly on my exempt list At this stage in the game, I truly prefer not to know exactly what’s under there, but I have a hunch it’s not a gorgeous silver-gray. So I make a regular visitation to Rita, the most excellent of colorists, to have my hair restored to the shade it was in nature forty years ago.

But I have to shake my head and marvel that there are folks who will undergo possibly debilitating foot surgery, the better to fit their feet into long, narrow, pointy-toed, high-heeled shoes.

Some of the procedures that are available were written up in a recent WSJ article that my sister Trish pointed out to me.

Needless to say, the ur source for aesthetic foot surgery is in LA-LA Land, where Beverly Hills Foot Surgery is:

… humbled and honored to have become the leader in new techniques and procedures that have changed the experience of foot surgery for over 5000 clients.

Dr. Ali Sadrieh always knew that something was afoot with women’s feet:

For years now, women have been subjected to wearing shoes that aren’t necessarily the best for their feet. History has shown with customs like chinese foot binding, that the well being of a woman’s foot has taken second priority to social norms and beauty

Still, he didn’t start out making the world a better place for high-heel wearers. No, he used to advise people against putting on those high-heeled sneakers:

….But as time went on, I realized that advising women not to wear high heeled shoes, was unrealistic.  This is because in the modern world, professional or formal attire requires a woman to wear high heeled shoes due to social norms and pressures.  This is unfortunate but true.

It certainly is unfortunate, but why – in this day and age – is it true? Are there really professions – other than the obvious one – that require women to dress like Barbie?  Maybe it’s the expectation in advertising, PR, and fashion. And there’s no denying that there are plenty of men who’d like it if women pimped themselves out for the workplace. But as far as I know, women in technology, medicine, law, and a bunch o’ other professions don’t feel the need to wear Jimmy Choo’s to the office. And it’s pretty disheartening if women think they can’t get ahead in the workplace without the perky butt-lift that a high-heel gives them. (I do understand why short women would want to appear taller than they are, by the way. Short people – especially women – can sometimes find themselves patronized or looked down on as children, not to be taken as seriously as the tall guys.)

But, in general, for women wearing high heels at work: don’t they realize that the vixen thing doesn’t age all that well?

Maybe they’re hoping to meet Mr. Bigbucks $. Right, who’ll take them away from the vale of tears that is the workplace, and who will be able to afford to have them carried around in a sedan chair when they can no longer walk.

In terms of high heels “required” for formal occasions, that’s a different story. At least you can kick off your shoes on the dance floor. And a while back, I read about some entrepreneur who was coming out with a tiny fold-up flat that women could put in their tiny date-night pocketbooks, and wear during the segments of the evening that required walking from Point A to Point B. (Not sure what they do with their Manolo’s. Maybe hang them around their necks?)

In general, however, the fact that women are crippling themselves with 6 inch Christian Louboutin’s, to the extent that they require surgery so that they can keep on crippling themselves, is as bizarre as all those ring necks and lip plates.

Not that I never wore high heels.

When I was a girl, being a grown-up meant wearing high heels, and by eighth grade high heels were what I wore for formal occasions (i.e., church). But by high school, heels weren’t worn all that much, even for formal occasions (i.e., church). Sure, sometimes you put on heels, but mostly you wore flats (i.e., Weejun loafers).

When I began my professional career -  although I did own a few pairs of spikish shoes - the heels that were generally worn with the penis-envy, menswear suits of that era became, over time, low heeled, chunky-clunky affairs.  We stopped wearing heels because they a) hurt; b) were always getting caught in bricks, resulting in costly heel covering; and c) looked pretty darned stupid when worn with those penis-envy, menswear suits.

But today’s modern career gal would, apparently, rather have her toes thinned, shortened, and elongated don a sensible shoe. And Dr. Ali is there for them:

…Rather than isolate my practice form the realities of what women endure in the professional world, I decided to create a procedure that addresses the problems that women face when wearing high heeled shoes.

So he came up with:

Procedures like The Cinderella Procedure™ (Aesthetic Bunionectomy with minimally invasive, pain-free surgical recovery), The Liber-archy Procedure™ (Reconstructive Flat Foot Surgery for kids), The Perfect 10 Aesthetic Toe Shortening™ (Hammertoe Correction procedure with advanced fixation technique and hidden side incisions), The Foot Tuck™ (Fat Pad Augmentation for comfortable wear of high heel shoe) and the revolutionary Aesthetic Toe Lengthening, have changed peoples lives.  Every day I hear from my patients that they have been to numerous doctors who wouldn’t provide them with the fresh new way of thinking about surgery that our practice offers them.


I’ve got to give some podiatry props to Dr. Ali for his naming style. And I could have used that Liber-archy surgery when I was a kid, as I’ve had the usual minor problems associated with flat feet my whole life.

But what’s with women that we’d line up for both “Aesthetic Toe Shortening” and “Aesthetic Toe Lengthening”?

Having these types of operations just can’t be good for you.  And the orthopedic profession pretty much agrees:

"Shortening a toe to get into a tight-fitting shoe should not be a standard of care in any physician's office," says Donald R. Bohay, an orthopedic surgeon in Grand Rapids, Mich., and co-chairman of public education for the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society.

The American Podiatric Medical Association, representing about 85% of the nation's podiatrists, agrees. "Our function is to relieve pain and correct deformities. We are not trained to allow women to fit into a narrower shoe," says the group's president, Kathleen Stone, a podiatrist in Glendale, Ariz.

(Source for the indented material just above and just below is the WSJ article, not the Beverly Hills foot doc site.)

The majority of medical professionals oppose these cosmetic procedures because there are, inevitably, risks to any type of surgery.

In a 2003 survey by the Foot and Ankle Society, over half of responding members said they had treated patients who were in pain from failed cosmetic foot surgery.

What’s not mentioned in the article is whether having the surgery once sets you up for life, or whether continually wearing ill-fitting, torture chamber shoes will require repeat surgery for at least some of the procedures. (Thinning the pinky toe, maybe?)

If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they come up with a shoe that’s attractive, sexy, and (more or less) comfortable? Why wouldn’t shoes with a moderate heel work?  

Christian Louboutin Papilipi Satin Pump Blue

“Spikes” used to be three-inches high. Nowadays, that’s practically a flat. What’s with the heel inflation? I’ll give you that the Louboutin to the right is one beautiful shoe, but wouldn’t it still work if it were a bit closer to the ground? I’ll bet that with every additional inch, there’s an exponential increase in bunions and back problems.

And yet every day I see women clomping around downtown Boston, to-ing and fro-ing from work in impossibly high heels. Most of them are young, but some – shockingly – appear to be my age or thereabouts.  They teeter on, while I breeze by in – depending on the season – comfy sandals, comfy loafers, or comfy Uggs, comfortable in the knowledge that I’ll never have to spend a dime on cosmetic surgery on my feet.


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