For over 400 years, high heels have been a pop culture mainstay, elevating conversations about perceived femininity, performance and the exclusionary aspects of both. From Cinderella’s glass pumps to Dorothy’s silver clickers to Cardi B’s famous bloody shoes, heeled footwear is central to a few of the formative narratives we hold dear. It comes as no surprise then that some of us, even in the thick of a cozy renaissance due to the pandemic, still flock to the shoes that can blister our ankles and immolate our soles. Though one crew of scientists could ruffle some feathers with their prophesies of kitten heels creeping into our future.
Researchers from Shanghai’s Fudan University asked 1,263 women about their heels — specifically if the shoe’s height was under one inch to three inches. They discovered those with two inch heels had better sex lives since the slight rise made the pelvic muscles contract when standing. The chances of urinary troubles and bladder leaks decreased as well. So basically kitten heels are making people have better orgasms and assisting vaginal health.
Once again, the work to make climax possible falls on people with vaginas. This time, it loops in our sartorial choices, too.
Kitten heels are thought to have originated with Louis XVI, a literal short king who added a few inches to his height with heels of medium thickness. CR Fashion Book also reports the style came back into play during the 1950s, but only as prep for young girls who weren’t quite ready for stilettos. Today’s preferred shoe options typically lean towards retro sneakers, varying styles of boots, Versace’s thick-heeled ego stompers, Bottega Venata’s sandals and the like. Mini heels are believed by some to only be reserved for those with enough spare pens and judgement to pass around a sanctuary. But trends are pointing towards a new era wherein the baby heels are getting some credit for how they’re jazzed up.
Just last month, Lizzo attended Gucci Love Parade, an unveiling of the Italian brand’s newest styles, in a pair of slingback, logo-laden pumps. Vogue also considers baby heels to be great for walking down the aisle and Doja Cat lived up to her name when modeling some Valentino Garavani VLGO slingback shoes for her Instagram followers. So yes, kitten heels having a moment and may have some health benefits but what about the folks satisfied by kegel exercise and other forms of preventative activity?
Hardcore fashion lovers may scoff at the idea of click-clacking in heels shorter than their acrylic nails, benefit be damned. Health and fashion haven’t always been girlfriends anyways; in fact, there have been times when some of the hottest trends were woeful. The plastic shoes that dominated 2018 caused doctors to express concerns about breathability, as well as fungus growth. Mules have also been criticized for their lack of ankle support and the toe curling necessary to keep the shoe on. As the self-care movement treads new ground with people putting increased energy into caring for themselves physically, the tide may turn. Plus, not everyone has the luxury of putting fashion first.
According to Columbia Surgery, nearly 25% of women face some type of pelvic floor disorder. Childbirth, heavy lifting and even genes are listed as some of the common causes. So for people who have pelvic floor issues already, like a vaginocele (a hernia that projects into the vagina), mini heels could be the answer to a prayer. Plus, it seems climbing the stairway to heaven has never been easier.
No matter which side you’re on, expect to see some slightly lifted heels as people try to pour into themselves, get the orgasms they deserve and dive into a centuries-old fad. If the shoe fits, will you wear it?