Here'S What Happened When We Had A Guy Walk A Day In Our Shoes—Literally
I always like making an ass out of myself if it means more attention. (It’s a middle-child thing.) At Men’s Health, I’ve starred in woefully misguided rap videos, pitched dumb business ideas to the Shark Tank crew, and roamed the streets shouting the names of sex toys at strangers, all loosely in the name of journalism.
So when my friends at Women’s Health put out the call for a male editor to be a guinea pig for their latest social experiment, I naturally obliged. My mission: Wear women’s high heels for a day and see what happens.
How hard could that be? I’ve had to learn how to ride a bike, drive a car, and tolerate broccoli, so I could easily make a few adjustments to my stride. Sure, there would be some awkward steps and stumbles, but worst-case scenario, I’d emerge from the experiment with beastly calves.
The first matter: securing a slick pair of shoes. I couldn’t find any female takers around the office to let me borrow their heels—I can’t imagine why—and my dubious wife’s feet were far too tiny. Admittedly, I balked at going to a Payless by myself to try on heels because a man can only shed so much dignity.
So after comparing men’s and women’s sizes (I’m a men’s 10.5), WH took a shot in the dark and sent over a size-12 pair of midnight blue "Christian Sirianos" from Payless (sounds fancy!), sight unseen. Then came the ultimate test: Did they fit? I crossed my fingers, rolled up my jeans, snuck in my toes, and hoped for the best. Immediately, I knew: HELL, YEAH, THEY FIT.
The gamble had worked, and there was no turning back.
The next morning, I left my trusty loafers in the closet and slapped on the Sirianos over a pair of black wool socks. My female friends would later tell me this was a fashion faux-pas, but the socks looked just fine to me.
I trotted around my house to give the shoes a test spin, performing menial morning tasks like brushing my teeth and packing my lunch while my feet looked fierce. Here is a good place to mention that my wife is a project manager for a contracting company, so while she was tying up her work boots and fetching her hard hat to prep for a day at a construction site, I was wondering out loud whether or not I should change my pants to complement my heels. Are you impressed by our post-gender marriage? Thought so.
I was tempted to try driving in the heels, but almost every woman I talked to said it was very dangerous and strongly urged against it. So instead I had a boring, stupid commute in boring, stupid shoes.
Now, I’ll share some observations on wearing heels around the office:
- At Men’s Health, the majority of editors use standing desks because sitting all day is really bad for you. (Here’s a refresher.) I’ve been standing at work since 2013, and I love it. It makes me feel more powerful, energetic, and loose, and I don’t miss that weird, tingly feeling I used to get in my butt all the time. Standing all day in three-inch heels, though, is a goddamn nightmare. Within 20 minutes of working, the bottoms of my feet started feeling sore, and within 21 minutes, the annoying pain was all I could focus on, rendering all my actual responsibilities moot until I gave my howling dogs some sweet relief. As a result, I sat more on Heel Day than I have in two years, and I felt terrible about it.
- Most of my coworkers knew about the experiment ahead of time, but that didn’t stop them from peeking their heads out of their offices to look on with morbid curiosity every time I’d flock to the bathroom or fetch a drink of water. Surprisingly, I didn’t get as many laughs as I anticipated. I did get a lot of questions like, “Oh, you’re really doing this?” and, “What are you trying to prove again?”
- Hey, walking in heels kind of sucks! When I was an overweight kid, my thighs would frequently chafe after walking for long periods of time, and that’s kind of what this felt like. I took slow, deliberate, bowl-legged steps with my thighs far apart to avoid falling over or slipping out, like a wounded giraffe. (In fact, that’s what one kind coworker called me.) Judge for yourself:
- You know what sucks worse than walking in heels? Walking in heels up and down stairs. I laboriously slogged through each step, celebrating every ascent like I was Rocky at the Philly Art Museum. Again, though: more wounded giraffe than Sly Stallone.
- The folks who weren’t already hip to the heels thing (i.e., everyone else in the building) had no idea what to make of me. Responses ranged from uneasy chuckles—“You’re a braver man than I,” laughed the company’s chief administrative officer as we passed in the hallway—to downright disgust: As I lounged on a cafeteria couch for a moment of reprieve, one woman stared at my feet like I was a freak, flashing a scowl instead of a smile. It genuinely hurt, but I took some solace in the fact that my heels were hotter than hers.
By day’s end, I suppose I got the hang of getting around in high heels—as well as a guy can, at least. But I was left with far more questions than answers: Would this have felt better without socks? Was there a secret way to navigate stairs that nobody told me about? Why are some women so cruel?
My biggest question, though: Why the hell do women torture themselves in the first place? If the point of this exercise was to learn a little empathy, then I absolutely feel your pain, ladies.
Look, I sort of understand the fashion appeal—I mean, my feet were fly—but it doesn’t seem worth the discomfort to me. Women could rock flats, flip-flops, or even friggin’ Jordans in place of heels, and most men wouldn’t know the difference. Sure, stilettos are sexy, but there’s so much else to love about your look and personality that we don’t really notice your footwear. So go ahead, free your feet!
That said: If you need some barely-worn, size-12 Sirianos for your next lavish night out, please hit me up.
Andrew Daniels is a senior associate editor at MensHealth.com.
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