Confessions of a Former 'Heels Girl'

by Erin Mayer

When I was in high school, I was 'heels girl' — you know, the girl who always hobbled into class on stilettos like she was going to a club instead of first-period algebra or whatever. The girl who you could always hear coming back from the bathroom (heels are loud on linoleum). Yeah, that was me.

There was a ritual to the whole thing. I'd get dressed in the morning with my heels in mind and then switch to flats for the commute to school to save my feet from unnecessary pain and the shoes from unnecessary exposure to the elements. Once at my locker, I'd deposit the flats into the tiny upper compartment and switch to the heels. Then I'd run from class to class a good four inches taller than I was before.

Let me be clear; I actually managed to pull this look off. I did not look ridiculous. As a dancer, I was extremely skilled at moving around in strange footwear. Beyond that, I dressed the part. And I was only 4'11" (5' on a good day). The high heels simply elevated me to average shortness from way below average, can-you-even-see-me-I'm-so-small stature.

High heels served me well for years. I had a closet stuffed to the brim with Steve Maddens and Dolce Vitas purchased at DSW. There were purple suede pumps with scalloped edges and a satin bow, like little doll's shoes. There were black patent leather heeled loafers. There were ankle boots with tiny buttons up the sides. In fact, I still have all these shoes. They are in perfect condition from all the TLC I doled out over the years. I was fiercely protective of my high heels. They were the crown jewels of a well-cultivated wardrobe.

Then what happened? I went to college and my life was suddenly made up of much rockier terrain. I mean that quite literally — my college campus was super-hilly. If I wanted to lead a successful undergraduate career that didn't involve leaving 20 minutes early to make it to class on time, I would need to ditch the impractical heels.

This should have been easy. They were just shoes, weren't they? There are tons of awesome, comfortable options for fashion-forward footwear. Ankle booties, anyone? And yet, I tried, on more than one occasion, to keep up my old lifestyle.

Francois Durand/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Part of this was a fear of shedding my old image. Cutting down on the frequency with which I wore stilettos involved a reinvention of sorts. My style became more Chloë Sevigny than Carrie Bradshaw. But the deeper issue was about my body. Specifically, my height.

I was afraid to be my true height — afraid that I'd disappear and cease to stand out if I chose practicality over a few extra inches. I thought that being the shortest girl in the room would define me the same way that being the girl always in heels used to. Only being the girl in heels was my choice.

Women frequently subject themselves to endless low-level tortures in the name of looking good. We always know exactly what is 'wrong' with our bodies, and exactly how to improve upon it. Got some extra weight on you? Try Spanx. Frizzy hair? It's all about Keratin. Too short? Break out the Louboutins. Your body, face, hair... none of it is good enough as is. You need to earn perfection with blisters and backaches.

Well, I'm over that. But it took a long time to get there. The moment came one night when I descended a rather steep hill on my way to The Blue Room — a space on my college campus in which small concerts and dance parties are held — in towering black pumps. I had to cling to the railing, stuck a good ten feet behind a group of my friends, one of whom would occasionally glance back to make sure I hadn't disappeared.

Caught mid-hill, the balls of my feet aching before I even arrived at the dance, I realized how silly I must look. Wobbly ankles and sore feet would never be worth the vague appearance of longer legs. Wearing heels all the time was hampering my ability to have fun, to move freely. And no one wants to hang out with the high-maintenance girl who leans on the wall all night because her shoes are too difficult to dance in. This realization was a mark of my maturity; I'd officially grown up, even if taking off my heels made me drop physically down.

I'm a short girl. I will always be a short girl. That won't change because I occasionally wear high heels (I do, still, wear heels... everything in moderation!). Comfort is far sexier than faking mile-long legs every day. So for my next shoe purchase, I have my eye on these boots from Aerosoles. They won't make me taller, but they'll enable me to walk with some bounce in my step. If that's not hot, I don't know what is.