Unraveling The High Heel

Health foe. Confidence booster. Female oppressor. No other shoe style has taken on as many roles as the high heel or had those roles as passionately debated. Throughout their long history in Western fashion, high heels have changed shape and had new ideas about femininity, performance and compliance heaped on them. Warnings about the health dangers of chronic high heel use also have a long history, with medical professionals counseling against them for almost 300 years. Still, high heels have remained a staple of womenswear, always returning after brief sojourns out of style. This thesis unpacks the high heel, first looking at the effects of high heel use on the body before turning to the history of the high heel and discussing the reasons why countless women have endured a shoe that is by design uncomfortable. Then we look at attempts to reengineer high heels so that they are more comfortable for wearers and discuss the future of high heels in the footwear landscape. The thesis concludes with a discussion of how attempting to fathom the long narrative of high heels can change your relationship with the object.


Fernanda de Araújo Ferreira

About Fernanda de Araújo Ferreira

Fernanda de Araújo Ferreira watched her first science classes from under a desk, drawing while her mother taught plate tectonics to geology students. She took her first official university-level science classes while majoring in General Biology at the Universidade de Brasília (UnB) in Brazil and is now completing her Ph.D. in Virology, studying the nature of the latent reservoir of HIV-2, at Harvard University. She initially got into science writing as an excuse to take deep dives into various areas of science, from zoopharmacognosy to AI, that were not HIV-2. After writing for Harvard’s Science in the News and GSAS Bulletin, as well as taking courses through Harvard’s creative writing program, she’s excited to pursue science journalism full-time. She writes about all areas of science (including math!), but has a special love for infectious diseases and, unsurprisingly, plate tectonics. Thesis: Unraveling The High Heel


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