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I remember when it happened. I was fresh out of college and I went with a friend to DSW Shoe Warehouse on Clark and Halsted in Chicago. My friend wanted to get shoes. Up until then, I didn’t get it. I had a pair of gym shoes, a pair of boots for snow and/or rain, a pair of sandals for the summer and a pair of black dress shoes for all-purpose and relatively rare fancy occasions (I was only 21, after all, where did I have to go?). That’s all you need, right? Why do women like shoes? Why do they want more? I didn’t see the appeal.

Now, this will sound like a cheesy scene from a poorly-written movie or something, but I remember descending the store escalator and slowly looking up at the vast expanse of shoes. Beautiful shoes. High heels. Some shiny patented leather. Some tall. Brown, buttery-soft leather boots. All different colors. Like candy. Something clicked in my brain.

Oh. My. God. SHOES.

I ended up leaving with not one, not two, but four pair or ridiculously impractical shoes. Shoes that I couldn’t even walk in. Shoes I had to practice wearing before I could actually wear. I walked around my apartment in them, doing the dishes and vacuuming, like some 1950s cliche. I tottered and teetered, putting away my laundry and running to my window to yell at drunken Cubs fans (Go Sox!). I felt muscles working that I never even knew existed in my feet, ankles and legs. It took a long time for me to feel confident enough to walk outside in high heels. Confident that I would fall flat on my face, or look like this woman:

Years later, I can say that I have mastered high heels. There are still some I can’t wear, even I have my limits. I usually need to have a platform shoe if I’m going to go for the very high heel.

I guess the question is why do I love shoes that one must practice walking in first before they can even wear? Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely days when I go to work and throw on my “sensible loafers,” as I call them. I just want comfort and don’t want to think. And high heels always require some degree of thinking, even if it comes naturally at this point.

I know high heels are not good for your feet (though they may be better for your knees?) and some people see them as the worst thing ever. I know some women think that heels emphasize women’s weakness and actually make us more vulnerable. Women in heels walk with a little wobble that big strong men find sexy and tee hee hee, please catch us if we fall! I can see that. And frankly, they just sometimes HURT. So why do I wear them?

The only explanation I can come up with is that I simply how high heels make me feel. I feel powerful. I feel in control of myself.

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel powerful in flats or gym shoes. There are times I’m extremely focused and kicking ass no matter what I’m wearing. But with flats, I do notice that I tend to slouch more. My posture isn’t the best. I sometimes feel lazier and sometimes act lazier.

In heels, I feel extra alert and aware of my body. You have to be, when wearing heels or you might bite the dust. My posture is better. I hold myself differently when I wear high heels and this affects my mentality. I feel like my brain is more alert, too.

Of course, if I were in the unfortunately situation where I needed to run, say, to fight crime, heels would not be my first choice of footwear. I mean, come on, Catwoman. There is no way you can run in those, platformed or not.

Anne CatwomanSo crimefighting (or crimestarting) aside, I love my heels. And while my feet often do hurt at the end of the day, I find that satisfying as well. Like how sore I used to feel after a particularly brutal softball game in high school. Like I went to battle and came out beat up but still breathing. What was once challenging for me now comes as second nature. And I like that.