Why Do Women Wear High Heels?

woman standing in office capris and black stiletto heels

The Power of Wearing Heels

From Cinderella’s glass slippers to Julia Robert’s stiletto boots in Pretty Woman and Lady Gaga’s extreme platform collection, high heels hold an important spot in the lives and legacies of women and our fashion choices.

But what is the purpose of women’s high heels? Why do we wear these shoes that hurt our feet and cause problems like chaffed ankles, ball of foot pain, and blisters?

For Women's History Month and International Women’s Day 2024, we’re exploring what high heels represent for women using fashion psychology, and how to wear high heels without pain with Foot Petals® shoe cushions, made by women for women.

In This Article:

Foot Petals: Made by Women, for Women

At Foot Petals, we believe women should be able to wear the shoes they want and be comfortable. Recognizing the needs of women, we create comfort solutions she’ll love for the shoe trends she adores from cushions for flats and high heels to tennis shoe inserts and more.
We continue to research and develop new solutions for every shoe type and issue, so all women can walk comfortably and confidently in their shoes. Read more about Our Story, try our Product Finder Quiz, and learn why women love Foot Petals.

woman placing beige ball of foot cushion in black heels

When did women start wearing high heels?

There is no denying the evolution of shoes and how they’ve changed in style and purpose throughout history. Originally, high heels were worn by aristocratic men in Egypt around 3500 BCE. The increased height separated them from other social classes.

Then, in 10th century Persia, men of the cavalry wore high heels on horseback. The heels fit better in the stirrups so men could better steady themselves and their weaponry. You can make this connection to cowboy boots of the American West with their lifted heels, too.

According to Elizabeth Semmelback, senior curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, women started wearing high heels in the 1700’s to appeal to beauty standards as heels made their feet look smaller. Over the centuries, women’s heels slowly evolved into the styles we see today, better supporting a woman’s bodyweight and fashion needs.

Why Women Wear Heels

Researchers and behavior analysts questioned why women wear high heels in several studies, citing explanations like “to increase attractiveness” and “appear more feminine.” While some of the psychological reasoning behind a woman’s shoe choice might be subconscious, wearing high heels can be a form of empowerment.

woman wearing red high heels next to three pairs of sneakers

1. Confidence Boost

One of the benefits of wearing high heels is dressing more confidently. Heels increase height and turn our gait into a strut, creating a sense of poise and strength. This change in body language exudes a more confident, graceful, and sophisticated presence. The feeling of being dressed up also positively impacts attitude and may help increase focus.

2. Symbol of Power

As one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women according to Forbes, Taylor Swift’s empire stands tall in the bedazzled crystal Louboutin boots she wears on stage during her Eras Tour. High heels add height, often seen as the antithesis of power.

Psychologists at the universities of Liverpool and Central Lancashire presented images of women who were digitally made to look taller or shorter. Participants who judged the photos cited that the taller women appeared more intelligent, independent, ambitious, and successful.

3. It’s The Norm

Women wearing high heels is culturally engrained as a societal norm emphasized in pop culture. Office pumps are a workplace staple like stilettos are a red-carpet must. The silver screen is full of women in heels, especially in impractical situations from Dorothy’s ruby red slippers to Wonder Woman’s wedge boots.

4. Look More Feminine

Psychologist Paul Morris and associates analyzed how wearing high heels affects a woman’s attractiveness. In this blind study, participants were only able to see the gait of the women and not the women themselves. Both male and female participants found the walk of the women who wore high heels more attractive.

As a second part of the study, participants identified which of the walkers were male or female, even though all the walkers were female. Every time someone guessed male, the woman walking was wearing flats. When walking in heels, the hips sway more to support the change in gait, emphasizing a traditionally feminine feature.

5. Positive Body Image

Along with the confidence boost that comes with more height, you might feel more positive about the way you look physically when wearing heels. High heels slightly alter the proportions of the body, lengthening the silhouette, accentuating calf muscles, and making a person appear slimmer.

Wearing High Heels Today

High heels today span a variety of styles to suit every woman’s tastes including wedges, kitten heels, block heels, backless, slingback, and so much more. Despite our history and strong connection with high heels, though, this shoe trend is becoming less popular.

In Mintel’s 2023 footwear market report, the consumer analyst reported, “Consumers now seek versatile footwear that can comfortably fit into their daily activities while enhancing their confidence in their style.”

collage of women placing shoe cushions in flats, boots and sneakers

Shoppers want more practical footwear, demanding casual styles like leather mules and canvas sneakers that fit their personal and professional lives. This may mean getting the same confidence boost out of a pair of flats or sandals as you do your going-out heels.

Step Into Comfort & Feel Confident with Foot Petals

Ultimately, the choice of what shoes to wear and why you wear them is yours. Foot Petals shoe cushions and inserts turn every shoe into a comfortable, stylish possibility. Feel empowered and step into comfort with Foot Petals.

woman placing back of heel cushion into black high heels


Morris, P. et al. (2013). High heels as supernormal stimuli: How wearing high heels affects judgements of female attractiveness. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(3), 176–181.

Murray, R. (2016, July 21) The surprisingly functional reason high heels were invented. TODAY.com.

Persaud, R. (2015, August 28) Why High Heels Make Women More Attractive. Psychology Today.

US Men’s & Women’s Footwear Market Report 2023. (2023). Mintel.

World’s Most Powerful Women. Forbes.