Friday 28 October 2016

High heels being kicked to curb as more women choose comfort over style

Published 06/10/2016 | 02:30

Women are now spoilt for choice. Glitzy trainers can go with any outfit, no matter how glamorous. Photo: Getty Images
Women are now spoilt for choice. Glitzy trainers can go with any outfit, no matter how glamorous. Photo: Getty Images

Women are finally saying goodbye to crippled toes and aching backs. For the first time, trainers are outselling high heels globally.

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Be gone bunions and blisters. Farewell foot pain. Adios Achilles ache. High heels are out, trainers are in.

Having spent my twenties and thirties stumbling about in high heels, I too have embraced flats and trainers in my forties and my feet are thanking me.

This summer, instead of buying high-heeled sandals or wedge mules, I bought two pairs of colourful trainers and wore them to death. It was my first summer ever without having plasters wrapped around my throbbing toes or heels.

This female ditching of heels isn't just a fashion statement, it's a lifestyle statement that reflects the lives of modern women. Busy mums juggling many roles are no longer happy to be restricted by heels. It's about freedom - literally freedom of movement - as well as fashion.

Fashion designer Victoria Beckham - famous for always wearing sky-high shoes - recently announced that she was hanging up her beloved heels in the name of comfort.

Stylish first lady Michelle Obama showed her love of comfort when she stepped out in metallic Lanvin trainers. Our very own style icon Celia Holman Lee has embraced flats after decades in heels.

Data from consumer analyst Mintel showed that 59pc of UK female footwear buyers now prefer to wear flat shoes, compared to just 12pc who prefer high-heeled shoes.

Tamara Sender, a senior fashion analyst at Mintel, said: "For the first time ever, sales of trainers have overtaken high heels. The UK sportswear market has seen strong growth in the last year and there has been a trend for consumers to integrate sports clothing into their daily wardrobes, meaning trainers have also become more popular among women, overtaking heels."

And it's women aged 35 to 44 who have become the main purchasers of trainers. Mums, working mums and busy modern women are opting for more comfortable footwear, proving the trend is no longer limited to younger consumers.

Athletic footwear is increasingly being used for everyday non-sporting activities, showing that trainers are now more likely to be used for non-sports use.

Part of the backlash against high heels is lifestyle but part of it is also health and the rise of feminism.

Medical experts warn us that high heels can cause long-term health problems. Heels put the foot at an angle and pull muscles and joints out of alignment, so the effects aren't just limited to the feet. Women who spend lots of time in high heels tend to have lower back, neck and shoulder pain because the shoes disrupt the natural form of the body.

But women are also choosing not to wear heels anymore because they don't want to be dictated to by men.

The spike in the sale of trainers comes just months after London-based receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home from her temping job at accounting company PwC for refusing to wear heels. After petitioning the injustice of this, Thorpe has earned the right to not have to wear high heels to work.

With women turning away from heels, the fashion world has had to sit up and take notice.

The beauty of it is that you no longer have to choose comfort over style, as the new trainers being designed by all the big fashion houses are stunning.

Chanel lead the way in January 2014, when Karl Lagerfeld dressed every model on his Chanel haute couture catwalk in a pair of Chanel trainers, to go with their £100,000 ballgowns.

With all designers falling over themselves to come up with comfortable yet stylish trainers, women are now spoilt for choice. Glitzy trainers can go with any outfit, no matter how glamorous.

It's not just trainers that women want either. Comfort across the board is on the rise with athleisure - athletic clothing that people can wear in non-athletic settings - exploding in the last two years.

Designers like Stella McCartney and Alexander Wang introduced a sporty aesthetic into mainstream collections, making women feel that it's now OK to wear athletic gear outside the gym and still feel chic.

Sportswear design company Adidas has established itself at the heart of fashion by collaborating with both Alexander Wang and Kanye West.

Women today want comfort and if that means trainers with a trouser suit or leggings for lunch, so be it. If it's chic enough for Chanel....

Irish Independent

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