Fashionista, Heel Thyself!

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"My kingdom for a pair of Manolo Blahniks"

I admit it: I've gazed longingly at more than one pair of Manolo Blahniks, admiring their whisper-thin heels, spindly straps and delectable design. But I always turn away, sighing as I acknowledge the hopelessness of it all. Even if I ever managed to overcome my puritanical dismay at the idea of handing over half a month's rent for a pair of shoes, countless horror stories have convinced me that the signature Blahnik stiletto would cripple me within moments.

So, like the nauseatingly responsible, health-conscious clotheshorse that I am, I make a detour to another, less pricey boutique. Still bent on adding something resembling height to my five-foot- five-inch frame, I find myself a pair of stolid, thick-heeled two-and-a-half-inch pumps. And every time I wear them, I try to ignore their dependable chunkiness, telling myself I'm compromising mere aesthetics for something far more enduring: The ability to walk.

Now, it seems, my sacrifice may have been in vain. According to a study published in the latest issue of the medical journal Lancet, thick high heels may be just about as bad for your legs as ravishing but reedy stilettos. Researchers found that while women who wore stick-thin heels were more likely to develop problems in their feet, including tendinitis and bone deformities, women who pulled on thick heels were more likely than their more fashionable brethren to develop serious and potentially debilitating knee problems.

Sure, the study's authors discovered, chunky heels are less likely than stilettos to send a woman tumbling off a curb or down a flight of stairs, but they're just as likely to send her scrambling to an osteopath. And, believe it or not, those Blahniks may actually have a kind of built-in safety feature: They're so darn precarious that most women can't wear them for extended periods. Ostensibly healthy chunky heels, on the other hand, encourage a false sense of comfort and safety, and so their wearers keep them on longer, increasing the potential damage to their knees.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you what this means: As soon as I get home today, I'm packing up those dependable heels and sending them off to a local charity (where I hope they find a non-injurious use — as imaginative doorstops or bookends, for example). And then, jaw set in determination, I will march my kitten-heeled feet down to my local Blahnik dealer, where I will pick out my favorite pair, try them on, and walk triumphantly around the store. And then I will put them back, caressing them gently as they're re-wrapped in soft tissue paper. And I'll walk away again, savoring the knowledge that if I ever lose my mind or win the lottery, the shoes are out there, just waiting for my hapless soles.