WASHINGTON – Many women say they wear cute but uncomfortable high heels because the shoes make them feel more attractive. A new study, suggests they may have a point, and it may be grounded in evolutionary imperatives.
In the study, a group of men and women viewed videos that showed outlines of women walking in heels and in flats, and were asked to rate how attractive they found the models. People in another group watched the same footage and were asked whether they thought the models (all women) were male or female.
Researchers found that the models in high heels received higher attractiveness scores and that women in flats were more often judged to be male. “It’s not the artificially increased height that turns heads,” Pacific Standard magazine said in reporting the research. “Rather, it’s how such footwear changes the mechanics of a woman’s gait.”
By forcing women to take smaller steps and increasing the “feminine” rotation of the hips, high heels stimulate sexual arousal in men and increased attentiveness from other women, who might consider a high-heeled woman a competitor for male attention. “This can happen on either a conscious or an unconscious level, but this evidence suggests the dynamic is real, and transcends fashion fads,” the magazine says.