Magazine article The New Yorker

Foot Soldiers

Magazine article The New Yorker

Foot Soldiers

Article excerpt

When Dr. Emily Splichal was growing up in rural North Dakota, footwear loomed small. Then, when she was a senior in high school, she made a trip to New York City to visit an older sister. "Everyone was wearing jeans and heels," Splichal recalled recently. "That is unheard of in North Dakota. In North Dakota, we wear jeans and sneakers." A love of stilettos was born; Splichal, who is thirty-two, now has about a hundred pairs, with a preferred height of four or five inches. She said the other day, "My three-inch heels are like my sneakers, which sounds sort of bad coming from a podiatrist."

Indeed it does, as does much of the advice contained in Splichal's new, self-published book, "Everyday Is Your Runway," a guide to healthy feet for lovers of unhealthy shoes. The book reads a little as if a nutritionist had written a how-to volume on effective bingeing-and-purging techniques. Splichal enumerates the considerable hazards of high heels: arthritis of the big-toe joint; hammertoes; bunions; the dread plantar fasciitis, a stabbing pain in the arch or the heel. She suggests preventive measures, such as standing on golf balls for several minutes, morning and evening. Another foot-friendly diversion: picking up marbles, apelike, with one's toes. With the weary confidence of one who has been there herself, she offers advice on how to wear an ill-fitting but irresistible sample-sale acquisition by applying moleskin to the area of friction on the foot before, not after, a blister arises. "We as women should be celebrated instead of physically punished for our love of shoes," she writes.

"Women are going to wear them anyway," she said, sitting in her office, near Wall Street, and sounding rather like a needle-exchange-program advocate talking about drug use. Splichal, who has long blond hair and is five feet three, unshod, was in Coach pumps with a modest three-inch heel: sober office wear. "I am trying to give women the skills so that, if they are going to wear high heels anyway, these are things you should be doing to stay one step ahead of the damage," she said of her readers and patients. Many of the injuries she sees in her practice are to the feet of young women who insist on mixing alcohol and high heels. …

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