I frequently hear of shoe brands suing each other over intellectual property infringement issues. Steven Madden has been confronted by umpteen brands. Representatives of Christian Louboutin regularly appear in court to uphold a patent for the Chinese red sole colour. But have you ever thought you would take the company who made your footwear to court (excuse the shoe-themed pun)? What if you wore a pair of pointed toed, high heeled court shoes to work every day for a year and your feet sustained long-term damage?

For years, the USA has been known as a country in which litigation is rife. This culture seems to be gradually working its way into the British way of life, and I’m uncomfortable with this. I think people should take responsibility for their own decision-making, but I do wonder what would happen if shoe companies were held more accountable for their products.

Actually there has been one case I know of, where a class action lawsuit was brought against the brand Skechers in the USA. This was based on advertised health claims of the toning abilities of certain styles of footwear. The ability of the shoes to firm wearers’ buttocks was claimed to be unfounded, and there were even accusations that the footwear caused back pain. According to Business Insider, Skechers had to pay $40 million to customers who bought the shoes. Perhaps if a shoe brand doesn’t make any claims about the wearability, comfort or durability of its shoes, it won’t make itself vulnerable to lawsuits.

It appears that Christian Louboutin is taking the opposite position of Skechers. He is quite open about the discomfort his footwear can cause. The designer has been quoted as saying “High heels are pleasure with pain“. He was even reported in the New Yorker in 2011 expressing “‘Comfy’—that’s one of the worst words!“. Is this a clever way of insuring the Louboutin brand against legal action?

What if a sales assistant recommended a shoe style, which turned out to be unsuited to your feet. Only yesterday I was chatting with a lady who has bunions and a hammer toe, and had been ill-advised by sales staff in the store of a well-known comfort brand. The shoes they recommended to her were so uncomfortable that she was only able to wear them once. In that circumstance, would you return the worn footwear?

As explained in Spectator Health just a few days ago, “calf muscles may shorten, and tendons thicken with long-term wearing of high heels“. This article by health expert Dr Roger Henderson also details “strain on the knees, lower back and hips” as a consequence of wearing high heeled footwear. A study of patients in USA emergency departments published in The Journal of foot and ankle surgery, found that “high-heel-related injuries have nearly doubled during the 11-year period from 2002 to 2012“. These articles don’t even mention how an inherited tendency for bunions can be aggravated, or corns develop as a consequence of wearing uncomfortable shoes.

Have excruciating and dangerous high-heeled shoes become the norm? The Journal of foot and ankle surgery study explains how more injuries were caused to women between the ages of 20-29 than to older women. Should we be teaching our daughters to look after their feet as well as they care for their teeth?

The thing is, shoes can be comfortable and beautiful. These two elements are not mutually exclusive. You just need to know what to look for. It’s time to take responsibility for your own comfort and foot health. You’ll discover lots of essential tips and tricks for finding the holy grail of footwear in my book The Shoe Shopping Kit.

How long will it be before all footwear comes with a disclaimer? To avoid this extreme anti-litigation measure, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask shoe brands to make foot-shaped footwear. I provide consultancy services to help them work out the best way to make this happen.

We all have the power to stop companies from making uncomfortable footwear. Stop buying it, and they’ll stop making it.

I’ll leave you with one final thought: If a washing machine looked great but gradually ruined your clothes, would you still buy it?

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