What do Suri Cruise and Victoria Beckham have in common? Well, quite a lot actually. They both attract global attention, they’re both regarded as ‘style icons’ and they both have a bit of a thing for high heeled shoes. The big difference? Victoria Beckham is a fully-grown woman; Suri is a seven-year-old girl.
But Suri isn’t the only American child wearing high heels. In fact, the New York Times recently reported that sales of girls ‘fashion footwear’ has grown by 9% over the last year, with several popular brands including GapKids now stocking kids heels.
So, can we expect to see a similar trend in Australia? Brenden Brown, from the Australian Podiatry Association (NSW&ACT) hopes not:
“Children wearing high heels for long periods of time is a huge concern. Children are growing, so their bones are very soft. If you change the position of the foot then their bones can ossify into a misshapen position. It’s not about aesthetics, we’re talking about their feet being functionally imperfect.”
It’s not just the potential damage to their feet, Brown also warns that as children are still learning balance and co-ordination and developing their centre of gravity, wearing any type of heel could cause an unnecessary accident. “Wearing even a small heel will shift their centre of gravity meaning that they’re much more likely to fall”, he explains.
Shae Reynolds, who has three daughters under the age of eight says she would never consider buying them heeled shoes:
“Any adult who has worn high heels will know that you can’t do anything in them. They’re uncomfortable, you can’t walk properly. I can’t imagine how a child could play – they can’t climb a tree, run around in the park, or ride a bike when they’re wearing shoes that are completely impractical.”
However, Reynolds doesn’t object to her daughters wearing high heels when they are playing dressing up games. “They shuffle around in them for a few minutes, but they soon kick them off because they can’t go very far.”
Childhood behavioural consultant Nathalie Brown says that there is a big distinction between young girls wanting to emulate grown up women as part of role-play and allowing them to wear heels every day. “Girls need to be girls and have their childhood for as long as possible. You shouldn’t be able to go to your regular shoe store and see high heels amongst the school shoes," she says. So are Australian shoe stores marketing high heels to children?
Clarks Australia does not sell high heels for children in any of their stores. “Shoes such as high heels put pressure on different parts of the feet causing unnecessary stress, which when a foot is still growing can cause long term damage. This is why we choose not to feature this style in our children’s footwear ranges,” a spokesperson said.
Similarly, a spokesperson for Target Australia said that there hasn’t been any demand for children’s high heels from customers. “We offer a wide range of casual and dress children’s footwear, however we don’t stock high heeled children’s shoes, and we’ve not seen any growing demand from customers for us to carry such a line.”
However, Melinda Liszewski, spokesperson for the grassroots movement ‘Collective Shout’, says that she has noticed an increase in the number of parents making contact to report children’s high heels in Australian stores. “People are concerned by the increasing trend for heeled shoes,” she says.
“Heels are associated with adult fashion, adult women wear high heels which are often seen as sexualising an outfit”, says Liszewski. “We need to allow space for children to just be children”.