The latest footwear trend has orthopedic surgeons and child development experts worried: Girls as young as three years old wearing high heels. The trend took off after celebrity toddlers, like Tom Cruise’s daughter Suri, were photographed wearing sparkly, pint-size heels. And they’ve been flying off store shelves ever since.
Little girls love wearing heels because it makes them taller, and they feel grown up like Mommy. But experts say it’s part of a larger trend of sexualizing children, just like selling padded bras and makeup to eight-year-olds. Dr. Logan Levkoff is an adolescent health expert. And she says that heels, even if they’re only an inch or two high, sexualize little girls because that’s what heels were designed to do. They change a woman’s posture to make her more attractive to men. But know this: Sexualization is not only imposing sexuality on children before they're ready; it’s also about valuing a girl for her appearance above all else.
Plus from a physical health standpoint, foot doctors worry that high heels can affect a child’s balance and force the body’s weight forward, which can cause joint and foot pain. And as the child grows, wearing heels on a regular basis can cause the Achilles tendon to shorten, causing inflammation and making the rest of the foot grow off-kilter. This means a little girl in heels is more likely to get hammer toes and bunions, not to mention being more susceptible to ankle sprains and broken bones.
That’s why foot and ankle surgeon Dr. James Brodsky recommends that girls wait until they’re at least 12 to learn to wear heels, once they’re past puberty and their bones are fully developed. And even then, limit it to once or twice a week for four hours max.