back to article Official science: High heels make you sexy

However uncomfortable, overly expensive and impractical killer heels may be, think again before ditching them for your next night out: new science has proved high-heeled shoes definitely make women look sexy. In the same year CERN boffins found the Higgs Boson in a gigantic underground particle accelerator, an academic study …


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  1. jake Silver badge

    Personally, as a degreed mechanical engineer ...

    ... I find the entire concept disgusting.

    So-called "naughty knickers" work, in context, when applied appropriately ... but heels, fagetaboutit ... too much room for error. I don't find potential permanent damage to my wife's lower extremities attractive. At all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Personally, as a degreed mechanical engineer ...

      You sound more like an Uggs man

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You sound more like an Uggs man

        Sure that must constitute a contradiction in terms

      2. jake Silver badge

        Ug. No, not Uggs. Ariats. (was: Re: Personally, as a degreed mechanical engineer ...)

        We run a profitable horse ranch. Proper footwear is important.

        However, personally, after all these years, I still prefer her sky-clad :-)

    2. Mips

      Re: Personally, as a degreed mechanical engineer ...

      "Brainiacs" ? Hey com'on this is Portsmouth we are talking about. You can't be serious, anything in a skirt looks good in Pompy.

  2. Da Weezil
    Paris Hilton


    Seriously.... people get paid for this stuff? I'm In the wrong job!!!!

    Paris - the conclusion is so obvious its laughable.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Really?????

      Exactly. What a waste of time. Plus isn't it a subjective outcome? Dependant on the man placing a priority on the traits that are enhanced. Not to mention that high heels are unlikely to help a DTS pull.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Really?????

        They didn't only test how men viewed the wearers of high heels, they used both male and females to view and mark the videos.

        Now what I want to know is how they can use point light analysis to prove that adding seamed stockings to the high heels further enhances the effect.

        1. Bleu

          Re: Really?????

          ... seamed stockings and a bow just on the ankle line, works on me, although the last pair I had are too laddered to wear now.

          The tragic types who wear high heels to conceal short legs and stalk about leaning forward, all too common where I'm from, ugh!

          Crap `study' but lots of interesting comments from commentards! Not tech, but nice to see.

      2. Annihilator

        Re: Really?????

        "What a waste of time."

        Consider why it was published:

        1) it was part of a study of human behaviour, these sorts of things are useful to know in evolutionary studies

        2) (most likely) it's a good advertisement for Portsmouth Uni, coincidentally 2 weeks before admission deadlines close (15th Jan), particularly for the Sports & Exercise Science course starting in September.

        3) (less likely, but plausible), it's not uncommon for sponsored research work. Wouldn't be at all surprised if I saw Schuh or similar quoting the results.

        But of the likeliest options, I'd go with 2, with a mixture of 1.

    2. Graham Marsden

      Re: Really?????

      Yeah, but heels don't work in isolation.

      The University of Portsmouth could have researched the negative sex-appeal involved in poor choices of clothing, make-up or the lack of intelligence by going down Guildhall Walk or South Parade on a Friday night...!

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: Really?????

        heels don't work in isolation

        All I'm going to say is that you may want to rethink that statement :)

    3. theblackhand
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Really?????

      Re: Seriously.... people get paid for this stuff?

      I think you're underestimating the effort required to produce this report.

      Spending 2-3 nights a week in bars watching woman in high heels and fending off bouncers is harder than it appears when you have to do it week in and week out for the duration of the study.

      And the beer doesn't drink itself...

  3. Anonymous Coward

    I'm now officially puzzled

    I may be wrong but I seem to recall some research a few years ago that said ladies who "seductively gyrate and swing their hips" while walking are in fact at their least fertile and therefore don't need to "look sexy".

    PS Mrs Coat has some 6 inch heels that look rather pleasant.

  4. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    I disagree, it's the legs not the shoes

    I live in a country where flip-flops ar de rigeur, and heels are used only for special occasions, and I can assure you from years of visual research, studying legs on motorcycles, that it is the shape of the leg that matters.

    A leg without a well defined ankle, even if shod in a pair of heels, looks like sh*t.

    So stuff your science and study the form.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I disagree, it's the legs not the shoes

      Wearing High Heels changes the shape of the Calf. The muscles become more defined and the overall proportions improve (IMHO).

      As a male who sometimes wears heels (to please Mrs A/C I can assure you) I know the above from firsthand. It is not only men who appreciate the shape of womens legs & heels. Mrs A/C does as well. However there is (in our opinions) an optimum height of heel for each person. For a small person, 6in heels look silly and even cartoonish. However for a tall person (over 6ft) they don't yet there is a lot of pressure for tall women to wear flats so they don't appear taller than their partner. Well that might not be true for a certain Mr B Ecclestone (of F1). Many Men are so fickle aren't they? (Mrs A/C is taller than me in bare feet and I don't care)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: relative heel height

        The choice of heel height is probably more to do with foot size.

        A lady with small delicate feet can not wear a 6" heel without a hideously thick platform sole, if they were to try they'd need to on point like a ballerina. More statuesque ladies are more likely to have longer feet, just as they are likely to have longer legs and everything else, so a greater fall can be accommodated in their foot wear.

        In terms of attractiveness, then practising in one's heels is most important. If ladies wear higher heels than they can comfortably cope with then they loose all poise and end up walking like some mutant wading bird, which alas is not in the slightest bit seemly.

        1. stanimir

          Re: relative heel height

          While the science is from the funny type there article clearly says 6cm, not 6 inches.

          6cm is acceptable for most grown up females and not so torturing as 6".

          1. xyz Silver badge

            Re: relative heel height

            No you got the conversion wrong due to a reference frame error. 6 women centimeters = 6 man inches and any woman who tells you 6cm is accepatble is being kind to you.

            1. stanimir

              6cm is accepatble

              @xyz, nice one :).

              I clearly recall a girl saying that 6cm is enough and the rest is just greed however I can also vouch that women like it bigger for pure aesthetic pleasure.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: relative heel height

            "torturing as 6 inch"

            Depends on the wearer. I know a few who practically live in 5", but they are former ballerinas and if they walk during the summertimes in heels and skirt the risk of road accidents goes up dramatically (they're also the few that I know that can walk gracefully on 6" - don't ask me how they manage but it looks delicious).

            It's a simple fact that not everyone can walk on such heels.

            1. stanimir

              Re: relative heel height

              My girlfriend wears some 5" (11cm actually) at work (office, no she is not a dancer) but walking on high stilettos takes flat surface. Pavement and the likes are the torture.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: says 6cm, not 6 inches.

            I thought the ladies said 6 inches was the opening bid, and anyone offering 6cm would be laughed at by everyone in the room.

      2. FreeTard
        Thumb Up

        Re: I disagree, it's the legs not the shoes

        Cannot believe some eejit gave you a thumbs down. So what if your missus likes you in heels, if you get more sex out it job done. Thumbs up from me mate.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I disagree, it's the gait.

        Agreed. As an occasional crossdresser, wearing a moderate amount of heel is an important component of misdirection (i.e. making other people not notice I'm not actually a woman). Not only is the body shape when standing altered, you have to rotate your hips and keep a better upper body balance to avoid falling over when walking. It may or may not be "sexy", but it certainly prevents the typical masculine stompiness.

        But it doesn't need a published study to tell us this. Suggest it's a slow news day, so filling space with a pre-written press release/article from the University of the Bleeding Obvious.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I disagree, it's the gait.

          > making other people not notice I'm not actually a woman

          You think?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I disagree, it's the gait.

            I get some nice comments from my female friends about how good my legs look in heels. Mrs A/C (From above) agrees but makes sure she is the only one wearing heels in Public (most of the time).

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Size fish heel

        In terms of heel "rating" the heel height is based on a standard shoe size (I think it's something 6 in the USA, so UK 4) so the shape of the foot should actually be consistent in the same model of shoe in all sizes. So, yes, I'd expect a difference with actual heel height, but not in the same make of shoe.

        I think a 5" rated heel is my personal taste limit. 3 1/2" rated heel is my wife's walking limit. 2" rated heel is now my wife's limit to wear them for an extended period.

        I don't know how I'd have answered the test since they didn't see the actual shoe. Chunky heels do less than nothing for me, while sculpted stiletto heels do way too much.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I disagree, it's the legs not the shoes

        It's that change to the shape and definition of the calf that makes me prefer seeing women in flat shoes (or bare feet) --- I know the calf I'm seeing is the real thing, and not a trick!

    2. Bleu

      Re: I disagree, it's the legs not the shoes

      There is a pottery shard from ancient Greecd bearing the words `I hate a woman thick about the ankles'. Since reding it the first time, always had resonance here.

    3. I think so I am?

      Re: I disagree, it's the legs not the shoes

      "de rigUeur"

  5. Dave Bell

    Circular reasoning?

    I just wonder how it is that the particular gait came to be seen as sexy in the first place.

    It's possible that the exaggerated hip movements can be traced back to apes, but I think it's a stretch. I think modern culture has a huge amount of invented sexual signalling, depending on the movies, and stage performance before that, and a lot of it is essentially a caricature. We're being presented with a world of sexual availabilily signalled by high heels and breast implants. For the stage, at least, there was always exaggeration of body and facial language.

    1. Bush_rat

      Re: Circular reasoning?

      I believe heels became sexy round the same time London was flooding with shit and other undesirables on roads during the 1800's. They were practacle back then to keep crap from tarnishing your dress. Rich women wore them, people wanted to be rich or be with rich people.

      Of course I could be completely batshit wrong about this. Here's a Wikipedia article for those interested enough to keep reading, but not interested enough to find material on the subject.

      1. Kubla Cant

        Re: Circular reasoning?

        The problem with this hypothesis is that high heels only keep the heel out of the muck. AFAIK the usual footwear for staying above wet and muck was the patten - a kind of overshoe that raises the whole foot.

        I'm sure rich women didn't wear special footwear to keep their skirts clean. Part of the point of extravagant dress such as long skirts is to show that you're rich enough to have somebody else to clean your clothes and rich enough not to be very bothered about replacing them. Lord Byron apparently wore white linen trousers that he threw away after one wearing. I bet his lady friends were even more extravagant.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Circular reasoning?

      @Dave Bell

      Absolutely. The researchers also made that point.

      "There is a strong contemporary association between high heels and female sexuality."

    3. skeptical i

      exaggerated gait, aura of helplessness [was: Circular reasoning?]

      Some theories I've heard (not that I've researched the subject in depth, mind) are the exaggeration of curves (hip sway when walking, butt lifted up a bit, calf muscles stand out more), and the idea that whoever is wearing them is vulnerable -- less easy to get away, on less steady footing than if wearing trucker boots, et cetera. Given that once upon a time high-born gentlemen wore high heels and would certainly not have done so if they thought such shoes projected an aura of helplessness, I have questions about the second theory but given some of the batshit crazy heels I've seen some bimbos tottering around in I can't dismiss it outright.

      <-- I believe some of our favorite historical pirates were not adverse to a bit of heel on their boots, yarrrr!

      1. Hollerith 1

        Re: exaggerated gait, aura of helplessness [was: Circular reasoning?]

        Men wearing higher heels in 1600s and 1700s were telling the world (1) they did not need to walk far 920 they did not need to work. Gentlemen wore heels.

        Woemn wear heels partly to show they are vulnerable: being weaker is part of the concept of femininity. Most 'sexy' outfits emphasise this. One of the reasons women were hobbled for had their feet bound was to make them helpless.

    4. Grave

      Re: Circular reasoning?

      decades of targeted social conditioning and subliminal media brainwashing

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just as well you qualified it (Ladies)

    otherwise I would have been tempted to give it a go.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just true

    Very old indeed, but many years ago there was this assumption that intelligent women use lover heels. Try Russia and you will be better informed.

  8. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Special AIR&dD Services

    Methinks more deeper investigation is called for. Any volunteers? :-) .... for Special Operations Executive HyperRadioProActive IT Missions ...... SMARTR IntelAIgent Sorties.

    Which is Theresa May Killer Heels Territory doing Virtual Battle for the Home Office and MI5 in ESPecial ParaMilitary Operations with Remote Virtual Global Control Leverage, an Active Danegeld Supply Source of Flash Instant Cash Jackpot Delivery.

    Governments do put themselves into a terminal tale tailspin whenever they deny enlightening information and newly phormed views with breaking grandstanding news such as is Absolutely Fabulous Fabless Help with Special Instructions from/for Drivers is CHAOS in Action and on HyperRadioProActive Service being offered freely to governments and one non state actor governments alike in the likes of these Open Registered Posts delivering Fuller Transparency and Information OverLode ..... or OverLoad, which would all depend upon one's preferred stable state of mind, methinks, as to whether one is enriched or overwhelmed by Powers with Greater Knowledge.

  9. Andrew Moore

    I don't understand why this is considered 'new' research.

    The film 'Kinky Boots' gave a concise reason for the appeal of high heels; To wit: "That they presented the buttocks in away that indicated the female was available for breeding"

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We isolated the effects of heels on gait using point-light methodology. Females were recorded walking in flat shoes and high heels."

    Someone in another forum suggested that the researchers should have controlled the experiment by including men wearing the same heels. The point-light method would hide the walker's other sex indicators.

    If the results favoured those wearing high heels, of either sex, then it would suggest that it was a cultural artefact rather than a basic difference in male/female physiology.

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    In other news

    Some men like to think of women as people, not objects.

  12. MrT

    I'll not be commiting myself...

    ... until Service Pack 1, on any mission-critical systems.




    Oops, sorry, mixing up my in-depth, detailed reports from the Department of the Bleedin' Obvious there.

    Anyway, I thought that high heels gave a longer stride, not a faster pitter-patter Essex girl trot... (at least that's what I guess they're saying from the bits with pictures). For a control, they should've at least visited a range of theatres showing "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and observed all the lads from local rugby teams dressed as Frank. Again, risks a punch in the face, but that's no less than they deserve for their efforts.

    《《 this would have been the Sherlock icon if the m.forums site let us pick them...

  13. Grikath

    neither new nor original

    There's been quite a few studies like this over the past decade or two, usually by promovendi from the fuzzy sector, and they all come to the same conclusion: high heels make women appear to be more sexy.

    Absolutely not surprising, given that high heels, as mentioned in previous posts, do indeed change the shape of the leg, making it appear longer, emphasising the calf, thigh, and buttocks, which are simple biological sexual/fitness markers.

    That in itself would still not amount to much, since they are only subtle secondary markers. High heels, however, also force an upright posture with "tits and ass out" and a gait that is usually referred to as a "strut". Both posture and gait are things that women tend to do naturally by design, but especially when they are out hunting and up to mischief. Absolutely no heels needed there. Physics and evolution made them that way, and the same mechanism makes us blokes pay attention.

    The sad part about the cultural aspect here is that in most cultures this quite appealing behaviour is rigorously (and sometimes violently) suppressed as "inappropriate".

  14. nsld

    looking at our medal haul at the Olympics

    And speaking as someone with a degree in sport science i would suggest the author might need to rethink his comments on the field.

    I guess that's the problem with tech writers, if you can't do it, denigrate it.

    1. Stuart Van Onselen

      Re: looking at our medal haul at the Olympics

      Well, maybe snarking on Sports Science is probably unfair. But Evo-Psych has become a cesspit of sexism, self-reinforcement, and just-so-stories.

      It may once have had some respect as a "soft-science" but it lost every last shred of that a long time ago, largely due to "research" such as this.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Germaine Greer

    calls them fuck-me shoes.

    who funded this scientific study?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So many factors..

    First off, "attractive" is subjective.

    The whole package, however, is a subtle play of curves. There are good heels and bad heels - good heels take care to load the foot bone structure in a way that doesn't cause damage, and are engineered properly (there are a *lot* of mechanics involved in a decent high heel), and there is a "maximum height" above which no woman should go (easily found - if the front leg goes straight into the toes as one straight line you are really at the maximum point - go beyond that and you're looking at damage) - depends on the feet involved.

    Bad heels do not distribute pressure properly and should be banned as torture devices. Platforms tend to quickly trend towards being crap because the height throws off the delicate balance required, and the designer's idea to put a heel fully at the end of a shoe is stupid as well (the heel should really be under the body's weight or they will hurt when walking as you end up creating a lever effect). There is a reason why the classic spike heeled pump has endured so well over the years as a design - from an engineering perspective it offers the best balance between support and height. However, it needs someone with trained ankles.

    Price is not an *absolute* measure of quality, but if you like the elegant sight of a woman in heels and she is your partner I suggest you don't skimp on price or complain about it - it's not design you pay for, it is (in many ways) feel good factor.. With boots it gets a bit more complex because then you also have to deal with the shape of the leg - a leg with decent muscle development is easier to design for (the "modelling" leg is a tad too underdefined, but that's a personal opinion, I like people with an athletic build that at least throw a shadow).

    Anon because I know far too much of this I had friends who had a shoe factory, and as an engineer it's fascinating to see how complex it actually is to create a good pair of heels or boots (it helps having a happy test recipient around :)..


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