Researchers have found that heels can “emphasize femininity” and change the way the entire body moves, including the pelvis, hips, legs, knees, feet and even the shoulders.
Scientists at the University of Portsmouth found that women wearing heels were rated as more attractive than when wearing flat shoes, even when those making the judgement are unable to see faces or bodies.
The study appears in the scientific journal Evolution and Human Behavior.
Researchers wrote that “evolution may partly explain the continuing popularity of high heels as an article of the female wardrobe”.
“If wearing high heels emphasizes some sex-speciﬁc aspects of the female form they may make women more attractive, and one motivation, which may be conscious or unconscious, for wearing heels is that it is part of mate selection,” The Independent on Sunday reports.
As part of the research women were filmed walking for four minutes wearing identical flat shoes and 6 cm heels.
All women who took part in research had an average of around 10 pairs of heels, which they wore at least once a week.
To ensure the women were rated on how attractive they were purely based on their high heels researchers used a technique called point-light display which highlights points of the body with lit markers.
It means the judges would see only the patterns of these lights as the woman walks.
Men and women viewed 30-second video clips of the walkers in high heels and flat shoes moving towards them and rated them on femininity and attractiveness.
In each case the women were rated as more attractive in heels.
Women judges also rated them as more attractive than the men did.
A second experiment – asking judges to guess whether the person walking towards them was a man or woman – saw women wearing flat shoes twice as likely to be viewed as a man.
It was also discovered that an average woman walked more quickly in heels, changing from 106 to 110 steps a minutes, but with shorter strides – from 1.24 to 1.20 metres.
The researchers wrote: “Women in high heels walked in a fashion more characteristic of female gait. The results are consistent with the idea that wearing high heels makes women look more attractive, and added: ‘Fashions by their very nature are ephemeral, but fashions that endure, such as high heels, may emphasize sex-specific aspects of the body.”