It’s 9.47pm and I’m in the recovery position… no, not on my side with knees drawn up, but lying upside down on the bed with my legs perpendicular to the wall. This is not some new-fangled fancy way to get racy in the boudoir, dear readers of a delicate disposition, but a much-needed remedial therapy technique I have honed over many years. Yet again I am trying to get the blood back to my brain, blood that clearly left my noggin when I decided that 5-inch spike heels priced at the national debt of a small African country, and now hurled to the back of the wardrobe in disgust, would be de rigueur for Royal Ascot. More like de rigor mortis as my crippled toes, fallen arches and sore soles scream at me in pain. What started out this morning as ankles are now most definitely cankles; I am sure the entire quantity of champagne drunk has pooled in my extremities. As I lie staring at the ceiling, willing the circulation back into my aching feet, I muse upon the tyranny of heels and the fact the most beautiful of these instruments of torture are almost exclusively designed by men: Jimmy Choo, Louboutin and Carrie Bradshaw’s favourite Manolo Blahnik to name but a few. These demigods of haute couture chaussures obviously think we have hidden superpowers that render us able to flounce about on tiptoes all day long. Wrong.
I read that in May during the Cannes Film Festival, women had been turned away from the red carpet for wearing flats. Quelle horreur! The festival director said that while high heels were not insisted upon, women must be elegantly dressed with smart footwear; let me tell you, while they look divine the only thing that will smart is your feet at the end of it.
I have done “the season” to a greater or lesser extent for the past 25 years and one would have thought longevity alone would have given me the wisdom not to make the rookie mistake of style over function. It’s a tricky, sticky wicket, as high heels are elegant and leg-lengthening, not to mention bottom-boosting and curve-enhancing; but they are best confined to sitting down for long periods with short bursts of activity in between; a full day on a Berkshire racecourse definitely does not fit that particular description. Ill-fitting shoes that pinch, bind, rub and squish render the wearer unable to think about anything else. Then there is the torture of sitting down and wondering if one removes them, will they go back on? And the hideous “wince mince” as one moves painfully about; each step an agony akin to Ariel’s plight in The Little Mermaid.
It’s not just me, we all do it. I have watched silly fillies trotting about the Ascot paddocks or at the polo in precariously high heels. Not only are their feet in shreds, so is the grass.
The most blissful Ascot, Henley and Goodwood was in 2006, and not just because the weather was sublime. I was heavily pregnant and all pretensions to fashion went right out of the window. I was in my last trimester and heels were vetoed. I was as fit and healthy as a thoroughbred horse and trotted about happily from the paddock to the rails and back to the Grandstand with a smile on my face and flatties on my feet. In fact, my ankles were markedly less swollen at the end of the day than they had ever been pre-pregnancy.
A successful season: I actually got to see the racing, rowing, driving etc., and even trod the divots without getting my heels stuck once.
I turn my head, which is the only part of me that moves freely and without pain, and contemplate the darkening sky. It is that beautiful shade of satiny blue, darker than navy but not quite black, which would look stunning in raw silk with fuchsia or hot orange accessories… now, I wonder who does shoes in that colour?
There’s little our Minxy doesn’t know about glamour, but for the pain of high heels, even she struggles to find a solution