Thursday, January 21, 2010

Times That Try (Wo)men's Soles

In addition to my day job, I'm an adjunct journalism professor and last night was my first night back for the spring semester. Since I spend way too much time with my hair pulled back and in sweats (on the way to the gym or karate class), I try my best to dress professionally when I step onto the classroom, which usually means dress pants, a nice blouse or sweater and (drumroll....) a pair of pumps. Not very high pumps (I am 6'2", after all), but with a bit of a heel just the same.

Since my class ends at 9:30pm, it's quite dark when I head to my car for the trip home, which means there are lots of shadows around bushes, building entryways and corners even with the campus' sidewalk lamps blazing the path. Forever the karateka, last night I ran a few self-defense scenarios in my head as my heels clicked across the cobblestones en route to the parking lot. Balancing my weight and that of my briefcase on shoes teetering in the sidewalk breaks and cobblestones proved quite tricky - so much so that I couldn't imagine being able to run away or spin on the balls of my feet to throw a kick if I needed to. I felt sort of powerless in a way, which made me want to get to my car that much quicker, which of course my shoes prevented me from doing. And this is the same campus where I take karate class twice a week - but it is a totally different place at night when I'm rocking my "girl" shoes, I found...

I haven't done much training in regular clothing (READ: sans gi or in any type of shoes), but we're often told to kick shoes like sandals, flip-flops or mules off as soon as a confrontation seems unavoidable. But my boots were zippered almost up to my knee. No way I was gonna be able to kick those things off unless I asked the attacker to allow me a few seconds to unzip them.

So what's a professional woman to do - toss out every pair of "girl" shoes in the closet and wear running sneakers everywhere? Learn how to navigate in tricky footwear (as if walking in shoes with a heel wasn't challenging enough) a-la the animated female warriors from Tekken? It can be a real dilemma for some of us - and I train on a regular to be aware of my surroundings/potentially bad situations. What about the women who don't? I'm sure Joe Evildoer looking for a potential victim watches for things like tricky footwear, scarves or ponytails (to make grabbing from behind easier). Hmmm...Perhaps our footwear can make us potential victims by default, whether we train or not...

As for me, I'll be carrying my "girl" shoes in my bag from now on just to be on the safe side. How about you?


  1. Hi Felicia - I generally wear 'shoe-boots' in the winter but they still have zips on them so they can't be kicked off. However, I just imagined that I would defend myself with my boots on - they make nasty weapons on the end of my feet. The heels are only 2in high and I can run in them. I suppose if your footwear is not comfortable for 'fighting' in then changing into sneakers or something to travel to/from car is a sensible option - but I wouldn't dream of going barefoot!

  2. Sue, as Sensei S. so patiently reminds me, you SHOULD be able to do the same things in shoes that you can do without them, but that first night back to class made me kinda question that. I just felt so unsteady - especially since it didn't seem like running in those boots across the cobblestones and while balancing my briefcase and purse was a viable option. Perhaps it was being in a building on campus I'd never been in before, but my "Spidey senses" were tingling...

    I won't be dancing across the cobblestones barefoot, LOL, but it did make me wonder - tradition and Japanese culture considerations aside - why we train without shoes when chances are we'll only face confrontation barefoot if in the dojo, getting into/out of the pool at the gym or in my living room. Heck, let's have some classes while wearing pencil skirts! Show me how to throw a mae geri in a two inch pump! Help me learn how to move around in my long, winter dress coat or in my puffy parka! That's what I'm talking about...

  3. Felicia,
    I have to say, I've thought about my surroundings and "what if" and everything you said many times while walking in my heels. Keep in mind, since I'm a full foot shorter than you, some of my heels are higher than yours :) and I wear them almost every day to work. Same as SueC above, I can run in those suckers. In nasty weather, I change into flats and cuff the pant legs, if need be, when walking out to the parking lot. Clothing, on the other hand is more of a challenge. I suppose modesty will have to not be an option if I had to defend myself while in a pencil skirt.

  4. Hi, Marcel...

    Perhaps it was the briefcase coupled with the shoes - and I'm sure I probably could have run if necessary - but I know I wouldn't have gotten very far very fast thanks to the shoes and those heavy-arse text books I was carrying! Faster in a pair of sneakers, yes, but that wasn't my reality. Guess I need to practice trying to get outta Dodge in my heels if I'm gonna wear them on a regular...

    Thanks for stopping by :-)

  5. Hi Felicia,

    I wear flat comfortable shoes. I prefer clogs and sneakers. I have always worked in a warehouse or factory environment so there has never been a need for high heels.

    I think changing into different shoes is a good idea. I can't walk in high running would be impossible. :)

  6. Michele, I prefer flats as well, but I don't have any dress flats suitable for winter. Maybe Ic an add some rhinestones to my sneakers or something...

    I have another hurt toe, so - for now, at least - running shoes will be all I can wear for a bit...

  7. Back when I was college-aged, heels didn't slow me down at all. On one memorable occassion I did get chased by some loud, semi-drunk guys, and managed to scramble up some boulders in a little impromptu rock climbing to get away - in 3" heels and a fairly tight straight skirt!

    These days I stick to flats and wedges, and usually no more than about an inch-and-a-half.

  8. Wow! Scary stuff, PB. Glad it all worked out alright and you were able to scramble away. I guess in a situation like that, that 3" heel could have been used as a weapon in case one of those fools got up the boulders after you...

    Way to think on your feet :-)

  9. Watch this young lady move in "girl" shoes: