Sunday, February 28, 2010

Does biology explain why humans love shoes?

According to a recent Cosmopolitan article, “We’ve always been wired for shoe lust, even when the going gets tough” (Azodi, 2010). The article gives three supposedly biological reasons why humans, specifically women, like shoes. These anatomical reasons are similar to the previously mentioned fact that human toes became slender and narrower after humans began wearing shoes (Hirst, n.d.). Azodi’s reason include the release of positive feeling inducing neurotransmitters, chemicals that affect mood, after buying shoes, the exploitation of an innate association between height and power that occurs when wearing high-heels, and the feelings of pleasure gained from wearing high-heels because the area of the brain that controls genitals is located next to the area that controls feet. However, although these reasons seem to paint a picture of why humans love shoes, one must be careful when using biology as a justification.

There are issues with some of Azodi’s claims. She seems to be over generalizing, going from some general feeling humans have for shoes, such as that they are a collectable, and justifying that this is why humans love shoes. Although humans like collecting items, there is no reason that they would like collecting shoes more than a less common collectable, such as mops. Another problem is that Azodi is focusing on women. If women get feelings of power and pleasure from wearing heels, men should get the same feelings and wish to wear heels as well. There seems to be no biological different between men and women that would make them wish for different shoes. Surprisingly, the first high heels were worn by a man, and from the 1500s to the French Revolution, heels were popular for men (Borchet, 2009). Many men today have decided to forgo the pleasure of heels, as few men in the United States wear heels. Biology and history seem divergent; thus, there may be more than biology that explains why women wear high heeled shoes. Finally, causation is an issue. There is no research on the brains of early humans to determine what gave them pleasure. Therefore, humans could have evolved, as a result of shoes or even special shoes, such as high heels, to associate positive feeling and shoes. Like the classic who came first the chicken or the egg, one cannot tell if shoes changed human biology or if human biological helped to create a love of shoes.

Ultimately, Azodi tries to use the lens of biology to explain why people like shoes. Because there is no definitive research on the topic, one must be careful when using biology to justify a love of shoes because problems with overgeneralization, history, and causation. Therefore, Azodi presents nothing more than to-be-tested hypotheses on why humans love shoes.

Azodi, M. (2010). Women and shoes: A love story. Cosmopolitan, March, 175.

Borchet, K. (2009). High heels originally designed for men. associatedcontent. Retrieve February 27, 2010 from

Hirst, K.K. (n.d.) History of shoe. Archeology. Retrieved February 14, 2010 from

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