PAINFUL, restrictive, unsteady and downright dangerous, yet currently the epitome of female style. Well – that's fashion, dahling. For the past few seasons high heels have been getting higher and more fetishistic, and six-inchers have become a staple on the catwalk and the high street alike. The must-have shoe for autumn is pointy-toed with a killer spike of a heel, a miserable departure from the more wearable block heels and round toes we've enjoyed for the past couple of seasons.
However, this week the current trend for downright nutty heels may have gone too far: not one, but two models in the Prada show in Milan on Tuesday toppled over as they tried to negotiate the catwalk in their ankle-breaking snakeskin platforms. And Miuccia Prada isn't the only designer inflicting these lethal weapons upon us: the style is a favourite with hot designers including Giuseppe Zanotti, Roger Vivier, Dior, Giambattista Valli and – perhaps the worst offender – Christian Louboutin.
So if the professionals can't manage to walk 50 feet in them, what hope for the rest of us? The 'car-to-bar' shoe (so called because they're so painful that you can manage the walk from your taxi to the barstool and no more) was once seen only on strippers, drag queens and the occasional very high-maintenance woman. Walk into most shoe shops on the high street today, though, and you'll see women ooh-ing and ahh-ing over 'nosebleed' shoes – the kind that are so high and precarious that they make you feel faint. How on earth does one go about daily life in these instruments of torture? And when did shoes that would make a drag queen wince become the norm?
A devotee to chic-but-comfortable flatties, I've decided it's time to see what all the fuss is about, so I head for the Edinburgh branch of Office shoes to get myself kitted out. The staff recommend the rather ironically named 'Party All Night' style, a six-inch black patent platform that, two years ago, probably wouldn't have been seen outside of a sex shop. Today, however, two women are trying on the shoe for size and the assistant who serves me tells me that she herself owns a pair and that they've been flying off the shelves.
Surely, then, they can't be too challenging? After all, as the joke goes, models can't think and walk at the same time – plus, with those spindly legs, it's no wonder they keeled over. Strapping myself in to my new shoes, I quickly develop a newfound respect for models. You'd need a degree in posture and balance to be able to walk in them with any dignity.
Navigating the cobbles on the Royal Mile, I look like a drunken giraffe. My knees knock together and my ankles wobble precariously, so much so that two women approach me to ask if I'm all right. However, cobbles are nothing compared to the challenge that is walking downhill while remaining upright. With my whole body thrust forward in an ungainly manner, I resort to a bizarre shuffle, grabbing a tourist's shoulder at one point in an attempt to stay vertical.
Never was the phrase 'beauty is pain' more appropriate. And yet, I don't actually think these shoes look very good. I'm worried I might get mistaken for a hooker. Far from drawing envious glances, responses range from sneers to blatant laughter. Quite simply, I look silly. The pain, discomfort and sense of vertigo (I'm over six feet tall in these babies) simply aren't worth it. There's no worse fashion faux pas than a woman who can't walk in heels, and nothing more depressing than spending all evening thinking about your feet. And yet, increasingly, women will spend a night on the dancefloor in nosebleed shoes (albeit walking home barefoot, heels in hand, afterwards).
Slipping back into my flat boots, I feel as if I've stepped off a boat and back on to dry land – I'm still swaying. Never again will I risk life and – quite literally – limb to look so ridiculous. And yet, ten minutes after clambering out of them the adrenalin is still pumping. Forget extreme sports: if you really want to live life on the edge and experience a euphoric surge like no other, try navigating the Royal Mile in platforms. Talk about a natural high…