Researchers have called for new laws to stop women being forced to wear high heels at work or in bars and nightclubs.
Academics at the University of Aberdeen who carried out a review of scientific studies into the shoes said more needs to be done to address the issue.
Women’s attractiveness to men was increased by wearing high heels but the footwear also raised the risk of developing musculoskeletal conditions, bunions and the chance of personal injury, researchers found.
Authors of the study have called on devolved parliaments to consider their own legislation after the UK government rejected calls for new laws following the case of receptionist Nicola Thorp, who was sent home after refusing to wear heels at work.
The London temp arrived at PwC in flat shoes, but was told she had to have a 2-4in heel.
She launched a petition which attracted more than 152,400 signatures asking for it to be made illegal for companies to require women to wear the footwear for their jobs. Dr Max Barnish, who led the research, said: “From our review it is clear that despite the huge amount of evidence showing heels are bad for individuals’ health, there are complex social and cultural reasons that make high heel wearing attractive.
“We feel the UK government should follow the lead of other authorities who have introduced specific laws to tackle this practice rather than simply relying on existing legislation which has left the situation in this country uncertain and open to misinterpretation.
“Also, this matter has in the UK been so far addressed through UK-wide equality laws. However, there may be scope for the devolved nations of the UK such as Scotland to consider introducing further measures under devolved health legislative powers.”
The Canadian province of British Columbia has changed the law to ban employers from requiring female staff to wear high heels.
Dr Heather Morgan, a lecturer at the university, said: “Of course we are not trying to tell anyone that they should or shouldn’t wear high heels, but we hope this review will inform wearers to help them weigh up the health risks with social benefits, as well as putting pressure on lawmakers to toughen up legislation so that no-one is forced against their will to wear them in the workplace or in licensed public social venues.
“However, expectations are not always explicit and some may feel forced even if the law protects them.”