High heels are fashionable, but uncomfortable, and can even lead to chronic foot damage. At first glance, it doesn’t make sense to favor footwear which harm and hurt feet, plus render it difficult to run from ancient and modern predators.
But if wearing high heels makes women more attractive, allowing them to be more choosy over a larger number of higher quality males competing for their attention, this could explain the evolutionary advantages of this fashion statement.
As women normally walk differently from men, high heels may help exaggerate the particularly feminine aspects of gait. What these shoes do is make women walk even more like women.
Male gait involves greater velocity, longer stride length and slower rate. There are also differences in side swing. Men present more movement of the head and greater upper body side sway, whereas women display increased hip movement.
Gait is studied using point-light displays representing the body as a series of markers placed on key landmarks on limbs. In these experiments, the perceiver is presented with a pattern of dots on a screen. Because all they are seeing are dots moving, any impact on preferences or attractiveness has to be something to do with movement patterns, and not static physical appearance.
Perceivers are remarkably good at making sense of the patterns of movement of point-light display dots, and are able to distinguish between male and female gait. Just looking at moving dots representing movement of the whole body, it’s possible reliably to allocate the walker as male or female