SCIENTISTS have called for an outright ban on dress codes which require female employees to wear high heels and questioned sales of the stilleto-style footwear to children.

The demand comes from a review by researchers at the University of Aberdeen which also suggests governments consider if it is even right for high heels to be sold to children.

The suggestions come from a review of by scientists at the University of Aberdeen which examined research into the physical damage wearing high heels can cause as well as the social and cultural aspects surrounding their wear.


Lead researcher Dr Maxwell Barnish said he would like to see government take a similar stand to that made by the government of the Canadian province of British Columbia which in April decided that any requirement to wear high heels is discriminatory as well as being a health and safety issue because they are dangerous.

The ban came in after a provincial Green party politician in March introduced a bill in the province's legislature aimed at preventing employers from setting gender-based footwear requirements.

READ MORE: How ministers stamped on an anti-office high heels campaigner's petition

His bill covered all workplaces, including retail and corporate offices. But instead of implementing it, the provincial government opted instead to amend footwear rules under the Workers' Compensation Act.

The new regulation states that workplace footwear must be of "a design, construction and material that allows the worker to safely perform their work and ensures that employers cannot require footwear contrary to this standard".

The report even suggest politicians consider whether it is appropriate for high heeled shoes to be sold to youngsters - while warning of substantial health issues.

High heels are currently one of the few ‘adult’ items allowed to be sold to children in countries such as the UK and the researchers found evidence of increased adolescent high heel wear in recent years.


Adolescents were particularly prone to peer pressure and there was evidence that health may play a limited role in female teenagers’ shoe choices in particular, leading to a rise in high heel wear, the researchers found.

Burt the study pointed out there was evidence that high heel wear in adolescents can lead to "postural disorders affecting head positioning, the back, pelvis and knee". Heel height and width were identified as key factors in postural changes and body imbalance.

"It has been suggested that education on their health effects, for example as part of personal and social education, could be useful. Moreover, it may be worthwhile considering whether it is appropriate that high heels can be sold to and for the wear of people who are still skeletally immature," the report says.

READ MORE: Why there should be a ban on forcing women to wear high heels at work

An Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland spokesman said they were looking for test-cases to "bring this issue to the national attention".

He said “In a modern business, it’s simply wrong, and frankly antiquated, that any woman should be made to follow a dress code telling them how to look in a way that would never be asked of men. The height of your heels has no relevance to how good you are at your job."

The UK government in April ruled out a change in the law to ban "sexist" dress codes which force women to wear high heels at work because it believes the existing legislation is "adequate" and already prevents companies from gender-based discrimination.

It followed the case of receptionist Nicola Thorp, who was sent home after she refused 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 150,000 signatures asking for it to be made illegal for companies to require women to wear the footwear for their jobs.

But the University of Aberdeen study stated that more had to be done to stop women having to wear high heels against their will.

In the first review of its type, the study showed that wearing high heels increases women’s attractiveness to men and can reward female wearers with other benefits in terms of male attention and their own view of their beauty.

READ MORE: How ministers stamped on an anti-office high heels campaigner's petition

And while high heel wear had social benefits, the study found there were also health drawbacks.

The review found large amounts of studies showed a link between wearing high heels and an increased risk of bunions, musculoskeletal pain and personal injury. However, it found a lack of clear evidence of an association between high heel wear and osteoarthritis – something that has been taken as a matter of fact by some.


The researchers concluded: "Our evidence synthesis clearly shows that high heels bring psychosexual benefits to women but are detrimental to their health. In light of this dilemma, it is important that women’s freedom of choice is respected and that any remaining issues of explicit or implicit compulsion are addressed."

They added: "It is important that women’s footwear choices are respected and that they are not pressurised into wearing high heels against their will. Unstated social expectation and pressure, mediated by social compliance and celebrity influence is clearly a complex challenge that is difficult to confront.

"Continuing to raise awareness of the health issues associated with high heels appears the most useful solution to seeking to maximise freedom of choice.

READ MORE: Why there should be a ban on forcing women to wear high heels at work

Consultant podiatrist Matthew Fitzpatrick, speaking for The College of Podiatry said: “This research, which echoes the College of Podiatry’s own, shows yet again that women are being let down by government in the UK when it comes to workplace footwear.

“In the 21st century women should not be forced to wear high heeled shoes in the work place as part of a uniform. How many more studies will it take before government acts?"


A UK government spokesman said:“No employer should discriminate against workers on grounds of gender; it is unacceptable and is against the law. Dress codes must include equivalent requirements for both men and women. It would be unlawful to require women to wear high heels without a similar requirement for men.

“To make the law clearer to employers and raise awareness among employees, the Government will be producing new guidance on workplace dress codes.”