by Alan Garcia
CSIA & BASI Ski Instructor, CASI Snowboard Instructor, Managing Director of Sunshine World LTD
And the higher and smaller the heel the better!
Before I explain why I’ll qualify my testimony a little first. I’ve been a pro snowboard instructor for over 11 years and a ski instructor over 10 years now. I’ve trained thousands of people in all shapes, ages, abilities and sizes to progress and increase their enjoyment in my favourite sports. I first qualified when I was just 15 in Whistler, Canada and then continued to work and train 7 days a week. 5 years later, I started my own professional, ATOL licensed holiday company, Sunshine World, delivering all inclusive ski and snowboard holidays around the world- particularly to the new EU member states in eastern Europe like Poland, Slovakia and Bosnia. The aim was simple- to deliver world class ski and snowboard holidays to anyone of any age- families, couples, party groups, students, singles, schools and companies- at prices which you’d associate more with Malta than St Tropez.
And so 3,500 guests later it dawned on me yesterday while walking down the highstreet that it would take a significant amount of balance to walk in high heels. Now being a bloke I’m fairly happy with the fact that I’ve never yet worn heels but I’m an imaginative fellow and having spent so much time doing every kind of balancing exercise and drill which the mind can muster I feel I have a fair view of how it works. The fact that the heel is raised will of course work the calves and ligaments down the back of your leg. Women who walk regularly in heels no doubt can see and feel the difference. Strong calves and ligaments are obviously extremely helpful for good skiing. Your average flat footed bloke in his leather shoes or trainers will never get the same regular work out on his daily commute. Ok, now the technical bit- to be a good skier it’s essential to be able to balance well with side to side (lateral) leg movements while keeping your upper body above your Centre of Mass (COM). If you’re having trouble picturing this- stand up and lean your lower body sideways while curling your upper body the opposite direction to make a C shape (this would be VERY hard to do in heels so maybe take them off first 🙂 It’s easier if you bend your knees and try to make sure your body feels as comfortable as possible. You should be able to find the most natural way for your body to fit into this C shape. All this helps us with our “edging” on the slopes (the art of increasing or decreasing the amount of angle which our skis are digging into the slopes with in order to control speed and direction using the metal edges of our skis).
So, back on our heels now. Notice how with each step your ankle will wobble a little (even if you’re an elegant, seasoned pro of the high heel catwalk). The key is in this little wobble. With every wobble your ligaments and muscles work to keep you balanced over your COM (from your ankles all the way up your legs to your hips in fact). This wobble simultaneously strengthens key muscles used in skiing (and all sports for that matter) while also improving your muscle memory so your coordination increases too. That’s why a few weeks after your first tentative steps a few inches above your usual height you don’t have to think so much about each step. In fact after a while it feels just right. My wonderful mum (still very elegant and oh so cool in her heels at 51- she has A LOT of them!) in fact swears that she isn’t truly comfortable unless she’s wearing heels 🙂
So, ladies (and gentlemen if you’re feeling brave), the definitive word is out. Wearing heels is not just cool, stylish, elegant and let’s face it- really sexy, it’s also great exercise and will help you become the most balanced athlete on or off the slopes. Now when’s your birthday? It may be time for a new pair. Happy strutting 🙂