All those connotations still seem to be jostling about in every high-heeled step. Much as heels accentuate certain features on a woman, they also seem to emphasize her motivation for wearing them. Specifically because they hurt, they’re unlikely to be something a woman throws on for a day without thinking. A woman has to want what the high heel is offering, which can be simultaneously sexy and conservative, a sign of individual empowerment or conformity.

Can they ever be comfortable? True Gault thinks so. But it—and others—face an uphill battle. For now, however, Gault says they have no shortage of women interested. “One shoe at a time, one step at a time, we started collecting customers,” she says. “We’ve got thousands of people scanned, hundreds and hundreds of customers.”

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