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Platform Shoes Cause Frequent Accidents

October 7, 1999

Comfort and safety are not high priorities for women wearing thick-soled shoes like these.

For the last three years or so, shoes lined with brick-sized soles have been the rage mainly among women in their teens and twenties. Some of these shoes go as high as 20 centimeters (8 inches), and most parents cannot help but wonder why anyone would wear such cumbersome shoes. Their daughters, however, are nuts about the footwear, which they believe make themselves appear taller, their legs longer, and their faces smaller in proportion. After all, stylish young women have always been willing to put up with a little discomfort for fashion's sake.

Higher and Higher
At first, platform shoes with soles roughly 10 centimeters (4 inches) high were the mainstream, but 15-centimeter (6-inch) soles have recently taken over. Those sandals and boots with 20-centimeter (8-inch) soles are reserved for the most daring. Walking in these shoes is quite a chore; even at the front end the platforms are about 5 centimeters (2 inches) high, and the shoes weigh from two to three times as much as normal shoes. Needless to say, they pose an extra burden to the legs as well as make for an unsteady footing.

Nevertheless, a virtually limitless range of designs fill shoe store shelves, from sabot-like sandals reminiscent of the 1970s and casual sneakers to chic boots matching the pastoral long skirts that are expected to be a fall 1999 favorite.

The Price to Pay
Older people often voice worries that girls in these shoes are going to trip over at any moment. This is a well-grounded concern: Of all women's shoe-related accidents, the ratio of those involving platform shoes has shot up lately. According to information gathered from consumer centers and hospitals across Japan, of the 203 accidents involving women's shoes that were reported from April 1994 to March 1999, thick-soled shoes accounted for 80, or 39%. The incidence of such accidents has climbed quickly since 1995.

Professor Teruko Ishii of Aoba Gakuen Junior College in Tokyo, whose research focuses on clothing-related issues, was prompted in August 1998 to survey the entire student population of over 540 after hearing that one student tumbled down a flight of stairs while wearing platform shoes. An appalling 23% of all students said they had fallen over while wearing these shoes. Moreover, almost half of these students had been injured as a result of their fall, and three of them had even broken bones.

Broken bones are not the worst that could happen, however. At the end of August 1999, a 25-year-old woman died from a fracture in her skull. She had apparently suffered the injury in a fall while walking in newly bought platform sandals that she was not yet used to wearing. And although these shoes may not necessarily become the direct cause of such accidents, says Professor Ishii, "You can't walk properly when you're wearing shoes with thick soles or very high heels, and this may cause problems in the pelvis or hip joints. They're very dangerous things to wear."

Sending Out Warnings
Gravely concerned by these circumstances, the Japan Consumer Information Center made announcements in July 1999 alerting the public of the dangers of these shoes and giving tips on ways to prevent accidents. "Fashion is of course an important criterion when choosing shoes, but shoppers should place more emphasis on stability and functionality," the JCIC advises. It also recommends that people "check whether or not the soles, and in particular the heels, are coming off" before wearing these shoes, as well as not stay in them for long durations and pay close attention when walking on staircases or other places with steps to watch out for.

Still, platform shoes show no signs of vanishing from city streets. Most of the women wearing them seem to be taking little heed of the warnings, their looks being the top priority. One can only hope that the fad will pass before it leads to many more casualties.

Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.