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Women in Cannes have been told to wear heels on the red carpet.

There’s something you’re not allowed to wear on the red carpet at Cannes.

Imagine heading to the cinema in a tailored dress and ballet flats – only to be denied entry for not wearing heels. Well, that exact situation is going down in Cannes right now.

We can all agree that the very famous Cannes Film Festival is slightly more fancy than heading to a Sunday screening of the new Baz Luhrmann movie. There’s a red carpet and lots of cameras, for starters – so sure, a dress code is appropriate.

But you know what’s not appropriate? A new rule that, supposedly, requires women to wear high heels just to gain entry to films at the world-famous film festival.

The rule was reportedly applied to a group of women who were denied entry to Cate Blanchett‘s new film, Carol. The women excluded were apparently elderly and could not wear heels because of health problems.

When the rumour was tweeted, a festival attendee seemed to confirm the claim, saying the same thing had happened to his wife. The festival subsequently confirmed that heels are mandatory for all attendees of film screenings (that claim was later denied by festival head Thierry Fremaux.)

Even model Hailey Baldwin wore a single high heel on the red carpet, despite having a broken leg. Which looked more painful than glamorous:

when ur foots broken but u gotta be in Cannes

A photo posted by Hailey Baldwin (@haileybaldwin) on

Now, it's bad enough that women with health problems were allegedly footwear-shamed at Cannes. But here's the thing: no woman should need an excuse to ditch high heels.

It's the 21st century, people, and women are supposedly equals - in relationships, at work and yes, at glitzy, high-profile film events. So why is it that these painful, blister-causing, devices are still de rigeur for any occasion more formal than a Sunday barbecue?

Why is it that those contraptions - created for men, and commonly regarded as objects of sexual fetishisation because they elongate the legs and give the wearer a sexy wiggle - are an expected accompaniment to any woman's outfit at weddings, funerals, film premieres and even everyday workplaces?

Why is it that, if the rumours are true, women involved in film-making - who have to work bloody hard already to make it in an industry where they're already underpaid relative to their male peers - are then expected to don these hobbling devices just to sit through their own movie?

Naomi Watts. In heels. At Cannes.

Screw that.

Medical professionals have issued countless warnings about how high heels mess with your legs and back. They also make it bloody hard to get up and down steps; leave you vulnerable if you need to run, should the occasion arise; give you blisters; and generally hurt like hell.

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It's time women had the option of ditching those torture devices we call high heels - once and for all.

Debrief Daily's Editor Annie Markey know's how tortuous high heels can be. Like the women of Cannes she finally made the switch to flat shoes and her life changed. So she wrote about it. And maybe the people who banned the flat shoes need to read it: 

Oh God, it’s come to this: I have just three pairs of shoes I consider to be truly, in-my-heart, wear-all-day comfortable.

One pair are sandshoes. One are Birkenstocks. The count could get to four if I allowed the inclusion of my Ugg boots. But we all know that’s a slippery slope.

So then here are these little darlings; silver brogues in lightweight leather, almost but not quite flat. They somehow manage to broach the great divide between style and comfort to come up both natty and utterly, utterly wearable.

My silver brogues.

I love them, but I can’t wear them every single day, not least because then I’d wear them out, and then where would I be?

My wardrobe is stuffed with other shoes I love. There are stack-heeled black patent courts. The most fabulous tapestry cloth and leather boots, bought in Anthropologie in New York (sigh …), reduced from $780 to $180 and IN MY SIZE! There are the red suede wedges that have given me inordinate joy even though they really are too high. There are the black woven raffia ballets slippers, the orange Jigsaw sandals I had copied in black for $50 in Vietnam (they did them overnight. I kid you not). And there are about, oh, 35 other pairs, divided pretty equally between my side of the wardrobe, the communal bit at the top and my partner’s 12-year-old son’s room.

I once wore them all. And when I say ‘once’ I’m talking about 18 months ago.

Then, quite suddenly, everything started to feel a bit hurty. Blisters appeared where blisters had never been, along with burning rough spots on the ball of my feet. Looking down at the end of the day brought to mind one of dad’s after-dinner compliments: “I’m as full as a fat lady’s shoe.” My toenails don’t require crowbars or secateurs yet, but I fear that will come. I got a bunion – if it’s good enough for Victoria Beckham, it’s good enough for me I suppose, but really? Aren’t bunions for stooped old crones, stalk-wearing supermodels - and Posh? Some might argue, but I don’t think I’m any of those.

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My Anthropologie boots.

The experts say I’ve done a lot of things wrong. I’ve worn thongs for many a long, hot summer - and I don’t mean the kind that creep up your bum; double pluggers make your toes grip the rubber much like an ageing screen star might a departing lover, and this is VERY BAD. I’ve tottered along in stalks the height of cornrows, and probably buggered my back, knees and ankles in the process. I’ve worn ballet flats so flat I might as well have painted a design on my bare feet and skipped out the door.

How would your shoes stack up?

We took pics of some the shoes worn in the Debrief Daily office. This is the verdict delivered on each by podiatrist Leigh Birchley (she's a member of the Australian Podiatry Association so she should know):

1.       Ankle boot.

"There is nothing too wrong with ankle boot and socks; the heel height is not too bad but a bit pointy for a woman with a wider forefoot."

2.       Work boot.

"Looks like a comfortable hardwearing boot, broad across the toe and a good 2cm drop from heel to toe which is the ideal height for walking.  Good choice for working in the garden."

3.       Fur boot.

"A square heel is better than a stiletto however the height is too high – great for an ABBA concert – but not for walking long distances or dancing for hours on end!"

4.       Ballet flats.

"These can cause problems for a lot of women as there is no support on the medial (inside of foot) so the arch has no support.  They are OK if you have a great foot structure but people with flat feet should avoid.  They can be a good alternative for the office but should not be used as walking shoes as a small heel of around 1.5-2cm is recommended."

5.       Sandal.

"They look like a nice comfy fit but they are very thin-soled so have no shock absorption and could be quite uncomfortable for walking distances. The straps also would not be very supportive for long time wear."

6.       Slipper.

"Just for the bedroom and for keeping feet warm in the house!"

7.       Stiletto.

"These shoes are torture for your forefoot and cause all sorts of problems as the foot is at an angle and forced into an abnormal position which can cause hammer toes, bunions and shortening of the calf muscle. The heel is unstable and more risk of ankle fracture or sprain if you become unbalanced."

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8.       Wedge.

"This is a better alternative than a stiletto but this particular shoe offers no support for the forefoot as the strap is gripping the toes only, better that the forefoot is covered and gripped."

David Bugg of Sydney City Podiatry agrees high heels are an issue.

"We see clear, physical changes when women wear higher heels," he says. "There's more pressure on the forefoot bones, the calf muscles and hamstrings are shortened, the ankle is unstable, the knees are more flexed, the pelvis tilts forward, curvature of the spine is increased ... And the higher the heel, the greater these effects."

But here’s the bigger issue: My feet are 50, almost 51, so they been working quite hard for quite a long time. They worked especially hard when I lived in London in my late 20s, supporting an extra 15kgs of fun times. I thought feet were designed by our great lord to last a lifetime. Apparently not.

And this is what happens to your feet as they age:

  • They get longer and wider – who knew???! Your shoe size can increase by more than half a size (oh Anthropologie boots – will we never step out again?) Why? Tendons and ligaments lose elasticity, making it easier for each foot’s 26 bones to spread. Mine now approach the dimensions of a dinner plate.
  • The layer of cushioning fat under our feet reduces (thank god a layer of fat somewhere does); this can mean callouses, cracked heels and greater sensitivity.
  • They might start puffing up like a pigeon, or Mark Latham coming in for a handshake. Why? Might be hormones, might be circulation problems, could be medications.
  • Your toenails get thicker. I know – ick. Just blame the hormones and get the nice beautician to haul out the pliers, give them a trim and paint them up so you don’t notice.
  • The arch might drop, so feet that once would have looked right at home in the refined French court of Louis XIV could now successfully audition for Happy Feet III.
  • Skin gets thinner and drier; blisters form more readily and heal more slowly.
  • You might get bunions, thanks to years of beautiful, fabulous, pinchy footwear forcing your big toe toward your second. Or because you’ve got arthritis.

So what’s a girl to do?

One friend has resorted to a shoe stretcher that can expand both width and length, and even has special attachments to relieve pressure on bunions.

Sure, it'd be right at home in a torture chamber, but she’s so happy with it she’s going back to buy another one.

So what does Leigh advise for women aged 40, 50 or 60?

"Check your feet regularly; avoid nail bars that do not sterilise; keep an eye on you footwear to be appropriate to your activity ; avoid rapid weight gain and keep a check on your health for diseases like diabetes that can affect your feet, weight and circulation," she says.

Other experts encourage us to find shoes that hold your heel in place; go for leather or firm stretch fabrics, and consider lace-ups (like my fabulous silver ones, which came from Country Road, or any number of others around this season).

And if you must – but only if you must – think about a Velcro fastening shoe.

I admit these don’t sound glamourous – but never forget Marni got away with these on the catwalk, and they cost more than $900. Seriously.

'Marni'.