The Physics
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Pressure Under High Heels

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Cutnell, John D., & Kenneth W. Johnson. Physics. 4th ed. New York: Wiley, 1998. 338. "High-heeled shoes can cause tremendous pressure to be applied to a floor. Suppose the radius of a heel is 6.00 × 10−3 M. At times during a normal walking motion, nearly the entire body weight acts perpendicular to the surface of such a heel. Find the pressure that is applied to the floor under the heel because of the weight of a 50.0 kg woman." 4,300 kPa
Under Pressure. Indiana University. 25 May 2003. "Now the pressure of her step is eight times as much, or 240 pounds per square inch instead of 30 pounds per square inch." 1,700 kPa
The Pressure's On! 25 May 2003. "What exerts more pressure-per-square inch when walking a 100 lb woman in high heels or a 6,000 lb elephant in bare feet? [At the moment when only the heel rests on the ground.] Ask teams to tackle this challenge. (Stiletto heels have an area of about 1/16 of a square inch. Elephants, unlike humans, walk with two feet on the ground at a time. Each foot is about 40 square inches. Thus, the woman "wins" by far more than 1,500 psi versus 75 psi.)" > 10,000 kPa
Bennett, Carole. Pressure versus Force: Landing on Ice! [pdf] 25 May 2003. "Humans will only have one foot on the ground while walking. Estimate that the area of the heel on a man's shoe is 10 in2. When he walks, a 200 lb. man exerts 20 psi because the weight is supported momentarily by the heel. A 100 lb. woman exerts many more psi when she wears heels. Depending on the area of the heel, she can exert as much as 1600 psi under a 'stiletto heel' ¼ inch on a side. This explains why people with wood floors don't want women walking on them in high heels." 11,000 kPa
BBC - h2g2 - Pressure - A835409. 10 June 2003. "65kg on a surface of 2 cm2 (e.g., high heel shoes) will result in a pressure of 3 250 000 Pa (beneath the high heels, if the person is standing on the surface of planet Earth). A four ton elephant, on the other hand, standing on one foot will cause a pressure of only 250 000 Pa under that foot. As an exercise try to calculate the area of the aforementioned foot. The solution can be found in this footnote1." 3,250 kPa

To all those high heel admirers, do you know exactly how much pressure is under you foot? You would be surprised! Indeed you ladies wear these shoes for fashion's sake, but with the immense pressure under a high heel, you may as well use it as a weapon.

Pressure is defined as force over area. Pressure is directly proportional to the force and inversely proportional to area. This inverse relationship in an important concept when it concerns the immensity of pressure.

The significance of the high heel comes into play because it has such a minute area. Due to this fact, the pressure under that high heel is extremely large. If one were to solve the aforementioned problem, the solution is deduced as follows:


This is approximately 40 atmospheric pressures. Now you realize the full potential of the high heel.

For comparison's sake, would you rather your hand be pummeled by a herd of elephants or a group of angry women wearing high heels? The more logical answer in this case, that is you would rather take your chances on the high heels, is the wrong assumption. Don't be intimidated by the enormous size of an elephant or fooled by the alluring high heel. The high heel can exert more than 15 times the pressure of an elephant's foot. These immense pressures can range from 10–100 atm. So, if you ever get the opportunity to choose, be very wary that you won't let the "pressure" get to you.

So, high heel admirers, when someone insults you, calls you as fat as an elephant perchance, teach them a lesson. Show them the true power of the almighty high heel.

Jack Green -- 2003

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