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A boot camp for walking tall

A leather-like elastic strap in her high heels added spring to her step, relieving some of the weight from the balls of her feet.

Marilyn Monroe put her faith in the Spring-O-Lator.

A leather-like elastic strap in her high heels added spring to her step, relieving some of the weight from the balls of her feet.

Toronto’s Marion Harris prefers a less technical approach. She runs a “boot camp” that helps women learn to walk well in stilettos.

When dressing up, the 79-year-old still dons four-inch heels and manages a fluid, graceful stride.

High heels damage the feet, she acknowledges. They cramp the toes, punish the metatarsals, shorten the calf muscles, and risk injuring the knees and lower back.

But they are also sexy.

“My aim is not to promote high heels,” Harris says of her High Heels Boot Camp. “But the girls are going to wear them anyway and they might as well learn how to walk in them.”

Harris teaches a movement-awareness technique called the Feldenkrais Method, developed in the 1940s by Moshe Feldenkrais.

Harris trained directly under Feldenkrais at Amherst College in Massachusetts beginning in 1980 and founded her Toronto Feldenkrais Centre in 1983. Among other skills she teaches how to walk — not only with feet and legs, but also with pelvis, ribs and shoulders.

“Walking is an act of the entire body,” Harris says sashaying gently in her chair to help make the point. “Some women hold themselves rigid,” she says, “first of all because their posture might not be very good in the first place and because being on high heels makes them unsure of themselves.”

At her periodic workshops, Harris takes students through a series of exercises and meditations.

The day ends with graduates strutting down a red carpet to a DJ remix of Stayin’ Alive.

“It’s certainly better to learn how to walk properly in heels (than not),” says Toronto podiatrist Hartley Miltchin, who owns Monroe’s Spring-O-Lator shoes as part his celebrity shoe collection.

“But there is always going to be physical damage by walking in heels.”

Harris’s next High Heels Boot Camp runs today. For details, visit feldenkraiscentre.com.

 
 
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