This study shows this allure is very much alive.
"Though it's a relatively small cross-section, this study is very significant since the results are clear and consistent," said
Paris-based sociologist Jean-Claude Kaufmann, who was not involved in the study. "In a relation of seduction, men are very attracted by a woman in heels as she looks taller, more sexually confident, sure of herself, with a lengthened silhouette and sensual jutting buttocks."
Gueguen's study had 19-year-old female volunteers wearing black shoes with heels that were 0.5cm (0.2 inches) or 5cm (2 inches) or 9cm (3 1/2 inches) high. Then they asked men between the ages of 25-50 for help in various circumstances.
One situation involved a woman asking passers-by: "Excuse me, sir. We are currently conducting a survey on gender equality. Would you agree to answer our questionnaire?" Flat heels got a 46.7% answer rate, medium heels a 63% rate and the highest heels a whopping 83% success rate from the men.
Nowadays, the most fashionable heels on the runways and in nightclubs are higher still—with spiked heels commonly measuring 10 cm (4 inches) and extreme heels, dangerously, above 13 cm (5 inches).
Medically, high heels can cause back pain and increase the risk of ankle injuries. Prolonged heel wearing can even permanently shorten calf tendons.
And in social terms, women's rights advocates have objected to high heels, saying they reinforce a misogynist stereotype: women as sex objects to be ogled by men.
"If a woman ... never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?" famed feminist and flats-wearer Germaine Greer, author of "The Female Eunuch," once asked.
Those who disagree note that high heels have other uses.
"Heels don't subordinate women—they empower them in romance," said Kaufmann. "The important thing to remember in seduction is that it's all a game."