A group of men took to the streets of downtown San Luis Obispo on Saturday morning.
Their footwear of choice? Red high heels.
The men, some stumbling, some striding more confidently, were part of “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” an annual event to raise awareness about sexual assault, rape and gender violence. To show support for women, specifically those affected by sexual violence, men donned provided high heels and walked around downtown with women starting at Mission Plaza.
“Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” takes place all over the world, and this is the 14th year the event has taken place in San Luis Obispo, said James Sofranko, a RISE Americorps VIP member who helped organize the event.
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The event raised money for RISE San Luis Obispo — which stands for respect, inspire, support and empower — an organization that supports victims of intimate partner violence and their families.
Sofranko was pleased with the turnout, noting that about 90 marchers had registered ahead of the event, but nearly 200 showed up to march.
Some walkers carried signs decrying rape. Drivers passing by honked their horns and cheered for the marchers.
A few men had to contend with issues common for high heel-wearers, such as getting pointy heels caught in grates and sidewalk cracks. Some had to shed their uncomfortable shoes before they’d completed the march. Some female participants helped out but had a good chuckle at the walkers’ expense.
“They look like baby deer,” said Christina Azruei, a RISE therapist intern.
Azruei said there’s more work to be done to prevent sexual violence, but the event is a good way to raise awareness and give some men an idea of what it’s like to be a woman.
David and Brittany Pomfret, owners of Equilibrium Fitness, a women’s gym in San Luis Obispo, came to walk along with their almost 1-year-old son, Samson. While David wore high heels, Samson did his part with tiny pink booties with bows.
As the owner of a women’s workout facility, David said the issue is “definitely a cause we feel strongly about.”
After five years of participating in the walk, Brittany said she’s gotten used to seeing her husband in high heels.
“It’s an amazing example to be setting for our son,” she said.
The San Luis Obispo Rugby Team also took part in the walk, with some of the male players wearing suit jackets and shorts to complement their high heels.
One team member, Coda Taylor, also teaches self-defense classes at Paragon Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Elite Muay Thai Academy. He rated his high heels a “nine out of 10” on the pain scale and said some of his teammates had even ripped through their shoes.
Even so, he said, it’s important for people to know “hard men have a soft spot.”
“We all have women in our lives,” Taylor said. “We all understand the struggle they face.”