Red high heels, smiles and sighs of exhaustion: these are all three prominent parts of the Walk A Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser that happened downtown on Sept. 10.
Every year, dozens of men strap on a pair of red high heels and walk a mile around downtown Fredericton in support of women facing sexual assault and domestic abuse. All of the funds raised go to the Women in Transition house — a local shelter that offers a safe space for women fleeing domestic violence.
“It’s kind of funny and laughable to watch the men walk,” said event organizer and University of New Brunswick alum Lincoln Thomspon. “At the same time, it brings to life the pain that many families go through.”
Thompson is a broker manager at Royal LePage, the real estate company that hosts the fundraiser all across the country. After hosting yard sales to raise money for the same cause, Thompson brought the Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event to Fredericton in 2014. With yard sales he would raise a few thousand dollars, but through the annual walk, Thompson has raised a grand total of $230,784.
This year alone, the event raised $46,583.
“I think the spectacle of men walking in high-heeled shoes, just the visual of it, brings some, ‘what is that? What are they doing?’” said Thompson.
The red high heels are a staple of the event. Every man is assigned a pair of high heels for their walk, unless they have a pair of their own. After a thorough warmup to prevent any injuries – which is always to the tune of Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” – the walkers leave from City Hall and make their way to York Street, eventually making it back to where they started.
The walk can take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes, depending on how experienced the walker is with high heels. This is why Thompson starts practicing in heels around the office in early August.
“Some of the guys will put them on, and before they even stand up [they say], ‘oh, I can’t do this,’” said Thompson.
Event attendee and Village of New Maryland council member Alex Scholten said that many of the walkers that have attended in the past have strategies to deal with the high heel pain. Duct tape is a handy tool at the fundraiser.
“I went out and bought a pair of red sling backs instead of heels and still to this day, that was probably one of the best purchases in my life,” said Scholten, who has walked in the event since 2015.
Scholten was one of the 71 walkers that attended this year’s event. As the owner of Victory Meat and Produce Market downtown, Scholten convinced six of his butchers and meat wrappers to join him. Spreading awareness about domestic abuse and recruiting more walkers was something Scholten “enjoyed immensely.”
Other attendees included local police officers and firefighters dressed in full uniform, wearing high heels just like the other walkers. Thompson and Scholten mention the importance of having support from the police and the fire station.
“The fire chief and the police chief tell us that not a day goes by when they don’t have a call of a domestic situation here. And that is just so sad,” said Thompson.
From 2009 to 2021, N.B. has seen an increase of 22 per cent in police-reported family violence and 39 per cent in police-reported intimate partner violence, according to Statistics Canada.
To Scholten, the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event means way more than just a few laughs about men wearing high heels.
“I think it not only shows the community that the issue of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence is not tolerated. And it’s a community-wide concern and not simply a concern for women,” said Scholten.
“It’s 15 minutes of very, very minor pain to help out those that are in tremendously more pain and hardship.”