MOSCOW - Russian women may soon undergo a dramatic makeover if a Kremlin-friendly lawmaker has his way and pushes through a ban on a fashion item they perhaps cherish the most: high heels.
Mr Oleg Mikheyev, a lawmaker with pro-Kremlin A Just Russia party, says vertiginous heels as well as trainers, ballet flats and men's loafers are bad for people's health and it's time to do something about it.
Mr Mikheyev has sent a proposal to the Customs Union which also includes ex-Soviet Belarus and Kazakhstan, suggesting that the Moscow-led group introduce official standards stipulating the height of heels.
"Footwear should have heels that are two to four centimetres high, five centimetres high at the most," said the proposal, a copy of which was sent to AFP.
"The harmful effects of wearing extremely high heels and flat shoes have now been recognised by experts of the entire world," said the five-page proposal. "It's necessary to change this trend."
Russian women are known for preferring beauty over comfort, often seen negotiating icy pavements in winter and sandy beaches in summer in sky-high heels.
Speaking to AFP, Mikheyev said he was simply looking to raise awareness rather than ban heels outright.
He said his proposal was a sign that he cared about Russian women and wanted to protect them against any deformities, flat feet and other afflictions.
"They are young, they simply don't think about these things," Mr Mikheyev said, adding that some 40 per cent of Russians suffered from flat feet.
The danger of angering Russian ladies is not lost on the deputy.
"My female colleagues have not spoken to me for half a day now," he quipped.
But his proposal had already caused a storm of controversy in Russia and some women said if high heels are banned, they would start to wear them on purpose.
Muscovite Maria Larionova, 31, said she saw Mikheyev's proposal as "an infringement on my freedom and personal space."
"I love high heels, they are chic."