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Monday, August 23, 1999 Published at 18:12 GMT 19:12 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Walking tall - Japan's crippling shoe craze

Japanese women are turning to platforms and the peroxide bottle

Asia correspondent Matt Frei reports from Tokyo

The Japanese will do anything and everything to stand out in a crowd - quite literally.

BBC Asia Correspondent Matt Frei: "Everybody ends up looking the same"
Platform shoes rule the pavement. They will give you an extra 25cm, although they will not guarantee getting safely from A to B.

They do not guarantee elegance either - especially for a beginner.

But it is easy to see why they are popular. The platforms can turn petite Japanese women into leggy blondes.

So do Japanese men like taller women? Do the women wear them to please the men?

[ image: Crunch time on the beach]
Crunch time on the beach
I asked three ladies in the street, all sporting blonde hair and the obligatory platforms.

"No," they told me, "they prefer us to be small. We do this for ourselves."

But can they run in them?

The three blondes are confident and demonstrate their jogging abilities - at least on the spot and on relatively stable pavement.

But what about less secure ground? Japan's crowded beaches have become lethal quicksand for the fashion victims.

The only time you are allowed not to wear them is when you are swimming, sunbathing - or in hospital.

[ image: Foot injuries go hand in hand with platforms]
Foot injuries go hand in hand with platforms
Foot injuries have increased dramatically since the beginning of the craze.

And how to avoid Japan's most fashionable injury? "Don't wear the shoes," is the experts' advice.

But nobody seems to be listening. And Tokyo's platform shops are raking in the cash from bottle-blonde clones paying $120 a pair or more.

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