I apologize for indulging myself in writing about a subject that may seem unimportant to some, but that has been on my mind for a few years now. That subject is women's shoes.

For anyone who hasn't shoe-shopped lately, or leafed through a magazine, take my word for it, fashionable shoes have gone psycho. First, there is the extremes to which heel heights have soared. There is no happy medium, you must either wear flats or choose stilettos whose heels measure 4 or 5 inches. Think of 4 or 5 inches -- a third of a ruler. A couple years of an adolescent growth spurt. The difference between average and towering. If you put on a pair of these stilettos you do feel tall, and designers blather on about the fact that these heights are empowering, but what is empowering about wearing shoes that make it impossible to walk?

When I wear my one pair of very high heels for a party, I have to pick my way slowly and carefully. I clutch the banister as I walk down the stairs, and hold my husband's arm in a death grip when I walk from the car to the event. I don't feel empowered, I feel crippled.

As difficult as they are to wear, at least pretty pumps or sandals are flattering to the legs and manageable if all you're doing is sitting at a table and eating dinner. If the silliness of fashionable shoes had stopped at exaggerated heel heights, I would still complain, but I wouldn't feel as outraged as I do about the footwear that has been in magazines the past several seasons.

Shoes have gone bonkers. Start with the gladiator look. That used to mean sandals with a few straps that laced around the ankle. But moderation is not in style in the crazy shoe world and the straps have multiplied so that they wind around the foot, around the leg, up the calf, until you can't help but wonder how long it takes a person to put such a shoe on in the morning. If a woman plans to wear her strappy shoes, she probably sets her alarm for a half hour earlier than usual.

If it's not straps it's pieces of leather wrapped around the foot as if we are arming ourselves for battle. There is no way to disguise big feet when you're accentuating them with pale lambskin. And it must be hard not to trip over the rawhide laces that hold the leather up.

Then there are the heels that look like various architectural wonders. Or tree branches. Or even heavy duty paper clips. I'm leafing through a magazine right now and seeing wedges that are so high they look dangerous, and clogs that appear to have required half a tree to build.

There are platforms that look like a wad of Play Doh stuck to the bottom of garishly colored clown shoes. There are shoes that have bulbous toes that create that oh-so-flattering Olive Oyl look. And ones that have little sculptures perched on the front so that it looks like the wearer is carrying her own toys. Some of the shoes have rows of crystals jangling off the edges, and some are equipped with fringe that jiggles with each step. There are even shoes that look like socks with pop art fabric covering the calves.

A truly ridiculous trend this season are the toeless booties. If it's warm enough for your toes to be bare, why wear boots? This trend epitomizes what is so objectionable about shoe fashion these days. It's the whole form versus function thing.

Even Nancy Sinatra knew that her boots were made for walking. Above all, shoes ought to do their job, which is to cover our feet so we can move from place to place with some protection and support. The farther anything strays from its function, the stupider it looks. Right now fashionable shoes look like cartoons, not articles that a sane person would actually wear.

One would think that the designers are making jokes, having a lark without any expectation of sales. That's what I thought when I first started seeing these silly shoes. But now I wonder. If they keep making them they must be selling them -- at prices hovering in the thousand dollar range.

Which brings me to the crux of my issue. Women -- what is wrong with us? These designers are having a great old time thinking up the most outrageous things to put on our feet that will cause our bunions pain and stop us from being able to walk more than a few steps, and we're buying. After years of struggling for equal power in the world, we've set ourselves back by choosing footwear that hobbles us.

I can't help but think that the designers and magazine editors are laughing at us for actually purchasing their horrendous creations, and I wonder why we have been enablers of this joke.

Why do I care, aside from being embarrassed for my gender? Because I like to buy shoes and I haven't had many options in the last few years. At my age I have no pretensions of being cutting edge; no delusions that I am a stylista. But I do like to keep current. I don't wear mom jeans, and I don't want to wear mom shoes either. I resent my lack of choice. There's no way I'm going to buy a pair of $800 Mary Janes with heels that look like an arts and crafts project of pearls and feathers glued together. I don't even want to put my foot in a shoe with a built-in platform that looks like the result of a disease contracted when the Starship Enterprise docked on a strange planet. Yet I'm getting sick of buying flats that are pretty and practical but far from sexy.

So I say "Women of the world, unite! End the tyranny of shoe designers who don't care if we can actually walk in our shoes. Promote the pump! Cultivate the kitten heel! Bring our feet back down to earth!"