London - Ladies, if you were looking forward to ditching the high heels after a painful party season, this may make you think twice.

Because despite the blisters, bunions and occasional stumble, they really do make women look more attractive, scientists say.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth filmed a group of women as they walked on a treadmill, both in flats and high heels. The women, in their 20s, each owned between four and 25 pairs of heels, which they wore at least once a week.

A separate group of men and women were then shown 30-second clips of the film. All rated the participants as more attractive when they wore the heels.

Researchers used a process known as point-light display, in which lit markers are placed around the body. It means the face and torso of each of the 12 participants were obscured, so the viewer could only see patterns of light.

In a second experiment, the viewing group were asked to judge whether the video showed a man or a woman walking towards them.

When the women wore flat shoes they were nearly twice as likely to be viewed as a man.

The scientists also measured the differences in gait when the women wore heels and flats.

They concluded that the women looked more feminine in heels, as they made them take shorter strides and swing their hips more.

Writing in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, the researchers said: “We suggest that high heels may exaggerate the sex-specific aspects of the female walk which could cause sexual arousal in males and make women aware of potential competitors for mates.” - Daily Mail