Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has said it will give female soldiers “more comfortable” heels with a different kind of lacing, following a sexism outcry over its decision to train troops to march in high heeled footwear.
The ministry had required women from the Ukrainian armed forces to march in high heels during a parade to mark the 30th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union on August 24, prompting criticism that the move was harmful to the health of soldiers.
But rather than scrapping the heeled shoes entirely, Defense Minister Andriy Taran instead announced on Wednesday that there will be “a new model of footwear.”
The newer shoes will have “lacing that will better hold the shoes while walking,” and “lower and more comfortable” heels, a statement from the ministry said.
It added that if the soldiers “have a positive experience when testing this model,” it could become part of the ceremonial uniform for all female members of the military.
The decision to make female soldiers march in high heels, which Taran said was first taken in 2017, angered a number of lawmakers after local media picked up images published by the defense ministry last week.
Inna Sovsun, a former cabinet member in the Ukrainian government, called it an “idiotic, harmful idea,” saying that it sexualizes female soldiers taking part in the parade.
And Elena Kondratyuk, deputy chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, joined members of parliament from the “Equal Opportunities” cross-party group to call on Taran to reevaluate the decision.
“Shoes with heels are incompatible with the combat capability of soldiers, and a ‘Prussian’ step on a parade in such shoes is a deliberate harm to the health of soldiers,” Olga Stefanishina, vice prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, wrote in a statement on Facebook last week.
But Taran said on Wednesday that “some political forces simply inflated the issue out of nowhere.”
There are 57,000 women serving in the Ukrainian armed forces, according to Stefanishina’s Facebook post.
The decision to alter the footwear came after Taran met with female cadets and listened to their proposals, according to an earlier statement from the ministry.
CNN’s Jack Guy contributed reporting.