The Skinny on Wearing High Heels

High Heels Without The Ouch!

Oct 12, 2011 by

Or .. how to wear high heels comfortably and without getting hurt.

From the department store shoe department, to Payless and beyond, there’s one trend that is not going away any time soon:  high heeled shoes.  For a lot of us, this presents a fantastic footwear challenge.  Even if you don’t wear them all the time, and even if you do, before purchasing, be prepared to get the best fit and feel.  Once you get them home, make sure you can wear them for more than just that short trip or special occasion by practicing and stretching.

First thing to consider is the best time of day to buy shoes.  Later in the day, after you’ve walked for a bit, is the best time. This is when your feet are a bit swollen.  If you sit at a desk most of the day, your calf muscles will be tight, so a walk helps to loosen them up.  Sounds terrible, but swollen feet and loose hamstrings will be your guides for getting the best fit and heel height.

It is recommended that you have your feet measured, if the store offers the service.  One foot may be larger than the other, so ask the salesperson to bring you the size that fits the larger foot. Don’t be too concerned if your shoe size has changed since you were in your 20’s or 30’s.  Our feet get larger as we get older, as well as, when we gain weight.   Once you try the shoes on, make sure you have at least ½ an inch in front of your big toe.  This will give your toes enough “wiggle room.”

Most high heels have a triangular toe box, which can squash your toes into an unnatural contour.  However, there are some brands that I’ve found that have a slightly broader toe box, even if the toe is pointed, and are most comfortable. I’d recommend Steve Madden, Bandolino, Franco Sarto, and Guess.  I have one pair of Franco Sarto’s with a 3 ½ inch heel that are so comfortable! I’ve worn them all day inNew Yorkand they were still comfortable at the end of the day.  Stay away from cheap materials and poorly manufactured shoes.

If you are used to wearing something around a 2 ½ or 3 inch heel, and now want to go higher (shoes this Fall season are going up to 5 inches or more) you may want to start with an open toe or sandal style before going for a closed toe.  This will give you a good idea how far forward your toes will slide, so that when you go for the closed-toe, you will have a good idea how they should feel on your foot.  You may also want to consider a heel with a strap or closed back, rather than a sling-back. If you are having trouble walking in the store with the shoes, something about them—whether it is fit, feel, or heel height—is not right for you. (I once fell over trying on a pair of 8 inch heels!)

Since many of us don’t wear high heels daily it’s important to stretch your leg muscles.  Stretches long way toward avoiding back, ankle, and other leg muscle strains.. Before getting dressed, do some hamstring, hip, and lower back stretches.  Since high heels tend to shorten the hamstrings, it’s good to stretch muscles that will be impacted by that shortening—the lower back and hip.  Make sure that you stretch your quadriceps too. Quads stabilize the knee, so you will want this flexible to avoid any knee-tendon strains or injuries.

If you are unsure how to walk in high heels, take some time to practice in them. High heels tend to throw off our natural body balance, so it is important to learn where your equilibrium is at in high heels.  After surgery for a broken ankle in ’96, I had to not just strengthen my leg muscles, but later re-learn where my equilibrium was, if I wanted to wear heels again without risking another injury. To re-balance your body, rest the weight of your body in your heels, making sure your leg muscles do not tighten up.  It will take awhile for you to get your equilibrium, but with practice you will succeed!

Take a look at this short article  by the American Chiropractic Association for more pointers on wearing high heels and avoiding potential discomfort and injuries.

About the Author

Tish Grier Has Written 6 Articles For Us!

I am a freelance writer with a focus on the impact of social media on the newspaper industry for I also am a social media strategist. I have been a professional blogger for a multi-national telecom, a thought-leader blog network and several noteworthy projects, as well as a community developer for, Assignment Zero, and NewsTrust.
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  1. Great advise on getting the right fit! I read a quote one time that went something like “You can’t have an attitude if your feet don’t hurt just a little”. However, the older I get the more I want to be comfortable – maybe I’ve had an attitude for so long I can maintain it without the pain!

    Thanks for the advice.

    • Great point about attitude, Margaret! That’s one of those things about fashion in general: once you’re over 40, there’s less of a need to create a personality through one’s clothes. We already have personalities and look for the clothes to compliment them. And, if you get leather shoes, they stretch pretty quickly and don’t hurt all that much. Even the new covered platform pumps–oddly– are far less stressful on one’s legs than old-fashioned stilettos.

  2. Tish Grier

    I find it difficult to get a good fit too, Debra, so you’re not alone. My feet are kind of rectangular (an old b.f. used to say they looked like Wilma Flintstone’s feet) and so many shoes are too narrow in the front. You might also want to take a look at Clarks, which have some really nice heels, all leather, and slightly wider in the front too. I got a great pair last year that look like Argentine tango shoes! real patent leather! (and that’s tough to find.)

    oh, and I came across this article today in the Daily Mail, where Christian Loubouton says about the arch of a woman’s foot in high heels immitates the shape of her foot during orgasm. Maybe that’s why some guys go nuts when they see a woman in high heels.

  3. Debra Pearlman

    Trish, thanks so much for these tips. I’ve been struggling with heels most of my life. I’ve a very wide, flat foot and find it hard to get a good fit. I want to wear heels more, but just find them very uncomfortable. I’m going to try several of your tips. I hope I gain the balance and height i desire.

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