A woman's right to shoes
March 13, 2012 4:11 AM   Subscribe

[How to be a girl filter] I can't do high heels. Sadface.

This is such a pathetic question! But I have never been able to wear high heels.

I do a lot of walking (no car) and am in trainers 90% of the time.

I have weird feet - have never seen a chiropodist, but basically I need some sort of padding underneath the arch of my foot because if I don't it really hurts, even if I'm wearing flats.

When I'm in high heels, the balls of my feet really hurt. Like, they feel like they are on fire. I also don't feel steady in heels, like I'm going to twist my ankle any second. If they are courts, I invariably get the whole rubbing/blistering at the back of my foot too. It's not pretty.

The thing is I really love high heels and I feel sad that my silly feet seem to hate wearing them.

So is there such a thing as a comfortable high heel? How does one transition from wearing flats/low block heels all the time to wearing high heels? Is there any way I can mitigate the pain of breaking in new shoes? Are there accessories you can buy to make it less painful?

(I've seen this question, which is helpful but doesn't really address the comfort angle)
posted by Ziggy500 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Your question reminds me of Angie Cox at YouLookFab.com

She has "fussy feet" and blogs about it often.



There is much more if you search, "fussy feet" on her blog.

My personal recommendation would to start with a wedge or 2 1/2" that has comfort technology and move up from there. wear for short times when you will be mostly seated. There are plenty of brands: Cole Haan, Rockport, Miz Mooz, Clarks, etc.

You might consider seeing a podiatrist.

Good luck with your search for comfortable high heels. Even if you don't find them, rest assured that you can still be stylish without them.
posted by Fairchild at 4:37 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you wear a wedged heel it will hurt less because your weight is distributed over a larger area. To compare, a stiletto probably hurts the worst.

(To help Americans: UK court shoes = American pumps.)
posted by Houstonian at 4:39 AM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have arch problems (though in my case it's flat feet). It just means I usually have to either fit arch supports in my shoes -- easier in boots and booties and other things that constrain the top of my foot -- or alternate heel days with properly supportive shoes days.

I know exactly what you mean about the ball of your foot. The only way I can really get around it is to buy GOOD heels that have padding. Your average Nine West heels from DSW have pretty much 0 padding in the sole, but if you get, say Cole Haans -- which have Nike Air padding -- they get a lot more comfortable. If the heel is very high, the ball of your foot will still be shifting a lot as you walk and I find that's what causes the pain for me, but if you stick to a 2-2.5 inch heel the padding will make a huge difference for you.

And with Cole Haans or other better quality shoes, I usually find they break in pretty quickly because the leather is good quality. It takes time to save up for a pair, but to me it's much more worth it than pair after pair of the $35 cheaper brand I can find at DSW that wear out quickly and hurt like hell.
posted by olinerd at 4:59 AM on March 13, 2012

I'm a guy, and I've never worn high heels (not even as a practical joke) but I am a certified massage therapist who used to wear cowboy boots 24/7.

If you ask any podiatrist, chiropractor or massage therapist about heels they'll tell you that they're not good for your feet and lower legs. They shorten your Achilles Tendon, which can cause problems like plantar fascitis and other issues. Even wearing a relatively short heel like on a cowboy boot surely exasperated the issues with plantar fascitis, and tendonitis that I have, years after I've stopped wearing boots like that.

That being said, no one expects you to never rock a pair of heels. You have to start small; Mrs. Chosemerveilleux said starting with a platform with a stacked heel is a good idea. Going from flats to very high heels is a recipe for pain and suffering, and possible spills. The pain is your feet's way of saying that this heel wearing thing is completely unnatural, until it's not, and then it won't hurt much anymore if at all. But a lot of people think heels look awesome, so when in Rome...

Also, have you ever had your feet looked at by a podiatrist? It sounds like you may have either collapsing arches (like my wife) or a really low to nonexistant arch (like me). If there is a Roadrunner sports running shop around they have a machine that can look at the shape of your foot so you can see what kind of arch you have. Good luck.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 5:02 AM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Agreeing with trying a wedge. Wedges are great because
1. you can get height without having a huge arch to your foot (so they are more comfortable)
2. they can be a lot more stable feeling
3. there are some really cute summery wedges coming out around now!

My heel training wheels were a pair of wedge sandals. I, like you, always get a blistery thing happening on the back of my heel from shoes, particularly high heels, so I went with a wedge (more stability) that was a sandal (strapped on, wouldn't pop off while I walked, more secure) and that had nothing blister-able along the back. Once I got used to those I got a pair of heels with a thick heel (not stiletto) like this. The next pair was a little higher, a little more narrow... basically, you just have to work your way up.

Try something like THIS to get started.

ALSO! You need to be a little realistic. Don't expect to be able to walk to work in them. What a lot of women do is wear their sneakers/flats/comfy shoes on their walk to work and then change in to the pretty pretty heels when they get there. There is no shame in that. Keep some in your office, carry them to work with you, do whatever you need to to be able to walk to and from work in proper footwear.

And finally, sometimes to get good, comfortable, well fitting, non-agony inducing shoes you have to spend a little more. REAL leather helps with fit and comfort, for one. And a more expensive, well made shoe is often a lot easier on your foot.
posted by gwenlister at 5:21 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Start out with a sexy pair of high heeled boots. You can slip in an arch support if you get the proper size for it. Many stores have them on clearance right now, to get ready for spring inventory, so you might be able to get a pair cheaply.

Boots will give you more support while you learn to walk with heels. Opt for leather, and the best quality you can afford.

Once you are used to the boots, start shopping. Try on every shoe until you find the pair that makes you feel like a princess. I love Nina brand heels. $75.00 and I have something that I can walk for hours in.

I cannot wear heals with pantyhose- my feet are an in-between size and the hose causes the shoes to slip too much. I buy heels that I can wear barefoot.

Try on heels at the end of the day when your feet are the most swollen.
posted by myselfasme at 6:00 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find 2.5" to be the sweet spot as far as heel height goes, and I prefer heels that are thicker and tapered, rather than stiletto-thin or clunky. Like these or these. They look very heel-y but are far more comfortable than stilettos. Plus you're far less likely to get your heel stuck in a grate if you wear them outside, as I've learned from firsthand experience.

You do have to start low/thick and work your way up. I recommend going higher before you go thinner, or going thinner but lower; even thin kitten heels (e.g. these) are tricky to balance on for beginners.

When you start wearing heels, wear them for only a couple hours at a time. Keep some comfy flats on hand to change into; foldable/packable ballet flats are designed for this, and they're easy to find right now.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:52 AM on March 13, 2012

High heels are an instrument of oppression!

But if you must, you could try the suggestions over at Barking Dog Shoes, where they discuss a variety of foot problems and shoes that work for them.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:07 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The problem with walking on heels is that it basically shifts your weight by pushing you forward on your toes, distorting the spine and putting no end of strain on the joints in your toes. You can correct your posture by redistributing your weight onto your heels, which is easier said than done, and usually requires you to buy a really good pair of shoes. However, it can also be accomplished with judicious use of inserts, and a bit of practice.

If you go for the first option, a well made pair of heels (guide price $200 minimum) should offer good support on the arches, and allow you to put your weight firmly on your heels, preventing you from straining the joints in your big toes. This has the added advantage of promoting a confident gait by balancing your weight, so you won't feel like your about to fall on your face.

By far the most comfortable heels I have ever owned are a pair of Eamz sandals by United Nude. This style is not for everyone, but they do demonstrate the principle very well. The cantilevered heel supports under the arch, and pivots the foot between the heel and the toe, so they wear like a much lower heel while adding a towering four inches to my height. They look mighty fierce too.

If your budget doesn't stretch this fabulous, you can achieve almost the same result in inexpensive shoes with a pair of Insolia inserts. This have the same effect of shifting you backwards on your foot, so that your weight is more evenly distributed. This little video demonstrates the principle very well. These have worked very well for me when used with a cushioning sole in the toe of the shoe, but apparently they don't work for everyone.

Having customized your heels, you should then practice your walk. All depends on posture and core stability, so relax, engage your abs, and stand tall with your spine straight and shoulders back. However, don't expect or plan to walk for miles, because the wearing of high heels is all about display, which means standing around in bars and salons rather than pounding the pavements.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 7:08 AM on March 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Cole Haan pumps are worth a look. They are owned by Nike and have incorporated sneaker technology into their high heels to make them comfortable and shock absorbing. Look for the ones with "AIR" in the name. Even a lot of their flats have the AIR technology.

I find heels torturous for many reasons, but these actually feel good.
posted by cecic at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2012

Don't underestimate the need for core strength and good posture.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:23 AM on March 13, 2012

"YOU by Crocs" are superb!!!!! This flip flop wearing socal girl has bought 7 pairs...

When I moved to England I got quite a shock because EVERYONE wears sky high heels for their nights on the town...

I ended up buying a bunch of expensive ones thinking they would be better- they weren't and I often found myself barefoot and on my way home after less than an hour...

but then on a trip home I found YOU by crocs at the Santa Monica Crocs store... they are amazing, even though they have nearly a 4 inch heel I can wear them for 12 hours straight one day, and another 12 the next (though my feet are sore a bit if its been a few months since I've worn them)... I own 7 pairs, they're all I will wear... and not as expensive as the cole haans.

I buy them online now and have people post them to me.
posted by misspony at 10:23 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Clarks? Their heels have enough arch support for my high arches. This year's line has some cute heels--the La Contrary are very sleek and retro, for instance.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:50 AM on March 13, 2012

After struggling with finding walkable heels for years, I recently found these Doc Martens oxfords which I find much more comfy and walkable than any other heels I've tried so far. (They also have more sedate options with similar fit, if that level of funky isn't your thing.) The heels look high but they don't feel that way because of the thick platform, and the sturdy heel and treaded rubber sole are very stable.
posted by bettafish at 11:53 AM on March 13, 2012

First: I think that there's nothing wrong with wearing flats 100% of the time, but if you want to wear heels, I think there are also ways to make that work.

If you're walking a lot, stick with flats for now. Maybe try boots with a 1" chunky heel, something like this - I own these, I had to get them resoled, but now they're awesome. Get used to wearing non-trainers.

Then, when you're going somewhere in a friend's car or a taxi - very little to no walking at all - wear a low heel - no more than 2.5 inches. These are the most comfortable heels I own. They're a wedge, which is great for starting, like everyone says.

You can also practice wearing heels around the house for say, 20-30 minutes at a time - mostly sitting, a little light walking.

Stick with chunky heels and wedges. Don't wear stillettos or narrow heels - they're much harder to walk in and much less comfortable. If you have the budget for it, go to Nordstroms to try on a ton of shoes. They have great customer service, so you can also return things if they just don't work even after wearing them.

Don't expect that you'll be able to wear heels day-to-day without a car; that's not realistic for most women, I think. For me, heels are for going out at night, or for wearing in the office - for things where I'm not walking a lot. I just can't walk a mile in most heels (the sandals above are an exception - I can easily walk a mile in them).
posted by insectosaurus at 12:00 PM on March 13, 2012

Luckily, flats are very current! But if you must wear heels (and I must!) nth'ng both platforms and wedges to start, and then moving on to Cole Haans Air high heels. I actually find height is not as important as angle, so shop around, and walk around with the shoes on in the store. Also, your drugstore has lots of fixies for your feet, including arch support, ball of foot pads, heel pads, etc. This is a major industry!

And yep, back up shoes are key.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:23 PM on March 13, 2012

My problem was having a "flexible midfoot"--I used to think I had the hang of it, until I developed a Morton's neuroma. (Do a Google image search if you really want to gross yourself out.) Trust me, it's not worth it. I'd rather have expensive, chic, elegant flats anyday.
posted by aquafortis at 1:29 PM on March 13, 2012

The problem with walking on heels is that it basically shifts your weight by pushing you forward on your toes, distorting the spine and putting no end of strain on the joints in your toes. You can correct your posture by redistributing your weight onto your heels

Try on lots of heels in the 2.5 to 3 inch height until you find some that keep your weight back on your heels instead of on the ball of your foot. I have a couple of pairs of Gianni Bini heels that I can literally wear all day. Also recommending Cole Haan Air, especially the Carma in its various styles in the low to mid height range and Franco Sarto for work heels. I've found that the higher end shoes that have rubber or suede bottoms are easier to walk on, especially if you are on tile or concrete than those with slick leather bottoms.
posted by tamitang at 2:36 PM on March 13, 2012

You might try going up half a size so you can fit a ball cushion into it for comfort. I also recommend starting with wedges, and graduating to chunkier heels.
posted by elizeh at 7:26 PM on March 13, 2012

I just wanted to chime in with a mention of Mary Janes because the assistance of a strap can make the whole walking in heels thing that much easier. As someone who appreciates how pretty heels can be but also values comfort, my comfiest heels are usually Mary Jane wedges that are 3" or less. The truth is that heels will never be pain free when worn over a prolonged period of time, but you can find ones that are fashionable and mostly comfortable. Also, purchasing some gel insoles or pads to cushion the balls of your feet can make a tremendous difference. Lastly, carrying a back-up pair of flats (I think Dr. Scholl's make inexpensive portable ballet flats) is always a good idea when you're out on the town and rocking some heels.
posted by katemcd at 9:50 PM on March 13, 2012

I'm terrible in heels too, but I've learnt not to shy away from them as long as they:

1. Have a closed toe. So much more comfortable (and, in my opinion, nicer-looking) than open-toed styles. Nobody likes having their toes squished up between lots of straps.

2. Have a wedge or a fairly thick heel. Also, if a shoe doesn't stand up by itself when you set it on a flat surface, it's inherently unstable - don't buy it!

3. Have some kind of Mary Jane or t-bar support to hold you foot in place. Fortunately my style is very 30s/40s/50s so I fawn over these sorts of shoes anyway.

I currently rotate between these two-tone pretties, black leather t-bar wedges and tan leather mary-janes.
posted by lovedbymarylane at 12:49 AM on March 14, 2012

Response by poster: Everyone, thanks a ton for your advice. I've got my eye on a few thick-heeled Mary Janes!
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:10 AM on March 14, 2012

This is crazy because I came to AskMe to post pretty much this exact question. Weird arches, fire on the balls of my feet, blisters at the heel, every last bit. For what it's worth, the only pair of heels I've ever worn that didn't make me bleed at the back of my feet was a pair of court shoes made by Irregular Choice. They were the most expensive shoes I've ever bought, but they were for my best friend's wedding and absolutely worth it. They fit like a dream right out of the box and required no stretching or breaking in, which is apparently a feature of that brand for some reason. Sadly, I still had the fire underneath the balls of my feet, and that's what I came here to resolve. It's a problem I have from within 5 minutes of putting on shoes with more than a 1-inch heel.

If you're in the UK, Marks and Spencer has a line of shoes with "Insolia technology" built-in. I'm planning to try on a few pairs to see if they feel any different at all before ordering any fancypants insoles. I'd be happy to report back.
posted by Eumachia L F at 3:17 PM on March 14, 2012

If your feet are temporarily rich, they might like a pair of Fluevogs.
posted by Sallyfur at 8:55 PM on March 14, 2012

« Older Long distance relationship or transfer university?...   |   ooohhhh the Black Forest... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.