I just want to be comfortable AND stylish....okay?
June 3, 2012 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Is there such a thing as a "sneaker heel"?

I love the look of heels but I hate wearing them. I’ve come to terms with the idea that a shoe you can wear comfortably for only 3 to 5 hours, if that, is not a real shoe. Besides, I can’t seem to walk normally in most heels, my long semi-loping gait continually attempting to tell my brain that they’re comfortable sneakers. I’ve tried over and over to relearn how to walk in heels, but I just end up with a lot of heel pain, arch pain, toe pain, the shoe slipping off constantly even if it’s the correct size, and overall frustration.
So here I am with the “ooh pretty” desire to wear heels with pretty sun dresses but the knowledge that if I did I’d only have to take them off a couple hours later.

My sneakers all have very slight raised heels and walking in flats is almost as awkward as walking in heels. So. . . is there a sneaker-style heel out there? Is there actually a low heel that has great arch support, doesn’t pinch toes, doesn’t jar the heel of your foot until they feel like clunky stilts, doesn’t rub your foot raw if you want to wear the heels without hose, still looks semi-stylish, and comes in more colors than just black? I mean, my philosophy is that I should be able to run in any shoes I own because if that’s what my body can do than my shoes damn well better keep up because that's what they're made for, no?

Anyway, I'm pretty much at the point where I just want to wear some horrendously bright fluorescent sneakers with my little retro sundresses and be all "Wut? They're summer colors, bitches." Life's just too short to be uncomfortable or to really care what other people think about your clothes.

I'd appreciate any help. Thanks.
posted by DisreputableDog to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried espadrilles? Especially because you mention summer dresses. They're typically cloth, so they breathe, they have a wedge heel, and often have ankle straps. Amazon link for example purposes.
posted by kellyblah at 5:22 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you know about Cole Haan Nike Air technology? I own a pair and they are soooo comfy.
posted by echo0720 at 5:23 AM on June 3, 2012

Peruse the Barking Dog Shoe Blog. They are a wealth of information on comfortable shoes that are often very cute.
posted by 41swans at 5:36 AM on June 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Rockport has sneaker technology. I have a pair of 2.5" wedges that I've been wearing for a few years and they still look new.

I have heard great things about Miz Mooz. They are supposed to be very comfortable.

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 5:53 AM on June 3, 2012

Sneaker heels, literally. May be overkill.
posted by erstwhile at 6:14 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are tons of pretty shoes that are also flats. Heels can be more or less comfortable, but at the end of the day you're walking around on your toes all day and you're going to feel the effects of that. The heel itself has the effect of changing your posture, lengthening the appearance of your leg, etc, but you can still get the "pretty shoes!" part with a pretty flat.

Also, maybe not your aesthetic, but I think that a retro sundress looks so cute with a low profile classic canvas sneaker like these Keds.
posted by telegraph at 6:17 AM on June 3, 2012

Fleuvog makes pretty shoes that are actually comfortable. Lots of awesome colors.
posted by natasha_k at 6:19 AM on June 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Life's just too short to be uncomfortable or to really care what other people think about your clothes.

That is a great point. I think you have already answered your own question!

Please also remember that wearing high heels is simply *bad* for your body. There's nothing good about the unnatural pressure on your back, hips, and knees from the stress on your joints from wearing heels. Ask any orthopedic surgeon or chiropractor.

However, I do understand the desire for attractive footwear. I like Aerosoles, which are a good brand of comfy shoe, very stylish, and reasonably priced. They sell lots of cute flats, but also a lot of low heels, so you might like them.
posted by honey badger at 6:46 AM on June 3, 2012

I love my Worishofer sandals (kind of granny chic), Naots (they have many other styles with lower heels), and privos. There are lots of shoes that satisfy your requirements out there! I also have these for when serious walking is required. I think they still look cute with a sundress.
posted by picklebird at 6:53 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love heels (and can sprint at least short distances in most of mine) but I too enjoy being more mobile, and so many of my cute little sundresses get paired with Converse sneakers in a wide variety of prints and colors. Neon is even quite in this year! That said, Aerosoles and Cole Haan do both make really comfortable flats and low heels in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of the flats are on a sort of rubber wedge that isn't very high, but provides a bit of a lift. The Aerosole ones with laser-cut little patterns are welcome in the summer time for air circulation.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:55 AM on June 3, 2012

What about a wedge? If you look at shoes like these, you are raised up but the heel has very little lift. Your foot will also not slip out.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:05 AM on June 3, 2012

Go to a New Balance store - they have a line of not-sneakers whose name escapes me. Very comfortable, though.
posted by SMPA at 7:25 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been having the same kind of problem and have had real success with Born shoes (although my favorite pair would fall off if I tried to run in them). I won't wear anything over 2ish inches of heel with my size 10 feet because of damaged joints. Plus I won't wear just any flats because I'm tired of my tender feet getting blistered.

I've tried four pair of shoes (Naots, which don't fit me, and the Born and something else) from Zappo's and returned three with no difficulties. Hold out for comfy shoes because they are out there--that's what I'm doing.
posted by immlass at 7:38 AM on June 3, 2012

+ 1 wedges, they are very easy to wear.

Anything with a wider heel will also be quite wearable - I have a pair of Biviel heels with a 1.5" diameter at the bottom - these are so much more wearable than regular pumps. I stood for an 8 hour presentation in these shoes.

Clarks Privo has sandals in lower heights. One pair I own has a kitten heel style. The styles trend a bit to the old lady side, but they're great for work. see also Dansko sandals.

Cowboy boots offer a heel and work well with many dresses, may not be the look you're after though. Some booties and dress boots come in a stacked heel, which is again a wide heel but not round like my Biviels. These are comfortable.

Any heel will be uncomfortable if it is over 3" (unless there is a raised platform to compensate). Also, if you're always walking out of heels, try a strapped on style (Mary Janes, t-strap, some sandals) or try wedges.

I have a pair of Rockport heels and they are indeed quite wearable. However, I have had good luck with many other brands as well. Look for all leather/suede uppers to differentiate between good and bad. After that, just try on a lot of shoes - a LOT of shoes. Shoes that work for one person may not work for another. If you are not putting at least 3 pairs back on the shelf for ill fit before buying, you're probably not discriminating enough.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:55 AM on June 3, 2012

PS - I know you asked for dress sneakers, but I think such things are tacky (and unprofessional, depending on environment). You can find comfort in heels, it's just a bit of work.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:58 AM on June 3, 2012

The best thing you can do is find a store that specializes in women's "comfort shoes" and try on a bunch of different brands. What feels comfortable is such an individual thing. I've tried on several pairs of the much-lauded Cole-Haan Nike Air heels, for example, and every time, they've been instantly painful. Børns don't seem to work for me, either. (I once made the mistake of buying a pair of Børn flats even though they didn't feel right in the store, because I thought "they're a well-made comfort brand with a great reputation—they can't possibly be uncomfortable." But the first day I wore them, I got chafed all around my feet and it felt like the whole foot-leg-back chain of muscular interactions was somehow "off." I've never worn them again.) But Naots are always super comfortable from day one for me, and I have a pair of Camper high-heeled sandals that feel really natural to walk in.

If you don't have the right kind of shoe store nearby, you can order lots of pairs to try on from Endless or Zappos with the plan of returning your rejects, but I find it so inconvenient to mail back my returns that I'd rather shop locally when possible.

One nice thing about shopping online, though, is that on some sites (Endless is one) you can narrow your search by heel height and shoe type, which lets you zero in on pumps or sandals with a low (sneaker-height) heel. From there you can scan visually for things with a wider heel and a stylish-enough look.
posted by Naiad at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2012

I think the suggestion for Clarks is a good one. There are other similar, slightly crunchy brands that likewise offer sandals and dressy shoes with good arch support--naturalistas, groundhogs.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2012

I have a really hard time with high heels as well, and I love my Dansko Mary Janes (which are discontinued, but much like these). They have a modest heel, they're really comfy, and they look great with dresses. Also plenty of room in the toes. I have worn them all day without getting sore feet. Here are some higher-heeled Danskos, and they also make cute clogs and sandals.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 8:02 AM on June 3, 2012

I despair of ever keeping my heels to stay in high-heeled shoes, as they're always slipping out and chafing and making me trip when my foot doesn't slide back into the shoe properly after pulling out when I step. I tried the mary-jane heel route, but they make my legs look short and chunky, when the whole point of heels is to make your legs look long and pretty! And honestly, even though I resolve several times a year that I should wear more heels, I'm not really comfortable spending $100+ on one of the brands that people always recommend in these threads.

However, I have found that in the summer, wedge sandals go great with my sundresses, don't slip off (because they don't have a heel cup, just straps over the forefoot), and can be found in comfortable designs at affordable prices.

I also found a great pair of knee-high, heeled boots for the cooler months that don't slip off, presumably because of all the extra leather going up my calf. They were more expensive, but I got them on clearance towards the end of boot season so still managed to get a good deal, and they're quite comfortable.
posted by vytae at 9:16 AM on June 3, 2012

Camper and Fleuvog are the two brands that are both comfortable and stylish (to me). Both are pricy, but will last you. Both brands do fun things with colors. Camper sizes can vary (I tend to wear a smaller size in their sandals than their sneakers).
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:24 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not really comfortable spending $100+ on one of the brands that people always recommend in these threads.

I'm just coming back to drop in a note that my second favorite pair of low heels for skirts this summer (only less favorite because it has a flower on it which means I don't want to wear it every day) is a b.o.c.--a Born brand that I bought at DSW for well under $100.
posted by immlass at 9:32 AM on June 3, 2012

Another brand of women's shoes that incorporates sneaker technology is Aravon, made by New Balance.

Anne Klein Shoes has a new "Sport" line and I just got a pair of simple old-fashioned dancing-style pumps (at DSW for under $50) which are very comfortable, but I can't speak to the durability yet.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:44 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The thing to keep in mind is 1) chunky heels are better. I never teeter around in stilettoes. My go with everything black pumps are made by Fluevog and they're the most comfortable heels I've had. 2) Platforms help. You get height, but having the extra bit in front reduces the effect of a high heel. 3) I try to stay away from pointy toed shoes.

If you're heels are slipping out of the shoe, buy heel liners.

As for sneaker wedges, I have these. I can't say whether they're comfy (they're new), but that's what I plan on wearing this summer when I want height, but not a fancy pump. I wouldn't wear them to work though.

Sneaker wedges are a bit of a trend now. So if you like the ones I linked to, you should be able to find a similar pair at different price points and colours.
posted by quoththeraven at 9:53 AM on June 3, 2012

I wear Minnetonka moccasins (Kiltys) with dresses in the summer when I don't feel like wearing heels. Just a thought.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:19 AM on June 3, 2012

Sidhedevil: Aravon, made by New Balance.

Thank you! Yes! This! If my feet weren't hideously wide (too wide for NB, yes really) I'd own about twenty of these.
posted by SMPA at 11:36 AM on June 3, 2012

My sneakers all have very slight raised heels and walking in flats is almost as awkward as walking in heels.

Most sneakers are essentially low heels these days, ~1". And they are designed to let you "roll over" or stride without really bending your joints because they have a rockered sole. If you wear sneakers all the time to the point that you have trouble walking in flats or barefoot OR in higher heels I implore you to start fixing that asap by stretching and walking barefoot and transitioning to true flat shoes for everyday. You have probably shortened and tightened the structures in the back of your leg and heel and lost mobility in your ankle and big toe joints. THAT is the reason for your arch and foot pain. This could potentially get a lot worse, a lot of the older athletes in my family have developed plantar fascitis or other fun foot problems from wearing running sneakers as everyday shoes for 30 years. Anyay- total derail but imho, this is a big warning sign of future problems! As a bonus, improving the flexibility of your ankle and foot makes wearing tall heels much, much easier.
posted by fshgrl at 11:41 AM on June 3, 2012

I don't usually wear heels for the same reasons you describe, but I recently bought these Fluevogs and can walk all day in them. I bought some other ones that are not as comfortable, so do some research first if you're going to spring for 'Vogs, because they are not the world's cheapest shoes.
posted by Addlepated at 12:02 PM on June 3, 2012

Comfortable and stylish, you say? My dear, you're not supposed to walk in them!

Serously ladies, let's not kid ourselves. Douglas Adams was right. Most high heels - like many shoes on the market - are vanity products designed to appeal to our basest instincts, and exist only to encourage us to buy them, and not actually walk in them.

I've posted previously on shoes in general and high heels in particular, so at risk of repeating myself: if like me you love to wear heels, please a) seek out and spend as much as you can afford on the very best pair you can find, and b) learn how to walk in them properly so as to minimize the strain on the balls of your feet. And don't imagine that you can or should be able to walk around in them all day, because you risk injuring yourself if you do.

I love a great pair of shoes, and I have some excellent heels in my closet. I wheel a pair out once a week or so (wheel being the operative word, because I only ever wear them on my bicycle). I love to wear them, but on days when I expect to walk around a lot, I'm in flats.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 8:00 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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