Help me learn how to walk in heels.
November 9, 2005 3:38 PM   Subscribe

I can't walk in heels without falling flat on my bum. Is there some trick to doing this that I'm missing out on?

I'm not looking to wear those spiky-thin deathtraps, but I would like to wear a pair of nice pumps, or loafers with chunky heels every now and then. FWIW, I am 5'2" and my shoe size (US) is 8M. Thanks to everyone in advance!
posted by invisible ink to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Are you walking heel-to-toe? I've often seen women walking "flat" in their heels (that is, they put the entire foot down on the ground at the same time), which looks pretty unstable to me.
posted by scody at 3:53 PM on November 9, 2005

I thought part of the trick was that you're supposed to essentially tip-toe.
posted by interrobang at 4:20 PM on November 9, 2005

interrobang is right.

practice practice practice

and take smaller steps. other wise the lurch will throw you off balance.

your gait changes in heels. also, be prepared for some shin discomfort until you adjust to the heels.

good luck!
posted by subatomiczoo at 4:37 PM on November 9, 2005

Are you walking heel-to-toe? I've often seen women walking "flat" in their heels (that is, they put the entire foot down on the ground at the same time), which looks pretty unstable to me.

What seems scody as wrong is entirely correct. Walking heel-to-toe is how you fall, since you only have the tiny square of the heel to balance on. Not to mention, its also a great way to break them. Concentrate on walking toe-to-heel. This is, of course, impossible, but it generates the "flat" gait, as scody mentioned, which is what you're aiming for.
posted by ChasFile at 4:43 PM on November 9, 2005

Metafilter: where the men know how to walk in heels, but the women apparently do not.
posted by afroblanca at 4:48 PM on November 9, 2005

Most of my friends who complain about being unable to walk in heels have weak ankles. If you are buckling at the ankles when you wear high heels, you can do exercises to strengthen these muscles, and the muscles in your legs, which might be giving you problems as well.

Ballet and yoga will help if it's a balance issue.
posted by Lycaste at 4:49 PM on November 9, 2005

I second the tiny steps and practice.
posted by cali at 4:50 PM on November 9, 2005

Interesting. I walk heel-to-toe in heels -- as high as 4", though usually around 2-3" -- and I've never had any problem. And I walk really fast, too, and take long strides.
posted by scody at 4:52 PM on November 9, 2005

scody--that's interesting. do you find you make a lot of noise tho when you walk that way? i have always been horrified by the noise of walking in heels across certain floors!
posted by subatomiczoo at 4:55 PM on November 9, 2005

I walk more-or-less heel-to-toe (perhaps less than in tennis shoes), and I only fall when I'm drunk. Basically, practice practice practice. if you're brave, start out "running" (it's really more like prancing) in heels - the flatter step is more natural when you're moving fast.
posted by muddgirl at 4:58 PM on November 9, 2005

A more involved option, but with possible side-benefits, is ballroom dance classes. Competitive Latin dancers for example do all their incredible stuff on 3" heels. Not even supermodels look as good walking in heels as champ dancers.

Also, dance heels are in many ways designed and built far better than normal heels, since they're intended to make possible a hell of a lot more than just walking, so they could be a good shoe to learn in. The risk, of course, is that once you get used to them, you might not be able to stand wearing normal heels. The tradeoff is that they're not designed for outdoors - they have a seude sole, so outdoors use will wear them out very quickly, (though shoe makers can often make a dance shoe with street soles on request).

Even if you don't take many classes, the dancers/instructors in ballroom studios are experts in all aspects of wearing high heels, and usually more than happy to give a load of practical advice, coming from years of shared experience - high heel shoes are the foundation of their careers, literally.

afroblanca: Guys wear heels too. I dance in cuban heels. They're only 1.5", but much of the same technique applies.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:14 PM on November 9, 2005

I walk heel-to-toe, too, and suspect it all comes down to practice. Just pick up a pair of heels that're fairly comfortable and not so high you'll kill yourself if you fall off them, and wander around the house until you're not wobbling any more. What Lycaste said about strengthening your ankles sounds like excellent advice, too, although they'll probably strengthen up from simply walking in heels, too. I know I used to wobble at the ankle years ago, and don't at all these days. That's in spikier deathtraps than I'd expect anyone who isn't a drag queen to have to deal with, too.
posted by terpsichoria at 5:26 PM on November 9, 2005

I apologise for the number of times I said 'too' in that answer. That was some excessive wordifying.
posted by terpsichoria at 5:28 PM on November 9, 2005

do you find you make a lot of noise tho when you walk that way? i have always been horrified by the noise of walking in heels across certain floors!

sometimes, though it seems to depend much more on the shoes themselves then on my walking style -- most of my shoes/boots sound a little louder (almost "clackier") when I first buy them, then they get a little less "clacky" as I wear them in, then quieter still if and when I get them reheeled (the shoe repair places I go to apparently use replacement heels that are more like a hard rubber than a plastic substance, I guess).
posted by scody at 6:09 PM on November 9, 2005

it helps if you point your toes out a smidgen.
posted by copperbleu at 6:48 PM on November 9, 2005

subatomiczoo writes "i have always been horrified by the noise of walking in heels across certain floors!"

Don't be, it's part of the allure.

And second -harlequin-, the heels on my cowboy boots are around 2".
posted by Mitheral at 7:05 PM on November 9, 2005

I'm exactly your height and shoe size and I almost always wear 3 to 4 inch heels - we can use the added height! Here are some tips:

- Start with a low, solid heeled shoe with ankle support, like a low heeled boot.
- Avoid skinny heels, even if they're low, and avoid mules or slingbacks until you're more comfortable.
- Watch your posture, you should be standing up straight above your heels, not slouching over, leaning to the side, or rolling your ankles.
- Observe how you are falling- are your heels slipping out from under you? Are you losing your balance forward? Sideways? Are your ankles wobbling? These should give you clues as to what specifically you might be doing wrong.
posted by platinum at 7:11 PM on November 9, 2005

Put most of your weight on your toes; the heel should be only for balance. A great way to get used to heels is to start low and chunky, then gradually work yourself to taller, skinnier heels.
posted by rhapsodie at 7:12 PM on November 9, 2005

I got curious, so pulled out some heels. In the shorter pair (2") heels, my heels hit the ground before my toes, but just barely, and I pushed up strongly on my toes. Was completely on my toes when I turned (pivoted really). I was swaying my hips a lot more with each step. With the help of a full-length mirror, my gait was pretty good.

The longer pair (~4") was a lot harder to walk in. Best gait was when I shifted my weight totally to my toes, and just used the heels for balance, but I almost never wear very high heels (I'm already 5'10"), so I'm kind of unpracticed. Both shoes have chunky heels.

Results from my thoroughly unscientific study: the shorter the heel, the more appropriate a normal gait. With the 4" heels my feet were at almost a 45 degree angle - maybe that affects it?
posted by kalimac at 7:24 PM on November 9, 2005

I'm giving you this advice as someone who has been wearing 4+ inch heels for such a long time, that I have problems walking in flats. (I don't know how to walk in flats...I walk like a clumsy duck). Anyway, here's what i've learned about heels:

1. Learn to walk in heels in fully enclosed pumps only. Slingbacks can be fun in a trashy way, but much harder to walk in. Once you learn with pumps, then work slingbacks in. The problem with slingbacks is that your heel is not held in place as securely as with pumps, so it lands at a slightly different spot each time you put your foot down. This will only come with more practice. The same goes with strappy sandels. You really need something that will fully encase your foot when you learn to walk in heels.

2. Don't buy cheap pumps/stilettos with stiff leather (such as nine west or steve madden). The stiffness of the leather will most certainly rub and consciously/unconsciously interfere with your gait. Choose suppler, custom leather, so you can concentrate purely on the way your feet move within the confines, as opposed to getting distracted by the tightness or discomfort of your shoes.

3. Don’t accommodate for an extra half size like you might habitually with trainers. Remember: you are not going to wear your heels with socks. You need heels to fit snuggly in both the toe and the heel in order to walk in them well. If you are worried about blisters, well, frankly, well-crafted shoes made of good leather will not give you blisters if they are tight. It’s stiff and crappy leather that does this, as well as generic “universal” cuts.

4. As much as you think it might be far easier to walk in and gain height, wedges/platforms fucking suck. They look clunky as hell, and they really throw off your balance. They are an abomination. They hit the ground with much more margin of error, and one tiny pivot or even like a grain of sand will throw off your entire ankle. If you have weak ankles, you’re screwed. A shoe with a distinct heel will be much, much easier to walk in.

5. If you find the perfect pump, but the ball does not have a finish to it, go to a cobbler (lol) and get rubber treads put down. It’s about $25 a pair, and it’s worth it. It will be much less slippery, you will be able to grip with your toes, and you will weather-proof them as well.

6. The minute your heels wear down, and the metal post of the heel even hints at poking through, take it to a cobbler (lol). For about $10, he will put new caps on. To have metal posts sticking out of your heels is akin to walking around on ice skates. It’s just really slippery.

7. Most importantly: At 5'2" with 8M shoe size, I hope you don’t mind me saying that you have big feet for your petit frame. So I think you are not necessarily dealing with grace and gait issues, but with (more importantly) center-of-balance issues, so it's no wonder you have a difficult time walking in heels.

If you listen to nothing in this thread, take at least this into consideration: to buy your heels carefully. Kitten heels that have the heel recessed towards the middle of the shoe and not on the true heel are much much much harder to stabilize in. Pick a shoe where the perpendicular heel is completely parallel (or as close to parallel) to the back of your heel.

Let me make this easier:

the good: see how the heel is far back on the bed? Try to keep this percentage. This is so much more in accordance to your natural balance while you are walking, and will be much easier to keep your gait and step.

the bad: see how much the heel is pushed closer to the center of the bed? this is very very bad, and very hard to coordinate with your natural walk. Don't ever go with a pair like this unless you'll just be standing around. The very placement of the heel works against your center of balance. It is designed to throw you off your ankles. very bad.

As a novice, you may think that the heel depths are indiscernible, but it makes all the difference between walking like a lady, and falling on your ass. Any other questions? email in profile. cheers!
posted by naxosaxur at 7:42 PM on November 9, 2005 [13 favorites]

omg naxosaxur you have nailed it
the science of it i mean

my approach is mostly intuitive. i love heels! and skirts too!

wow! many thanx
posted by subatomiczoo at 8:17 PM on November 9, 2005

I... I think I love naxosaxur. What brand of shoe do you recommend?

(wish me luck - I'm a size 5, which no one makes)
posted by Space Kitty at 8:24 PM on November 9, 2005

I think naxosaxur just gave me the confidence to buy my first pair of heels...
posted by barnone at 8:29 PM on November 9, 2005

Also, do your hells heels fit correctly?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:30 PM on November 9, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the fantastic advice, everyone! I'm definitely feeling more confident now about what to look for when I go shopping for my next pair of shoes - as well as how to maintain the right form in walking.

If anyone would like to share their favorite brands/retailers for finding good quality pumps and heels, please do so! You guys are the best:-)
posted by invisible ink at 1:21 AM on November 10, 2005

yes, in a bit i would love to share my bests/worsts...but i have to finish up some work first.
posted by naxosaxur at 9:18 AM on November 10, 2005

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