Tips for Wearing Heels
Tips for Wearing Heels
COMFORT IS KEY
"Every person has a different issue with their heels," says Megan Cleary, a shoe specialist and the author of The Perfect Fit: What Your Shoes Say About You. "When you get home, walk around the house a bit. Anyplace that you feel a little bit of pressure, that’s gonna be a painful spot. So that’s where you want to go in and strategically pad up your stiletto with a gel pad or some moleskin. You can cut it up and put it where you want, like where your little toe is. You have to do your own padding."
EASY DOES IT
Donna Marie Asbury, who appears in the hit Broadway musical Chicago, spends most of her time in heels, both on-stage and off. She advises that neophytes start with a lower heel (under 3 inches) and work their way up gradually. "Another option is to wear platform heels, which help absorb the shock more, or thicker heels," she says. "If you wear pencil-thin heels, it’s likely that you’re going to feel like you’re about to topple over." But watch out for super-short "kitten" heels, says Camilla Morton, author of How to Walk in High Heels, who notes that such heels can hurt as much as taller ones. "There’s no point in going halfway," Morton says. "If you’re going to wear heels, wear heels."
"High heels typically have an exaggerated arch, so women with high arches can generally tolerate them better from a comfort perspective," says Dr. Darren J. Stefanyshyn, an associate professor on the faculty of kinesiology at the University of Calgary. But Dr. D. Casey Kerrigan, the chair of the University of Virginia’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, argues that even if your foot feels OK in heels, the shoes are never good for you. "Research has shown that high heels cause abnormal forces at the knee that predispose you to knee arthritis," says Kerrigan. "The women who can and do wear them over a long period of time may still be getting problems that they can’t feel on a day-to-day basis." What's more, the pressure on your foot from a high heel can cause bunions, says Jay Morgan, senior director for research and development at Schering-Plough, which manufacturers Dr. Scholl’s products. Lastly, if you have any sort of vascular disease or diabetes, it’s probably better to avoid heels altogether, say experts, who explain that compromised blood flow to the foot can be worsened by the tightness of heels.
“The higher the heel is, the more effect it has in terms of shortening and tightening the Achilles' tendon,” says Patrick McKee, a podiatric surgeon in the orthopedic department at the Cleveland Clinic. “And if you go straight to a flatter shoe afterward, it puts extra strain on the tendon. ... My advice would be: You want to keep your heel wearing to less than 50% of the time. If you choose to have them on at work, then wear comfy shoes to and from work.” Another thing to keep in mind is that physical activities such as basketball and tennis may help to strengthen the muscles that are taxed by wearing heels, says Schering-Plough's Morgan: "Exercise that includes lateral, side-to-side movement will help build strength in your ankles that can compensate for the lack of support you get in heels."
When it comes to wearing heels and a confident attitude, which comes first? Designer Christian Louboutin says the latter. "Walking in heels is a bit like flying," he says, "and a woman has to really feel good about herself and be basically happy. The walk should not come from the feet, but from the center of the heart. Don’t put your focus on your feet, but instead focus on feeling good and beautiful and then you’ll forget about the rest. An example is Tina Turner: She says that when she’s on-stage, she never thinks about being on heels. You need to be carried by something else other than your own weight."