High Heels and Me

I have an, erm, tenuous relationship with high heels. I like the way they look, for sure. However, I don’t really like the way they feel. As a result, I go through a high heel shoe cycle. It happens something like this:
high heels

  • Decide I need to buy some heels, because I don’t have any
  • Find a couple of pairs that don’t hurt too much when I try them on in the store
  • Wear the shoes once, for about 45 minutes, before switching into the flats I brought along just in case
  • Look at the shoes each time I dress up, and then think the better of it
  • Realize it’s been at least two years since I last wore the shoes, and cart them off to the second hand store
  • Let another year or two pass, so the memory has worn off
  • Get invited to a fancy party, and realize my fancy shoe options are extremely limited
  • Decide I need to buy some heels, because I don’t have any

And so it goes. I buy heels. I realize they’re awfully uncomfortable, and give up on them. Then I forget about it, and get smitten with the idea of wearing them again.

high heelsThe fact I’m short – just 5’2″ – factors into my attitude towards high heels. While I don’t feel there’s any height limit associated with the shoes you wear, I have heard many of my tall friends express the sentiment that they’d rather lose a couple of inches than gain a couple. This isn’t me. Quite the contrary – I could use an added boost. My own mother, who is shorter than me, often wore heels for just this reason. But I’m just not prepared to suffer in the name of fashion.

And yet. And yet. I am currently in a phase of not owning any high heels. I see other women around me wear them, and they don’t seem to be constantly wincing in agony. I have my husband’s fancy work holiday party coming up in mid-December, and I scored a designer dress at a bargain basement price at Nicole Bridger‘s warehouse sale. I’d like nice shoes to wear with the dress. Plus, when I celebrated my birthday in May I declared that this year I would learn to wear heels. The cycle of high heels is starting all over again.

This is where you come in. I am planning a trip to the thrift store in advance of the party, on the hunt for a pair of wearable heels. I’ve found I can handle really short heels all right, but I’d like to brave something with a little more lift. So I’m turning to you. What are your secrets for wearing heels for longer than 45 minutes at a stretch? Do you find certain styles easier to handle? Or is it just a matter of constant practice and gritting your teeth? I will take all the advice I can get!

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  1. This isn’t going to be particularly helpful to someone anticipating wearing the heels once and then selling them, but this is an area where you get what you pay for. I was never comfortable in heels until I spent a couple of hundred dollars on a pair. I have wide feet so I generally buy Fluevogs: what suits you will depend a lot on the shape of your feet.

    If they are only marginally comfortable in the store they will not get better. You want a pair that are completely comfortable, not merely the best of the bunch.

    Also, buy them well in advance and wear them around the house a lot. You can return shoes you haven’t worn outside if they turn out to be too uncomfortable to wear for long stretches.

  2. It’s funny, I have always wished I was petite; I hit 5’6′ in about sixth grade, (not including my 80’s hair;-) which made for a very uncomfortable first school dance. Finally stopping near 5’9″, and marrying a 5’7′ fellow, heels aren’t in my closet these days. But, I do have 2 very favorite pairs in storage that if I ever need them they are ready, and comfy. They’re what we call “character shoes” and I have them in black & nude. I love them, they are perfect for dancing, and go well with anything. You can get them with a t-strap, for a slinkier look. You won’t get nearly as many choices in styles & colors, but there are different heights. You’ll get the lift, and I’ll bet you can wear them for much longer than 45 minutes.
    Michelle’s last post … WeekendingMy Profile

    • My very good friend is actually 6’1″. We attended a wine tasting event and she wore heels while I wore flats. I asked someone to take a photo, just so we could have a documentation of the contrast. I seem to attract tall friends.

      Anyway, that was a digression. Thanks for the hints!

      • If it helps, my feet were in agony and I wished I’d given the matter more than 20 seconds of thought. And I threw those shoes out yesterday, because they are ridiculous.

        That said, I second what the poster above said. My shoes were cheap Payless shoes, and you could tell when you wore them. If you bought higher quality shoes, some of the problems would undoubtedly go away.

  3. I’m a high heel lover. Pre-kids, my favorite thing to do was to shop for heels with my best friend. I wore them EVERYWHERE. I don’t wear heels as much as I used to simply because I almost always have a child in arms and carrying weight at that tilt isn’t very comfy for my hips. But honestly, the most comfortable pair of heels I’ve ever had (and I’ve owned a lot!) are a pair of black Predictions pumps from Payless. They are super comfy and classy. I used to wear them working 8-hour shifts in retail with no discomfort. I may or may not have several pairs in different colors!
    Cate’s last post … Less is MoreMy Profile

  4. I wear high heeled boots or ankle boots with dresses most days to work and I find them more supportive and comfortable than the classic pump/spike heel. You can get something a bit chunkier and still fancy. I don’t know about thrift stores having much with comfort though – seriously consider going to the Bay downtown – topshop has some great boots of many heel and boot heights, nothing too expensive but decent enough quality to last a few years. Go with basic black, some chunk, some foot coverage and you will have something that can be worn with jeans and leggings too!
    eva’s last post … Happy Birthday Emily!My Profile

  5. I find thrift a great place to try out new styles, heights and types of shoe. Just remember to bring some pop socks/thin socks to wear while you try on, and don’t forget to walk around in them. Seriously, no one will bat an eyelid if you go for a little walk!
    As for comfort, wear them round the house, try different insoles or foot beds to ease the new sole pressures, and add different heel heights into your daily life.
    The babe-in-arm years, contrary to stereotypes in the social media world, don’t last for ever.
    pomomama aka ebbandflo’s last post … self portrait Thursday: care to share the joke?My Profile

  6. ugh, i hear you.

    i just bought four inch heels cuz i thought it would be a good idea and they HURT. OH and I realized that since I have narrow heels, they slip out with panty hose. boo. i looked like a knob trying to walk in them since my heels kept popping out. (it got better the more wine i had that night lol)

    what i have found comfortable are hush puppies- although they aren’t the traditional looking spiked heel.

    that said- if i’m only to own ONE pair of heels, I am willing to pay more for comfort- instead of less- that way I’ll get my money’s worth since i’ll actually wear them.
    EcoYogini’s last post … Eco Yogi 2012 Gift GuideMy Profile

    • I have narrow heels, as well, but also wide toes. The result is that it’s hard to get a good fit. Maybe I should try the Hush Puppies. Since I have literally nothing right now, I should probably start small and not overdo it.

  7. For high heels, I tend to buy cheap and then regret it. If I spend the money on a more expensive pair, then they are much, much more comfortable. My one exception seems to be my sparkly blue discount shoes. they have been really comfy and were from a less expensive chain. They have a “rolled toe” which means as you walk, you can walk more normally, not with that high step so common to high heel wearers.

    Look for more expensive brands at the Thrift store (Naturalizer, Nine West, Geox, Aerosoles. If you find anything saying Louboutin, Mahnolo, Prada, Jimmy or Sergio Rossi on them, RUN, do not walk to the cash, doesn’t matter if they fit, soneone you know will fit them and trust me, worth buying even if all you do is poste ’em up on Kijiji and sell ’em for way more). Also, the trend towards a solid heel or a wedge is great! I have a pair of 4 inch high shoes that have a wedge heel (by this I mean the space between the toe of the heel and the spike is “filled in”. You are much more stable in them, and hurt less IMHO. I wore them for our recent Christmas party dinner and was much less ouchy. (I taped my toes to prevent slicing pain in the metatarsals).

    have you thought about special high heel insoles into the shoes to ensure you have cushioning on the ball of the foot?
    Caroline’s last post … Hammer Time SplitsMy Profile

    • Rolled toe? I will definitely check that out.

      Thanks for the tips! It seems that quality really does count when it comes to heels. And you’re not the first person to mention insoles.

  8. Miz Moos are amazing, they are on West 4th. Duo Boots (online, in the UK) also sells shoes, and they come in various widths and are superb quality. Ecco makes great pumps. Check out Ronson’s in Metrotown.
    Jen’s last post … Rosemary JellyMy Profile

  9. I like a wedge. I find them very comfortable and can often last the majority of the night in them – dancing. I do suffer at times though, RA is really bad in my ankles, hips and knees. I love my flat shoes, but I love the sexy look and feel of the heels too.
    Heather’s last post … Working MomMy Profile

  10. I went through “learning curve” when I was older teenager, when that kind of sacrifice (pain for looks?) seemed “normal”. But I will agree with everyone above: more money (usually) means reasonable comfort. I tend to buy cheap staple clothes, as I don’t care for “fashion” and don’t believe that “premium” means more quality, but shoes are one area that more money is warranted. The heel size should be proportional to your foot length – there are way too many shoe companies out there that seem to think that you can put 5″ heel on size 6 shoe (resulting in near vertical foot). When trying heels always pay attention to how much weight is on the ball of the foot – the bridge that runs from heel to toes has to be not flat (perfect for sliding foot and aching toes), not in 90 degrees (perfect for aching ball of foot), but gently curved (so it has foot support, yet it gets down to earth). Also, wearing some reasonable wedges (Hush puppies has some nice samples) can serve as good training – you get the boost, get slightly elongated feel and your foot adjusts without being crammed on its toes. There is adjustment in foot and hip that does happen when wearing heels often – my mother can NOT wear flats after 50+ years on high heels.

    If all fails, then enduring pain for this is still acceptable:

  11. Sarah Barber says:

    Echoing the sentiment other ladies have suggested – get more expensive brands rather than cheap, the cheap shoes never fit me well and end up hurting. Wedges are nice, and I stick with a 3″ heel or thereabouts – seems like the max I can tolerate. I will recommend buying shoes with a platform, as that will add height without adding more heel height. Some shoes even have “hidden” platforms where it doesn’t even look like you’re wearing big clunky shoes. To me it almost seems like shoes with a platform are more comfortable than dressy heels with a thin bottom so avoid those. I also have a pair of insoles for heels that I switch back and forth between my heels with some success. And, if all else fails, buy some Epsom salts and soak your feet after your fancy party :). Good luck!

    • Ditto on Sarah’s platform heel choice πŸ™‚ I’m 4’11” and used to wear heels ALL. THE. TIME. I could run, I could dance, I could kick up my legs and bounce on the spot in them. Then there were a series of car accidents… and now, I wear flats more than I wear heels. I have a pair of flats in my desk drawer for those days that the outfit requires heels when I see clients, but when I’m just at my desk I’ll slip on the flats. I am not a typical shoe girl, I have two pairs of flat dress shoes that I wear on a regular basis and 6 types of heels in my cupboard that get worn maybe once a month. The most comfortable ones… my platform heels with the “fat” heel (not the stilleto), and definite must have – thick comfy insole insert.

  12. I tend to wear wedges. Even better if there’s a platform all the way across where the actual heel rise is quite small. It makes you look like you’re wearing heels but your foot thinks its almost flat.
    Marilyn’s last post … Three Teeth DownMy Profile

  13. So far, the only way I’ve been able to comfortably wear heels is if they are platforms. First of all, when the height of the entire shoe length is jacked up an inch or so in addition to the height of the heel, it looks like I’m wearing a higher heel than I actually am. Second, I think it distributes my weight better, so it doesn’t put so much pressure on the bottom of my heel. I am not a high-heel expert, though. They absolutely kill my feet, so even though I think they are gorgeous and really wish I could wear them, they are reserved for twice a year or so–only when I *really* want to look fancy. I have this beautiful pair of dressy high heels that I really want to wear, but the memory of suffering in them for several hours at my daughter’s baptism THREE years ago is still enough to discourage me. Yikes. I’m reading the advice in the comments and taking notes.
    Jenny’s last post … Enjoying the rest of our Thanksgiving break togetherMy Profile

  14. Meg McCormick says:

    I have to echo and say quality really does matter. I hate wearing heels but like you, every once in a while an event crops up that I really want to dress up for. To this day though the only shoes that I’ve gotten through a whole event with were a strappy pair with cork soles from Aldo. I even danced in them πŸ™‚

  15. Someone taught me this trick and it works:

    Wear a pair of heels and bring another pair that matches your outfit. Alternate them throughout the night because each pair of heels have different pressure points…so when you find your feet are hurting, switch to the other pair =)
    amy lee’s last post … fun christmas things to do around townMy Profile

  16. Aha! I’m no expert because I hate heels too. But here’s two bits I’ve learned from shopping at Fluvog’s (which I can no longer afford, ha, ha.): SPEND MONEY. The amount you spend is in direct relationship to the long term wearability of the heel.

    Search for heels where the weight bearing part of the heel is an inch or inch and a half closer to the ball of your foot than the ones in the photo in this post. If the heel starts at the back of the shoe, it forces your weight forward and is not ergonomic. If it is UNDER your heel, in a plumb line that continues the natural way your weight falls down your leg and thru your heel? WAY MORE COMFY.

    I highly recommend Fluvog’s. Not the super high heels but the medium or low ones. They’re awesome. I highly recommend you buy me a pair, actually. I beg poverty. *puppydogeyes*
    Melissa Vose’s last post … World’s Best ComplimentMy Profile

  17. High heels are definitely a learned skill… but not like riding a bike, unfortunately. I used to be able to wear heels almost daily. I stopped when my heels stopped fitting near the end of my pregnancy. Then I didn’t wear them because I was terrified of falling while carrying my newborn. And by the time I was comfortable with the idea of heels again, my body had sort of forgotten how to deal with them. (I just used some awesome store credit to order THREE brand new trendy pairs of FLATS!)

    I’m also pregnant now though. You could probably learn! And then of course you’ll get knocked up. πŸ˜‰

    • (1) Hooray and congratulations on your pregnancy! I didn’t know.
      (2) You just sent my babylust into overdrive. If forking out money on fancy shoes could somehow cause my birth control to fail, that would be money well spent. πŸ˜‰

  18. Hi,
    I am a guy who loves to wear heels. Is there a secret, yes there is, start with say 3″ heels, but they need to fit. A strap helps or a boot type fit. That way you do not step out of your shoe. A block heel is better to get fit in. Do lots of walking
    To start with 2 or 3 kilomtres a day, your calf muscles will soon tell you enough is enough.
    After a few weeks, calf muscles won’t bother you, until you move up in height to 3 1/2, then the same thing. When you get to 4″ plus, other muscles in your feet will be being stretched too, so again take it easy and enjoy, don’t injure yourself by over doing it. If you do have pain, then have a heel free day or two.
    It is the elevation that counts not the heel height. Eg the heel height less the height of the platform.
    You will also be best to buy shoes or boots with a low platform, these give better foot support and less chance of stone bruises to the ball of your foot which can also hurt. Have fun and wear your heels to enjoy

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  1. […] I have a love-hate relationship with high heel shoes. I love the way they look, I hate the way they feel. The result is that I rarely wear them. Looking ahead to my husband’s company Christmas party later this month, I realized that I didn’t have any high heel party shoes to wear with my fancy new dress. But I didn’t want to repeat my pattern of buying shoes that I only wear once, for about 45 minutes, before ripping them from my feet in agony. So I put it out there, and asked people on my personal blog for high heel help. […]

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