I’ve always been a fan of wearing heels… something about feeling taller. When I was younger I would suffer through wearing any pair of heels, thinking that there was no possible way to make them more comfortable, and that was the cost I had to pay. Well, that was crazy. Since then I’ve done some research and lots of experimenting, and have found ways to make at least the majority of heels tolerable. Here’s what I learned.
The Pre-Steps… Finding a suitable pair
Finding a pair of shoes with certain characteristics right off the bat makes this whole process a lot easier! There are a few things I look for when buying a pair of heels. First I set a limit on the heel height. Through trial and error, I’ve found that anything over 4 inches will create too steep of a slope to allow a comfortable stride for my size 6 foot. So I aim for ~3.5 inches, maybe a touch higher. Alright, easy enough. Next I look for a toe box that doesn’t squeeze my foot at all and allows all of my toes to lay completely flat with a little bit of breathing room (aka swelling room) to spare. Often this requires going up 1/2 size, which creates a tiny gap in the back of the heel… that’s ok, its actually just what we’ll need! Beyond this I just make sure the shoes doesn’t squeeze or rub in any funny places, and that I can easily walk around in them without any significant heel slippage (again, feeling a little loose is good). If you frequent this blog, you’ll know that these are my go-to, wear-all-day-at-work pair. They’re amazing. Other similarly priced styles that people seem to have luck with are Stuart Weitzman’s Nouveau Pump, Kate Spade’s Licorice Pump (can’t stop staring at the neons they have out), and Diane von Furstenburg’s Bethany Pump. If you’re looking for a more sure fit, there are tons of backless mule options available now, like these gorgeous Via Spiga ones.
Step 1: Break them in
If your shoes are a touch too big (which will make them ultimately more comfortable), you will likely skip this step. But if they fit snugly in any area, you’ll want to stretch them out just a bit. To do this, put on a pair of socks (or two pairs, depending on how much you need to stretch them out), blow dry them for a minute, focusing on the areas that are too tight, then walk around with the shoes (and socks) on until they completely cool and for a few minutes after. This will allow the shoes to mold to your feet more quickly to prevent future rubbing. If you’re still having problems with certain areas feeling too snug, try a stretcher like this Foot Petals one.
Step 2: Add some cushion
No matter how comfortable the heels are, after 8+ hours on your feet, the balls of your feet start to get sore. To prevent this, its important to find the perfect foot cushion. The cushion you’re going to want to use will depend on how big the shoes are. If the shoes are already pretty snug (and the stretching technique above isn’t giving you a whole lot of extra room), you’ll want to go with something that doesn’t have a lot of bulk. The best cushions I’ve found for this are the Fabric Tip Toes or Gel Tip Toes. These will give you an extra few hours of comfort. If you do have a bit of extra room in the shoes, you’ll want something that will take up some extra space to make a more snug fit overall. Pedag makes the best leather insoles for this! Their Princess 101 insoles come in different sizes to fit your shoe perfectly – I use this one for my shoes that are about 1/2 size too big. They actually have no adhesive and can be transferred from shoe to shoe, which I love. If the shoes are more than 1/2 size too big, than the Pedaq Galant insoles may be a better choice with their larger amount of cushion at the ball of the foot. Both of these Pedag insoles will keep your feet happy for many many extra hours.
Step 3: Know about the extras
If done with care, the above steps will be enough to make most heels reasonably comfortable. But sometimes the fit just isn’t perfect. If the shoes are too tight with the inserts, either the stretching method described in step 1 with the inserts in place, or use the stiletto stretcher to do the work for you. If heel slipping is a problem even after finding the best fitting shoe insert, you’ll have to use a heel grip like this one to keep them in place. Heel grips are a last resort, but they can work. If certain areas are rubbing during the break-in period I usually just put a band-aid or something on to protect my foot. If the rubbing doesn’t improve after a few wears, small Pressure Pointz cushions can easily fix that.
Step 4: Protect the shoe
So, you’ve done all of this work to make the shoes comfortable. Now you have to make them last! Its important to protect your shoes from the elements. Before wearing, its important to preserve the shoes with leather or suede protector. When needed, I clean all of my leather shoes with a shoe cleaning kit (brush alone for suede), and for plain leather (not suede or patent), I maintain suppleness by intermittently using a leather conditioner. Make sure to re-apply the shoe protectors afterwards! If the shoes have a leather sole (or a slippery one), you can consider adding a sole stopper to them as well.
Whew, that’s all I have! Hopefully you find these tips helpful. Feel free to share what works for you, too!