We’ve all made the decision at one point or another to prioritize fashion over function, and there’s no way we’ll be quitting high heels anytime soon — but that special brand of pain that comes with wearing a heel can seriously wreck a day at work or a night out on the town.
While we’re totally on board when it comes to sucking it in for a corseted top or dealing with a less-than-comfortable strapless bra, we’re so not here for torturing the most important part of our bodies — we’re talking feet here, people. Wearing high heels that kill your toes, heels, ankles and the balls of your feet instantly rob you of your happiness — and kinda take away from an otherwise cute outfit. Even Kate Upton would have a difficult time looking hot while wobbling around the room in pain.
Hold onto your heels because there are solutions. We got some tips straight from beauty and fashion experts on how to make heels more comfortable.
Wardrobe consultant and personal shopper Diane Pollack of Stylempower.com has let us in on a great stylist secret: Roll transparent deodorant beneath any area of the shoe (straps, in particular) to prevent chafing. “This will help it to gently glide instead of rub,” Pollack said.
Adjustable straps and buckles will make sure your heels fit snuggly to your feet, which helps avoid the unnecessary rubbing and irritation that cause blisters and discomfort, according to Courtney Barry, the Merchandising Brand Manager of ShoeBuy.
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A good local butcher is hard to find, but a cobbler? If you’re lucky enough to live close to one, make him your BFF now! “The rubber lifts and soles of high-heeled shoe styles get worn down with extended wear, making them uneven and uncomfortable,” Barry said. “Take your shoes to your local cobbler when this starts to happen to prevent damage — to you and your shoe!”
Once you’ve taken the plunge and purchased your new shoes, and depending on the material, it can be helpful to stretch them out a bit to give them some flexibility, Barry said. “You can buy your own shoe stretcher to use at home or take them to your local cobbler — either way you’ll be glad you did.”
If you know you have an upcoming event that requires a pair of new heels, give yourself time to purchase and wear them a few times before the big day. “Nothing works to make a shoe more comfortable than simply breaking it in,” Barry said. “Wear your new shoes around your house a few times before venturing outside, just in case.”
Live your life for a full day and then go shoe shopping. Why? “Try to shop at the end of the day when your feet are swollen,” said Marissa N. Stempien, fashion editor at Just Luxe. “If shoes crush, pinch or smash your toes at the store, you can bet they’ll do it at home.”
If it’s been a while since you had your feet sized, now is the time to ask a shoe store to measure them before you drop a lot of money on heels that may not fit properly. “Your feet can change over the years and sizes can change slightly from brand to brand just like clothes,” Stempien said.
There’s a way to walk in flats and there’s a way to strut in heels and never should the two be confused. “Heels are not sneakers — you have to carry yourself differently,” Stempien said. “Use your core muscles and stand up straight. Pretend you’re strutting your stuff on the catwalk and use your hips and legs to propel yourself forward. It should feel more like a bounce than a normal stride. Practice it at home until you’ve got it down pat — this can be one of the easiest ways to avoid pain in heels.”
Here’s an interesting tip — one certainly worth trying if it means a painless shoe experience. “Taping your third and fourth toes together (counting from the big toe) will help with the pain,” Stempien said. “Yes, it’s a little weird, but there’s actually a nerve there that contributes to foot pain. Stress on the nerve is alleviated when supported by the other toe. Keep in mind this might not work for high-heeled sandals or deep peep-toes.”
“If your shoes are a little too tight, then I have a hack for that,” said stylist and wardrobe consultant Allie Brandwein. “Fill a zip lock bag halfway with water and place the bag inside the shoe. Put the shoe in the freezer overnight and voilà! Your shoe stretches. The water freezes and expands the shoe. Genius!”
Before you throw down your plastic, turn that cute shoe over and check what material has been used on the bottom. “You are always better off with leather soles,” said Robyn Vie Carpenter, author and founder of The Lesbian Socialite. “Even if your uppers are man-made, you need the pliability of leather to allow your feet to move.”
And on that note: “If your soles don’t move at all, you will end up feeling like your feet are strapped to boards,” Vie Carpenter said.
So, you bought shoes that you thought were comfy and you were wrong. What now? “If you have uncomfortable shoes, the best thing you can do is start gellin,” Vie Carpenter said. “Use the silicone gel inserts designed specifically for heels. They go right under the balls of your feet to protect them from all of that standing.”
Many of us love stilettos the way we love German chocolate cake. We know we can only handle a nibble or two, but goodness, how we want to gobble the whole thing up at once. Instead of wearing thin heels at all times, consider incorporating a funky wide heel into your wardrobe, as a chunkier heel will allow for your weight to be more evenly distributed, creating less pressure on the front of your foot, Vie Carpenter said.
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Originally published June 2015. Updated March 2017.