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Surviving High Heels

Last month, the woman who set the prime example for what it means to be living la vida fashionista, Sarah Jessica Parker, told Net-A-Porter that years of wearing high heels have taken a toll on her sweet feet, leaving us with the impression that she may be retiring her stilettos.

I am stunned, possibly scarred. To me, Carrie Bradshaw without her Manolo Blahnik shoes is as serious an offense as Superman without the big ‘S’ on his chest. It’s just not the way the world is meant to be.

Now, I take foot care very seriously. Having been raised by a father with one leg, I live with great gratitude for every limb I have and I take good care of all of them. And there really are a few valid studies out there that show how the overuse of extreme high heels can, in fact, mangle your feet over time. However, I refuse to give up my heels. Refuse! I will practice caution, but I will never retire my 5″ platforms.

So long as you practice care and caution, too, there is no reason why you should end up in Parker’s unfortunate situation. Here are my tips for surviving high heels:

1. Wear the correct size shoes. Age, weight gain and weight loss can change your feet and their size. Go to your favorite shoe boutique and ask to be measured by a professional. Nothing will damage your tootsies more than wearing the wrong size shoes. And continue to be measured on, at least, a yearly basis.

2. Use foot care aids, such as shoe pads, toe separators and bunion controllers. Shoe pads and liners can add a lot of comfort to your footwear. And some of your shoes may even call for sturdy arch supports. I maintain a good stock of all of these. They make a huge difference. Foot Petals and Dr. Scholl’s are my two favorite brands for shoe pads, but you should really shop around and see what works for you.

Toe separators are not only great for pedicures, but they also help to stretch out, relax and realign your toes. Next time you’re at the drugstore, visit the foot care section and shop for gel toe relaxers. Just five minutes of use can relieve sore feet.

I am a big fan of the bunion controller. It is the most unattractive thing in the world, but it makes my big toe feel so good. Normally one wears a bunion controller overnight, but I find that one to two hours is all I ever need. A bunion controller is something you should only need to wear once in a while. If you find yourself needing it on a daily basis, I highly recommend you see your doctor or a podiatrist as soon as you can.

surviving high heels foot care aids

3. Don’t wear high heels every day. Seriously. I run the rat race just like any other career-oriented woman – juggling the corporate world with freelancing for magazines and blogging. However, I have found that I can lean in just as well with a pair of cute flats as I can with a pair of power pumps.  Just as you shouldn’t become dependent on wearing makeup daily, don’t be dependent on wearing high heels daily either. Incorporate some flats into your shoe wardrobe.

4. Know your shoes. I mean, really know your shoes. Some of my high heels can be worn for hours at a time. Some are good for the walk from valet to the restaurant where we have reservations. And some… well, some are only good from the walk from my car to my friend’s sofa where I remain for the duration of her house party because as cute as my shoes are, they just aren’t good for standing and mingling.

My friend G has this great shoe strategy she shared with me: organize your shoes by length of time that they can be worn. For example, if you have shoes with a comfort level of two hours, those go at the bottom of your shelf. Shoes with a three-hour comfort level go above those. And shoes with a four-hour comfort level go above the three-hour ones. Just keep stacking in the same order, keeping the shoes that provide the longest amount of time of comfort at the top.

5. Always have a back-up. A pair of extra shoes to provide you relief when your stilettos start to make you sore are key to surviving high heels. I keep a pair of flip flops beneath my desk at work so I can take off my heels, if necessary. And I often carry “foldable” flats with me on those nights when I think my feet just might get tired. I’m like a high-heeled girl scout – always prepared.


surviving high heels foldable flats

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14 Responses to “Surviving High Heels”

  1. Steph

    Love this, makes me want to dig my heels out! thanks for sharing!

  2. I’m guilty of wearing sky scraper heels on a daily basis. But I try to compromise by carrying along other shoes with kitten heels that are more comfortable and still make the outfit work. That’s where organizing your shoes in levels of comfort comes in handy.
    Super adorable shoes somehow are the ones that tend to be a bit uncomfortable. You can rummage through the “very comfortable shoe” level to carry along throughout the day when you have longer hikes like picking up your dry cleaning on your lunch break or doing an errand to the post office. Tah-dah! Comfortably stylish without ruining it with nurse Ratched orthopedic shoes.

    Thank you Laura for giving me tips on great foot care. My little piggies will definitely thank me.

  3. Nice little read, the other thing that is really awkward to watch is when women really can’t walk in their shoes. It’s like they’re wearing sky scraper heels for the sake of it, yet they’ve not mastered the art of wearing them.

    Sometimes this is down to ill fitting shoes, in fact quite a lot of the time it is. So it’s great you brought that up. I used sell designer heels and the amount of women that would forgo a great fit just so they could say they own a pair of ….. was astounding.

  4. Great tips ! Especially because I just love high heels due to my shorter height and i wear it almost everyday ! so these tips will definitely help me ! (:


    • Laura

      Hi, Rei. Thanks for the comment. My best advice is to not wear heels every day. Your feet need a break now and then. 😉

  5. Alas, I too have seen my high heel wearing days fade into the rear view mirror. Sigh. No amount of padding or coaxing will suffice, my feet have structural issues I never knew about until it was too late. Fit isn’t my problem, what I really need are silicone implants for the balls of my feet. Seriously. Since I can’t afford them, I have made my compromise.

    I keep my beloved heels for special appearances and TV tapings and wear my comfortable shoes for walking.

    I always wondered about Carrie traipsing around NYC in her stilettos!


    • Laura

      Thanks for the comment, Madge. I’m so sorry to hear about your problems with your feet. That’s terrible. I agree on the comfortable shoes for walking idea. When I have to go to a function downtown, and I have to park a block or two away, I will often wear flats for the walk, carrying my heels in my hand. Once I’m there, I lean against a wall and switch into my cute shoes. 🙂

  6. I’m actually too young to wear heels on a regular basis at the moment but I have worn heels for special occasions and I know how painful they can be. I know I’m going to be referring back to this article when it’s time for me to break out my heels for a fancy event! Believe it or not, I never would’ve thought of bringing a backup, even though it should be pretty obvious, so thank you for the tip, lovely! x

    • Laura

      Hi, Bohmyi. Thanks for the comment. And, you’re smart to not wear heels on a regular basis at a young age. But when (or if) you get into the habit later in life, yes, always have a backup of flats, just in case! 🙂

  7. awesome tips Thanks! ♥