Let's face it—my telling you not to wear heels won't convince you to stop (I wouldn't listen to me say that either), but how can you do so comfortably—and safely? As an ER doctor, I’ve treated many women with high heel-related injuries—including one who fell after getting her heel caught in cobblestones. In fact, a recent study showed that ER visits for injuries caused by heels have doubled since 2002, leading to foot and ankle sprains, fractures and other injuries.
Vasyli recommends opting for well-constructed "quality" shoes, especially those that have shock absorbing materials in the ball of the foot, and using an insert like Orthaheel, which he invented. He also suggests wearing your highest heels for only short periods at a time and giving them a little bit of closet time now and then."If you feel the need to wear higher-heeled shoes daily, then take a more comfortable shoe to get to and from work and wear the higher shoes while you're sitting at your desk," he adds.
As a New Yorker, I walk a lot. To get to and from the subway, I walk about two miles daily, if Google Maps is to be believed. Before I even got to work on Monday, the familiar pain in the balls of my feet was there. By the end of Tuesday, both feet were sore from wearing heels two days in a row. By lunch on Wednesday, I had slipped back into flats, plummeting three inches back to earth.
New York City-based podiatrist Jacqueline Sutera encourages women to wear “commuter shoes” so they’re not pounding the pavement in not-so-comfy soles all day. “Change into your heels at the event or party,” she advises. Try choosing strappy but sensible pumps like these that are appropriate for work, a dressed up brunch, or even happy hour. The versatile heel also comes with a cushioned footbed, so your feet can feel at ease at any type of event.
According to New York City-based podiatrist Emily Splichal, it’s not only about the heel. It’s important how you treat your feet post-wear, too: “Focus on stiletto recovery after a day or night in heels,” Dr. Splichal says. She rolling feet on a golf ball, stretching the calves, and spreading the toes with products like Correct Toes or Yoga Toes. “Even the healthiest heels are still stressful to the foot and body, so recovery is one of the most important secrets to being able to wear heels pain-free.”
Sure, those strappy, skinny summer stilettos may look like a dream. However, it's important to be realistic about what kind of shoe has day-long potential. A thin sole will most likely cause pain for the bottom of your foot. Look for something with some rubber on the bottom to provide a bit of a buffer. Ideal? A heel that has a bit of a platform in the front. The platform reduces the incline of your foot, making things more comfortable all around.
I’ve heard people argue that my new, near-daily ritual is ridiculous, that no shoe is worth that much pain or effort. But how different are heels from other small rituals we undertake every day, such as applying makeup? The payoff in terms of the confidence I feel when stomping down the street in a pair of killer heels is worth way more than the extra 30 seconds added to my morning routine.