There's a nerve that splits between your third and fourth toes that causes pain when pressure is put on it. To relieve some of that stress on your poor little toes, tape your third and fourth toes together (your big toe is #1) with some medical tape or a band aid. Obviously, this trick only works with closed-toed shoes where your third and fourth toes aren't exposed.
She also suggests some products for pain relief, like foot alignment socks, Correct Toes, or other toe spacers when not wearing your heels. And, regular stretching and exercises can help, too. DeGrave notes a few simple exercises from Katy Bowman, and also suggests: "keep a half foam roller somewhere you might find yourself standing around for a few minutes, say in the bathroom while you brush your teeth, so you can calf stretch while going about your day — I keep one out on my living room floor and do this while watching tv!"
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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.
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.”
Walking in heels is much less painful when the in-sole is well-cushioned. "This helps in absorbing shock in the ball area while walking and provides comfort," says footwear designer Radhika Jain over email. "These insole cushions can be made either of eva foam/latex foam or memory foam, which is the best. Nowadays you can buy them online or at a shoe store with foot-care accessories."
She also suggested that going for a platform with your high heel, or a shorter heel, can drastically change your comfort levels, explaining: "Choose to wear a height that is manageable, this is pretty subjective, but having a less high heel or a platform sole can make a huge difference to comfort." Anisha agreed, and advised to "get platform shoes that also have a heel under the ball of the foot to reduce the gradient of the foot".
Add footpads: I then Frankenstein my own orthotics into every shoe, depending on the fit. Consider one of these: a very slim insert with a heel cup and slight arch (if you need arch support), heel cushion (for heel pain) or a foot “tongue” pad (use under the foot for cushion, or put on the underside of the top of the shoe to prevent sliding forward). A podiatrist can help you with custom inserts, or you can do as I do, which is buy them in bulk at the drugstore or online.
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.