It’s the age old question every woman: How to wear high heels without pain.. Many of us (guilty, here) have throughout the years adopted a “grin and bear it” attitude, choosing our love for stylish shoes over our desire to be comfortable. It’s a trait we aren’t necessarily proud of, and one that regularly has the men in our lives raising their eyebrows in disbelief.
"As simple as it sounds, the shoe needs to fit," says podiatric surgeon Dr. Rebecca Pruthi over email. You want to make sure there is space between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. "When shoe shopping, buy at the end of the day when your feet are already swollen," suggests Pruthi. "Also, look at your width of your feet. I see too many women with wide feet cramming into a narrow shoe. This will help avoid bony changes and damage that can lead to bunions, neuromas and hammertoes."
Style: Foot surgeons advise sticking to a height of two inches or less. Sky-high heels shift your foot forward, putting pressure on the ball of your foot—and more pressure equals more pain and chance of injury. I'll wear a little higher heel, but then I'll look for ones with a little platform in the toe-box to make the angle less steep. Styles with a T-strap or Mary Janes have the extra benefit of holding your foot in place.
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.”
Gel insoles solve a lot of heel-wearing problems. For one thing, they can prevent toes from scrunching and thereby prevent blisters. Dr. Scholl's sells high heel insoles with arch shaping to keep pressure off your foot. If your toes are constantly sliding forward in your shoes, there’s even a cushion designed to hold the ball of your foot in place. The gel inserts stick to your shoe insoles well but are also easy to swap among your shoes. The product's website advises to replace them every six months, or when they start to tear.
Keep silica gel packets in your shoes when they’re not being worn. Have you noticed after purchasing a pair of new shoes those little white packets containing tiny clear balls inside your shoe box? Those packets contain silica gel which absorb moisture and keep your shoes from shrinking. Hold on to those packets instead of throwing them away and stick them in your shoes when you’re not wearing them. You can ask a shoe store associate for extras, if necessary.
Despite the reigning popularity of sneakers and flats, high heels will always be around. And on occasions that do call for heels, you might as well maximize the comfort level in any way that you can. So if you’ve ever hobbled home after a long day or night in heels, this tip for how to make heels more comfortable is for you: Tape your third and fourth toes (counting from the big toe) together—we recommend nude medical tape for a low-profile look, but Scotch tape works in a pinch—to alleviate pain in the ball of your foot. Sound crazy? Here’s the reasoning: There’s a nerve that splits between those two toes, which causes pain when pressure is put on it (aka when you wear heels). The tape removes strain on the nerve, allowing you to dance the night away.