Know your foot type. In my opinion, a podiatrist would be the best way to know your foot type and what’s going on. If you can’t run out to the podiatrist, there’s a couple of neat ways to see if you have a flat foot or a high-arch foot. Wet your foot and step onto a piece of construction paper. When you make an impression, it will show you how much your foot is flattening or how high of an arch you have. You can look at a person’s foot type and see why they are having pain.
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.”
Heels are essential to wardrobes, but there’s nothing worse than putting together an amazing outfit for work or for a night out, only to be sidelined an hour in because your feet are throbbing in pain. The is no doubt that high heels look great on our feet but the moment we try to shove them back into that old torture chamber that is four-inch stilettos, they immediately start screaming in pain. It doesn’t have to be this way so to help we have put together top tips for being able to walk (and dance) in heels without pain.
There are many different types of aids to help make a shoe more comfortable even after "breaking them in," and can be purchased at shoe stores, large retailers, and some drugstores. These include special small gel pads for the balls of the feet, heel inserts to help minimize chafing at the back of the shoe and rough patches to glue onto the bottom of a slick sole, affording you better traction.
Rough up the bottoms of your heels. It’s important that your shoes have a decent amount of traction on the bottom. Walking in high heels will be a lot easier and safer if you’re not sliding around all over the place. New heels tend to have smoother bottoms that become rougher once scuffed. Speed up the process by roughing up the bottom of your heels using a piece of sandpaper. Rub the bottom of your heels for a minute or two, or until the bottoms feel noticeably rougher.
But you don't have to swear off high heels altogether. It's possible to make high heels more comfortable. Just pay attention to how much lift you're getting. “Two inches is my cut-off,” says Ward. “A heel below that height does not add significant stress to the metatarsals as the weight can remain distributed between the heel and forefoot.” This also helps you stay balanced (read: no wipe-outs) in your kicks, she notes.
Dr Naomi explained: "When you wear a high heel there is a huge amount of pressure bearing down on the soles of the feet, so a platform sole underneath can diffuse the pressure. There is more padding between the foot and the pavement. Thick heels can be more comfortable for walking than stilettos, as again there is more surface area for the pressure."
Not surprisingly, the higher and thinner the heel, the worse it is for your foot, says Sutera. “Pumps and stilettos are probably the worst,” she says, as are shoes with a heel higher than two inches. Another no-no? Wearing high heels too often and for too long. “It’s not recommended to wear heels for long periods of standing or walking, nor should you wear them every day,” explains Sutera.
One thing to try are the over-the-counter products that market themselves for high heels. They are called metatarsal or ball of the foot pads. They are oval-shaped pads that go under the ball of the foot, usually made from a silicone gel. They combat soreness under the ball of the foot. Especially if it’s made of silicone, it will hold your foot more steady in the shoe so your feet aren’t sliding forward as much, which will protect your toes from friction and blisters.
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.”
Also known as “second skin,” moleskin is not actually animal hide (fortunately) but soft cotton flannel with adhesive backing. Sold in sheets and available in most drug stores and online, you can cut and customize the shape of moleskin to cover any trouble spots you have on your feet. It molds to the shape of your feet better than a bandage, and unlike a bandage, it won’t hang off your Achilles after half a day of walking.
I may be a hardened heel advocate, but the lower foot pain in this case just never seemed to be worth the payoff. However, I’ve come to swear by one very cheap, slightly weird-sounding, simple trick to avoid that dull pain in the balls of your feet. You know, the kind that comes from attempting to wear anything taller than three inches with a heel thinner than a pencil for more than two hours straight.