Women and high heels have long been in a love-hate relationship—and for good reason. Though stilettos elongate your legs and accentuate your shapely calves, they’re also killer on the feet. But what if an evening spent in heels didn’t have to end in swelling and blisters? We asked four podiatrists to share their top tips for choosing better-for-you shoes.
"Put maxi pads in your high heels. It holds your foot snug in the shoe, it offers a little bit more cushion, and as your feet sweat, it absorbs the moisture," she told me during a phone call last week. With my mind blown, I asked her to clarify, and it's exactly what you'd think: Insert the pad with the sticky side down, trimming if you need for size, and then get ready for a comfortable night of merriment (or standing on your feet at a work event).
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.
Overall thoughts: While I did appreciate the cushion this provided, the pads kind of pushed my feet out in a weird way and made my foot do that overflowing loaf thing on one side. I thought maybe this would've worked better had my shoe been bigger, but as it was, I still had a little room in the back, so I don't think it would've actually made a difference. This definitely made the experience of wearing the heels better since it provided some arch support, but it wasn't a lifesaving experience.
We all know how painful breaking in a new pair of shoes can be…especially heels. So the next time you want to skip the agony, try this handy hack. Wear those new heels with a thick pair of socks and then aim a blow dryer at all the tight corners. The heat will help stretch the material of your shoes, breaking them in much faster. Goodbye, blisters!
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.”
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.
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.
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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.
In the past, a night in heels always meant a trip to the drug store the next morning for a new pack of Band Aids for the blisters and black-and-blue marks on my knees. (Yes, I'm that 5'7" girl who has no idea how to walk in heels.) Ahead, find eight incredibly useful hacks to make high heels more comfortable and watch my aesthetic transform from high-top Michael Jordan to high-heel Carrie Bradshaw . . . because heels should be enjoyed and celebrated, not associated with dread.
Bend and twist them. You can work out the stiffness of your new heels by bending and twisting them. Apply slight pressure as you bend the shoes upwards and downwards and twist them side to side. Don’t do either method too hard or too quickly. You don’t want to force the shoe into a position that it shouldn’t be making. Doing so could damage the shoe or weaken it in places that should remain sturdy.
Do some foot exercises and stretching. These exercises will help your nerves get more flexible and take the next heel day attack better prepared. The stretches that you’ll want to do are the stretches that will target the front of the foot and ankle, like pointing your toes down and pulling your toes up with a strap to get the Achilles’ tendon and the calf muscles. And then side to side to get to the instep and the outside of the foot.
3. Widen the toes out with ice. When water freezes, it expands. Use this simple science lesson to stretch out your shoes. Start by filling a one-quart sized ziplock bag about halfway full of water. Then, zip up the bag and check to make sure it’s not leaking. Stick the water bag into the toe of the heel and put the entire shoe in the freezer. If you really need to stretch them out, add two or more bags into the toe box. Once frozen, the bags will expand and the shoe.
To wear high heels without pain, Carnation Footcare's Podiatrist Dave Wain has suggested that the most defence is to be prepared. If you know you are wearing heels that tend to hurt your feet after a certain amount of time, stock your bag with everything you need to help. He said: "Go prepared – have in your bag some first aid supplies to deal with potential foot problems before they get too painful i.e. sticky plasters for cuts, damaged toenails or bleeding blisters, anti-blister treatments for rubbing areas." You could even also carry a pair of foldable flat shoes with you, just in case the heels prove too much at the end of the evening!