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.”
Whether her explanation is 100 percent scientifically sound is, in this case, slightly irrelevant. By my fourth day of wearing five-inch ankle boots without any pain, I was sold. Personally, I prefer using Band-Aids, bandages, or soft tape, since the thought of securing my two toes together with anything stickier gives me goosebumps and the fear of damaging my feet even further.
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.
Don't forget the heel taps on your shoes, either. "If you let those start getting to the point where they're chewed up, by the heel, or by just walking on gravel or stone, it's going to make it more likely that you're going to topple over, because if they're uneven, then you're going to be — literally — on uneven footing, so replacing those regularly, before they get bad, is important and that's going to help your shoe last longer too," Canfield McNish said.
According to Sutera, there are three key elements any body-healthy shoe should have. “In a sensible shoe, you need shock absorption, cushioning and arch support. When you’re not getting that on a regular basis, you’re either going to cause an injury or make something that you are susceptible to, such as a bunion or hammertoe, worse.” In addition, according to the APMA, any high-heel shoe should have a heel that is two inches or shorter to decrease strain on the body.
Lead With Your Thighs. It’s all in the thighs, as strange as that probably sounds hear us out. When you walk, lead each step with your thighs, moving your entire leg forward in one fluid motion. Think about it: You’re probably used to letting your feet take the lead. It takes practice, but if you employ this method you’ll find yourself placing less pressure on the ball of your foot, and ultimately reducing the torque your feet are under.
Walk the Walk: If you've ever watched models like Kendall Jenner or Kaia Gerber strut down the runway in stiletto heels as if they're walking on air, and thought to yourself, "HOWWWWWW," just know there's a method to their madness. First, you have to be incredibly aware of your posture and stand as straight as you can. You also need to engage your core and make sure your not leaning forward or backward. "It is important when walking in high heels to lead with the ball of the foot," an expert told Today. "Never lead with the heel as weight will often make the high heel collapse and result in an accident or injury."
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.
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.
Deodorant: According to Mashable, rubbing some deodorant on the back and sides of your feet can make new heels feel smooth as your armpits! The deodorant "eases the friction" between your skin and tough new material to prevent blisters. Speaking from experience, the most important thing here is to make sure the deodorant is dry before putting your shoes on.
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.
Canfield McNish said that the more shoe between the ball of your foot and the ground, the more comfortable you'll likely feel while wearing them. There's a lot of pressure on your foot when the only thing separating it from the ground is a thin sole (plus a non-slip pad, of course), but some of that is relieved when your foot is more cushioned, like it is with a thicker sole.
Consider a lower or more comfortable style. Choose a thicker and more stable heel like a platform, wedge, or chunky heel to provide more support and weight distribution. Shy away from pointed-toe styles if you have wide feet or toes, opting for round or almond-shaped instead. You can also buy heeled boots or heels with ankle straps to help support your ankles.