High Heels: Part 1 of 8: Walking in Heels

Black stiletto heels

Gorgeous but painful heels with feather anklet.

Sooner or later, we all do it. Fall for a gorgeous heel, or I should say, a pair of them, without concern for the excruciating pain they will deliver with every step. But just as you grow wiser about choosing potential partners based on more than one criteria, so you can learn how to select heels based on more than looks alone.

But before we get to how to find newer more comfortable heels, let’s talk about how to walk in the ones you already have.

How To Walk in Heels

Anyone can walk on her tip toes in heels if necessary, but this will quickly exhaust the leg muscles, which dramatically increases the likelihood of an injury, not to mention that it hurts like hell.

It also has a tendency to make you hunch your upper body forward to maintain balance. Worse, it marks you as a gawky girl who has not yet learned how to walk in grown up women’s shoes. You may think you look cute tottering around uncertainly like Bambi on ice, but cute is for puppies, and is not the same thing as cool, confident and sexy. Don’t expect anyone to take you seriously if you can’t walk into a room with confidence.

Rose slingback heels

Heels this high require very small steps.

Ideally, you want to be able to use your whole foot when walking, not just the ball of your foot. Try this with a medium heel (2 – 3 inches max), preferably on a flat carpeted floor.

1. A straight leg at the beginning of the walk is critical to a confident, (and healthy) stride. It ensures that your back stays straight and your hips forward, versus the curved hunch back that occurs if your knees are bent. From a standing position, extend one leg, keeping your leg straight until just before your heel makes contact with the ground. There should be a barely perceptible nonchalant kick as you extend the leg, with your knee bending naturally as your leg rebounds from the kick. Runway models exaggerate this on the catwalk; you need to master a more restrained version. Take a smaller step than usual for better heel control.

2. In high heels, the foot landing is the most critical point to master. Your heel and only your heel should make contact first. The ball of the foot will naturally follow the heel in a straight line within less than a second. It will happen so fast you won’t have time to think about it. It’s much faster than when walking on bare feet, and harder to control, but you will feel an immediate sense of stability as your weight transfers to the reassuringly wider surface area of the ball of the foot. Pause here if you need to regain your balance.

3. Push off with the toes as you raise the other foot and continue walking, shoulders back. The higher the heel, the more we rely on the ball of the foot and big toe to propel us forward, rather than pulling back on the whole foot as we do when barefoot. But in a well-designed shoe, the heel and sole can—and should—take some of the load, especially when standing still.

Heel Wearing Tips

  • Put your heels on first, then do your hair and makeup. There’s a reason women used to do this in the ’50s and ’60’s, and it wasn’t just to give their man a thrill. Those 15 minutes will reveal any potential rubbing and warm up the muscles around the knee before you have to step outside into the cold and onto concrete or marble. Alternatively, while standing, stretch up and down slowly ten times before you put your heels on to warm up the muscles.
  • When seated, discreetly slip off your shoes and flex the feet and Achilles tendon to give them a break.
  • Always carry a pair of folding black ballet flats in your purse. You can find cheap disposable ones at any drugstore. You’ll thank me later.

High Heels: Part 2 of 8: How To Avoid Twisting an Ankle  >>

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