The Secret to Wearing Heels, Part Two

by Ruth Barzel


I’ve always loved heels, but even when I was younger I had a hard time wearing them. Whenever I put a pair on, I’d instantly feel like I’d gained 30 pounds and all that weight was bearing down on the balls of my feet. If that wasn’t bad enough, heels always squeezed my toes, causing them to throb, grow numb, and develop blisters. I’d end up feeling like a crippled elephant instead of the graceful gazelle I wanted to be.

Fast forward two or three decades, and—guess what? Not only have these problems failed to miraculously disappear; they’ve also worsened. To add insult to injury, I now have bunions—that scourge of middle-aged feet—and while they aren’t terrible, horrible bunions, anything that presses or rubs on them can easily ruin my day or evening. Plus, a couple of pregnancies and years of gravity have resulted in my shoe size going up half a size and my feet becoming a bit wider.

Still, I’m nowhere near ready to give up heels. Flats are great for everyday wear, but I think it’s virtually impossible to look truly elegant without some sort of a heel. So, I’ve devoted quite a bit of time and effort to figuring out how to make heels work for me. Christen’s post from a couple of weeks ago about the secret to wearing heels gave me the idea of sharing my hard-won wisdom with you. I love her suggestions, but she hasn’t been on the earth quite as long as some of us and therefore lacks firsthand experience with the trials and tribulations our aging feet have suffered! So, to add to hers, here are a few more tips for successful heel shopping for those of us whose 40th birthday is but a distant memory.

1. If the shoes aren’t completely comfortable when you try them on, don’t buy them. Do not under any circumstances succumb to the delusion that you will be able to “break them in.” They will become less comfortable, not more so, when you’ve been standing and walking in them for a while.

2. Wear the shoes around indoors for a few hours before going out in them. If they bother you, bring them back to the store and return them or exchange them. (Check the store’s return policy before buying.)

3. When in doubt, size up. Heels push your feet toward the toe of the shoe, so if the shoes are even slightly on the small side, they will hurt.

4. Choose soft materials. Suede is my friend when I buy heels. Soft, high-quality leather is also great. Stay away from stiff leather or scratchy fabric.

5. Go for quality over quantity. At our age, when it comes to heels, that “steal” might actually not be. I’ve wasted more money than I care to think about on “bargains” that ended up sitting in my closet unworn because they killed my feet. It’s better to buy one or two fabulous pairs that you can walk in than five or ten that you can’t.

6. Look for support. As Christen mentioned, more support is better. It helps distribute weight evenly instead of concentrating it all on the ball of your foot.

7. Stay away from super-thin soles. As we age, we lose fat from the soles of our feet. So we need to make up for that with more padding on the soles of our shoes.

8. Don’t go above 3 inches. Christen mentioned that she can wear 5-inch heels if they’re the right ones, but, at my age, I do better with lower heels. Besides, let’s face it, those super-high heels ones looked so cute in our 20s are a bit ridiculous on us now.

9. Embrace platforms. There are so many great platform styles available now. Some don’t even feel like heels at all. And even a small platform on the front part of the shoe gives you height without a steep angle, making the shoes much easier to walk in.

10. Immediately purchase at least two rolls of Nexcare waterproof athletic tape,  one for home and one for your handbag. There may be other products out there that work as well, but I haven’t found them. If spots on your feet are tender (like my annoying bunions) or blister-prone, put tape on them BEFORE the problem begins, or, at the very least, right when you first feel it. Trust me, this will change your life.

I hope these tips help you enjoy your best years while looking elegant and feeling comfortable in a gorgeous pair of heels!