They’re just as stylish as they are comfortable.
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.
- Most Versatile: LifeStride Suki Pump
- Best Wooden Heel: Toms Majorca Cut-Out Sandal
- Best Kitten Heel: Dream Pairs Moda D'Orsay Pointed Toe Pump
- Best Classic Pump: Naturalizer Michelle Pump
- Best Orthopedic Sandal: Vionic Perk Sami Strappy Sandals
- Best D’Orsay Heels: Dream Pairs Low Heel Pumps
- Best Chunky Heel: Olivia K Classic Round-Toe Platform Pumps
- Best Simple Sandal: Naturalizer Ivy Ankle Strap Heels
- Best Gladiator Sandal: Pikolinos Open Toe Sandals
- Best Platform Sandal: Naturalizer Pressley Platform Dress Sandal
A good pair of heels won’t pinch or feel uncomfortable the second you put them on, but it’s important to set your expectations if you’re planning on being on your feet all day. “Don’t wear heels for more than two hours at a time if you’re standing or walking in them,” says New York City-based podiatrist Hillary Brenner, DPM.
Howard Osterman, DPM, a Washington, DC-based podiatrist, adds that shoppers should look for shoes with cushioned soles and always make sure there is a platform if the heel height exceeds 3 inches.
According to New York City-based podiatrist Emily Splichal, DPM, 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 recommends rolling your feet on a golf ball, stretching your calves, and spreading your toes with products like 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.”
Wondering what other heel habits could be hurting your health? Read on for expert tips and foot-friendly options for every style.
1 Most Versatile: LifeStride Suki Pump
New York City-based podiatrist Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, 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. Opting for a versatile pair of heels, like these from LifeStride, makes it easy to go from work to a fancier event. “The perfect height for someone like me who tends to wobble in high heels,” said one Amazon reviewer. “With LifeStride, I can run in these. Seriously. They're cushy on the inside, and I love the fact that they have rubber non-slip soles. Don't expect to feel as if you're in sneakers, but for heels, this brand is the most comfortable I've ever walked in.”
2 Best Wooden Heel: Toms Majorca Cut-Out Sandal
When it comes to your wedges, wood isn’t ideal. Dr. Brenner advises that women choose a shoe made from cork or raffia instead, so the base is cushy, not killer. Plus, “heels should preferably have straps, which stabilize the ankle,” she says. Opt for ankle straps so you don’t teeter while you’re trekking it. This sandal has the look of a trendy wood sole, but it's leather-wrapped instead. “I am not eager to take them off, and my feet do not hurt while wearing or when I take them off,” said a shopper. “I really like the strap in the back as well so that I am not constantly gripping my toes to keep sandals on.”
3 Best Kitten Heel: Dream Pairs Moda D'Orsay Pointed Toe Pump
Looking for a new take on your basic ballet flat? These low pumps are perfect for spring and summer, thanks to their pink patent-leather upper. Plus, at a height of just 1 1/2 inches, the shoes meet our podiatrists’ standards: “Try to keep heel height 3 inches and below,” says Dr. Splichal. “For every inch over three, the stress to the foot and body dramatically increases.” Amazon shoppers are impressed by them, too: “They are so soft and comfortable but they look even more amazing.”
4 Best Classic Pump: Naturalizer Michelle Pump
“Shoes without forefoot stability irritate nerves at the base of the toes and create pain in the ball of the foot,” Dr. Osterman explains.The half-inch platform of these simple pumps makes them easier to walk in, while their cushioned sole makes them feel supportive and soft. “These fit like a dream. I don't wobble. No blisters,” said one customer. “My feet don't ache even after hours on my feet. Very classic style with ample toe room.”
5 Best Orthopedic Sandal: Vionic Perk Sami Strappy Sandals
Feet naturally swell throughout the day, so it’s best to buy shoes made from materials that allow for some stretch. Our podiatrists point to soft leathers and suede as more forgiving materials for the foot. These heels are the perfect compromise between comfy and sexy, thanks to their memory foam-cushioned footbed and adjustable ankle strap.“Great for long nights out,” wrote one reviewer. “They are instantly comfortable, no need to break in. The leather straps are soft as butter and don’t cut into your feet.”
6 Best D’Orsay Heels: Dream Pairs Low Heel Pumps
This on-trend shoe offers a stretchy ankle strap and a rubber sole, one of Dr. Brenner’s requirements when it comes to choosing healthier heels: "I don’t like leather bottoms because people can slip and slide." Instead, Dr. Brenner urges shoppers to choose a shoe with rubber or treads on the bottom so that they stand on a firm surface. We also love that the leopard print on this pair lets you take them from the office to date night in no time. Reviewers are impressed at how comfortable they are, too. “Exactly what I needed to complete my bridesmaid outfit,” said one. “I wore them for about 10 hours for the wedding and reception, and my feet were not tired. I didn't have a chance to break them in beforehand, yet they didn't hurt my feet.”
7 Best Chunky Heel: Olivia K Classic Round-Toe Platform Pumps
Pass up the pointed toe pumps. Instead, Dr. Splichal suggests opting for shoes with a wider front. “The narrower or more pointy the toe box, the more pressure the heel will put on the toes. I always favor a more round shape.” Of these budget-friendly heels, one reviewer said, “I bought these to wear at work and was able to walk all day without any aches, chafing, or blisters. There is a cushion right at the ball of your foot, which tends to be the first thing to hurt when I'm wearing heels. And even though they aren't real suede, the material is soft and finished well around the edges so they don't cut into your heel or sides of the foot.”
8 Best Simple Sandal: Naturalizer Ivy Ankle Strap Heels
With a supportive ankle strap and a heel that’s just 2.5 inches tall, these sandals by Naturalizer work equally well for weekend brunches and weekday happy hours. They also have a platform, one of Dr. Sutera’s favorite features: “Platforms are good because they have height in the front that you can subtract from the heel in the back.” Reviewers are impressed by how well they fit. “I found my shoe in this padded and ultra soft-strapped shoe,” wrote one shopper with rheumatoid arthritis. “I ordered wide for comfort. I walked and danced all day/night with not an ounce of pain.”
9 Best Gladiator Sandal: Pikolinos Open Toe Sandals
One of Dr. Osterman’s favorite shoe brands is Pikolinos. The podiatrist-approved line boasts options that come with cushioned forefront beds, ample room in the toe boxes, and block heels for more stability. “The wider the heel, the less one has to balance on the shoe,” Dr. Osterman explains. “Think of the heel like a stilt—the smaller the heel, the more the calf muscles have to work, which can be unstable and fatiguing.” One shopper says this style is “comfortable even for long periods of time.” /p>
10 Best Platform Sandal: Naturalizer Pressley Platform Dress Sandal
Get the height you want minus the pain by going for a shoe with a forefoot platform. The 3.5-inch heel on this strappy sandal is offset by a half-inch of height in the front, making it easier to walk in. Supportive straps across the forefoot make this the perfect addition to your wardrobe for wedding season. “They are strangely comfortable, supportive and easy to walk in,” said an Amazon reviewer. “They are slightly platform in the front but not in the usual dorky overdone way and the heel is slender enough to still look sexy but wide enough to be stable.”