Podiatrists weigh in on the high heel habits that could be hurting your health and how to choose better-for-you soles.
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.
“My philosophy is that wearing shoes is like dieting,” says New York City-based podiatrist Hillary Brenner. “When we diet, we count calories. When we wear shoes, we count the hours we wear them. Don’t wear heels for more than two hours at a time if you’re standing or walking in them.”
Howard Osterman, a Washington, DC-based podiatrist, adds that shoppers should look for shoes with cushioned forefoots, and always make sure there is a platform if the heel height exceeds three inches.
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.”
Wondering what other heel habits could be hurting your health? Read on for expert tips and foot-friendly options for every style.
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This post was originally published on January 20, 2017 and has been updated for accuracy.
Pikolinos Gandia Lace-Up Pump
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.
Söfft Ophia 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 made of softer synthetic materials.
Calvin Klein Genoveva
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 three inches and below,” says Dr. Splichal. “For every inch over three, the stress to the foot and body dramatically increases.”
Aerosoles Shore Thing
“Shoes without forefoot stability irritate nerves at the base of the toes and create pain in the ball of the foot,” Dr. Osterman explains. Thankfully these pumps are constructed with Heel Rest technology that distributes body weight towards your heel, so the ball of your foot bears less of the burden. Talk about high (heel) tech.
UGG Valencia Peep Toe Bootie
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.
Cole Haan Warner Ankle Strap Pump
This on-trend shoe offers a double-cushioned footbed 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 metallic leather on this pair lets you take them from the office to date night in no time.
Everlane The Day Heel
Vince Camuto Leera Wedge Sandal
The 70’s are calling. These classic espadrille wedges aren’t just a call to the dancey decade, they also offer a platform, one of Dr. Sutera’s preferred forms of heels: “Platforms are good because they have height in the front that you can subtract from the heel in the back.”
Pikolinos Java Gladiator Sandal
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.”
Get the height you want minus the pain by going for a shoe with a forefoot platform. The 3 1/2-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.