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How to Wear High-Heeled Shoes and Walk at the Same Time

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Ladies, with all the snow and ice on the ground, it's time to get serious about wearing stable shoes. High-heeled platforms may transform you into a gorgeous goddess, but can you take the risk of wobbling around in them? You know how easy it is to lose your balance and fall off a platform, twisting an ankle or worse. If alluring is the look you're going for, do you really want to wear a leg cast?

Designers claim they are backing off this dangerous trend. When asked by the trade magazine Footwear News about Do's and Don'ts for 2011, Bruno Frisoni, Tabitha Simmons, and Manolo Blahnik advised women to avoid platforms. But designers are just talking the talk, not walking the walk. How could they walk in their latest offerings? The January issue of Vogue features Yves Saint Laurent python wedges with six-inch heels and two-inch platforms. These shoes resemble chopines -- extreme platforms favored by courtesans in fifteenth-century Italy. Walking in chopines without someone, even two people, assisting the wearer was impossible. Vogue outrageously declares that these "vertiginously high heels" possess a "highly wearable, walkable sensibility." Really? It seems that the only place you can walk in these platforms is to the emergency room.

In these slippery times, what should you look for in a high-heeled shoe?

A stable heel. A thin heel may cause you to lose your balance. Stay safe with a thick heel.
A rounded toe. Make sure you can wiggle all of your toes. There should be at least a quarter inch between the end of your longest toe (either your big toe or your second toe) and the end of the shoe.
Arch support. If your feet roll inward when you walk, a situation that afflicts 70 percent of us, you need shoes that prevent your foot from moving around.
Cushioning beneath the ball of the foot. When you wear heels, you place pressure on the forefoot, which may lead to bunions, hammertoes, neuromas, corns, or calluses -- all unsightly and also painful. Cushioning won't prevent these problems, but they will lessen your discomfort.
A low platform. If you insist on a platform, keep it to a half-inch or an inch. It's easy to lose your balance when wearing high platforms, with or without an added heel.

For comfortable, stylish shoes that meet these requirements, check out a new company, Alice Alan. All its designs offer three-inch heels and a hidden half-inch platform. They are built around an orthotic, yet they look anything but orthopedic. If you live in New York City, order their shoes by setting up an appointment for a fitting.

If you own a pair of stable, rounded-toe heels you love but avoid because of pain in the ball of your foot, visit a shoe repair shop, drugstore, or athletics store and experiment with a metatarsal cushion. Or, try the extra-thin adhesive cushions from Solemate. If the heel is giving you trouble, try a heel cushion. There are bunion cushions and callus cushions too. Experiment to see what works best for you.

Five-inch platform stilettos can fool you into forgetting that shoes are supposed to facilitate, ahem, walking. If you intend to get somewhere, wear shoes that will keep you grounded.

For more shoe-sense, pick up Tanenbaum's Bad Shoes & The Women Who Love Them.