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Style and Comfort: Ways to Make Your High Heels Work for You

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Is it really possible to walk easier in high heels?

Recently I taught a workshop to a lunch-time crowd at FOX studios titled "How to Walk Easier in High Heels." This may seem peculiar coming from a physical therapist who prefers bare feet over footwear, but could women who want to wear heels learn to do it in a more sensible way?

Awareness:

Feldenkrais teacher Anat Meiri says, "Most women are not aware of what they are doing. It is the awareness that is the key." Just becoming more aware of how you walk can be the key to learning to walk more easily and more elegantly.

Yes, high heels can be bad for you, and research shows evidence that long-term use can predispose you to injury. If you want to wear high heels, here are some tips to wearing them responsibly, remaining as injury-free as possible and enjoying your pumps on a regular basis.

Tips:

  • Get the right fit. Wearing heels is stressful on your feet, so make sure your shoe really fits. Take your time when trying them on. Once you have a pair that you like, walk around slowly in the store. If there are any problems, your feet will tell you rather quickly.
  • Take the high heel test: Stand on the floor in your shoes with your knees straight, but not locked. Try to raise yourself on your toes so there's at least an inch of space under the heels. If this is not possible, your heels are too high and not appropriate for you. Practice walking at home before taking your heels out.
  • Get familiar with your shoes and try wearing them for 15-30 minutes at a time. Take them off, take a break and try again later. Vary your shoes to practice different walking strategies.
  • When you walk, make sure to keep your heels vertical. Do not roll to the side! Stand near a wall so you can touch for light balance and take a few steps backwards. Notice how your whole body moves, then reverse this and walk forward. Did this get a little easier?
  • Walk around and focus your eyes on a distant object. Then, scan the room as you walk. Many of my patients claim that they have lost their balance when someone called them to look away suddenly.
  • You may notice the higher your heel, the shorter your step will be. Don't try to keep the same stride length you use in your flip flops.
  • Try to minimize the amount of time spent wearing your high heels, especially if you are doing lots of walking.
  • Most of the harm that results to your feet, knees and back comes from regular long-term use of walking in high heels.
  • When you are done wearing your heels, spend a few minutes giving yourself a foot massage. Use a tennis ball and massage under your foot in a few different directions. This not only helps loosen muscles and fascia, but can also improve the sensitivity of the sole of your foot for better balance.
  • Often being lifted forward onto your toes will exaggerate your spinal curves and place strain on your back. Like the tennis ball for your feet, a good trick is to use a rolled blanket on the floor to help reduce your back discomfort.

How can you make the most of wearing high heels with style and ease for not only your feet, but for your whole body?

  • Styles with a slight platform under the toe area tend to be more comfortable and minimize the angle and pressure on the ball of the foot. Also, look for some padding at the toe since better made shoes will offer this and help reduce some of the pressure that is added to the toes.
  • When walking up stairs, use your back leg to balance and push yourself upward.
  • Walking in high heels means the smallest of pebbles, pot holes, and uneven pavement can trip you up. Confidence is important, but overconfidence can be your nemesis.

So always keep a pair of flats handy to put on before your body starts screaming for help! Take care of yourself. Remember that walking in heels is a skill and requires you to move with your whole body. Take a movement class that can help you become more aware of how you move and develop the right tools to walk easier and more elegantly.

For more information on exercises to keep you healthy and injury free, go to: high heel exercises.