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March 3rd, 2009

How To Find Comfortable Shoes: Fitting Tips For Heels

Over the last three days, Shoeflyer has featured Gentle Souls shoes. Featuring such a comfort-oriented shoe maker has brought to mind the importance of finding wearable shoes. Sure, I’ll climb onto a pair of fierce heels for a couple of hours at the show, but I’ll probably sink into the tub and treat my feet at the end of the night. Most days, my shoes are certainly chic, but they’re also comfortable. My demand for comfort arose from a couple of years as a shoe saleswoman in Gottschalk’s during high school.

It wasn’t a bad gig, actually, for Reno. I got commission on every pair of shoes I sold, so I usually made better wages than my food court friends.  The hardest part of the job was helping elderly ladies try on shoes. When they tottered in, their Keds would be tied up tight. After they had selected a new pair, I would unlace the old and slip on the new. Their bunions, misshapen feet, and stories of pain were difficult to take. Many of these women had spent their entire professional career on three-inch heels. Thirty years as a cocktail waitress will do nasty things to your feet.  And so, as much as I like the visual effect of the heel, I try to avoid extended periods of heel time.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid the slow torture of being stuck standing in a pair of poorly-fitting pumps:

1.  Buy the right size. This might sound obvious, but countless blisters and bunions could be prevented if women avoided shoes that hurt even before they left the shoe store.  If the shoe pinches or hurts you after walking around the shoes store for five minutes, don’t buy it.  No matter how cute the shoe, it’s no fun to hang out with a lady who hobbles around the club because her shoes don’t fit.

2. Avoid skyscraper heels. Yes, they’re in fashion.  And yes, it’s pretty impressive when anyone can walk across a room in stillettos.  But in the end, the human foot isn’t designed to be standing on tiptoe for hours on end.  Here’s a quick way to decide if your heels are too high:  while you’re testing out the fit in the store, go up on your tiptoes.  You should have at least an inch of space between the bottom of the heel and the floor.  Anything higher will give you pain as your night out wears on.

3. Opt for wedges or platforms. One easy, comfortable way to add height without adding discomfort is to wear wedges or platforms.  These shoes have more height in the toe as well as the heel. Compared to heels, wedges and platforms generally provide a more natural orientation for the foot.

4. Chunky=Comfy. This equation may not apply to many other fashions (perhaps sweaters?), but it certainly applies to shoes.  Chunky heels have more surface area to connect to the earth as you walk, which increases comfort and stability.  Ever been stepped on by a stilletto?  It’s deadly, since so much pressure is contained in a tiny dot of a heel.  Spike heels fierce on the eyes and the foot, so wear them sparingly.

As an example, Mollie by Joy Chen (at top) is a smart, comfortable heel.  Its height is distributed through both a platform and a chunky heel.

5. Improve your posture. If you have strong core muscles and properly aligned posture, the weight will be distributed more evenly across your foot, and you’ll be less likely to experience pain.

Finally, if your’e determined to wear your highest heels for long periods, be prepared:  break them in before the big night, and arrive fully stocked with shoe pads and bandaids.

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