3.1) Shopping Around
One should avoid buying high heels on first sight, but be very choosy. It is usually better to first check as many stores as possible to see what styles are available. There are usually new styles or designs every spring and fall each year. Then, one can get the best style(s) for her money.
Also, one can consider shopping by mail order and Internet shoe stores. However, it is best to avoid buying via mail order or online, unless one is certain of the exact size she needs. If in doubt, one always go with the next 1/2 size larger for her largest foot. Never go with a size that is even a tiny bit too small and always return any shoe that is the slightest bit tight. If one orders and gets her proper size, extra shipping charges and a long waits can be avoided. Note that high heel shoes and boots of the same size can vary a little, in length and width based on shoe styles and manufacturers.
Poorly fitted high heels can quickly cause blisters, bunions, calluses, corns, etc. These foot problems can become so painful that one must give up wearing high heels. So, precautions should be taken to prevent these foot problems before they happen.
For ages, many women have been wearing shoes that are a size smaller than their feet, based on a misconception or misunderstanding of the saying "small feet are sexier looking". The saying is in fact true, but is based on miniature feet and can be traced back to ancient folklore in China, around 950 A.D.. There was a beautiful young women with "lotus feet" that were about 4 or 5 inches in length. However, small U.S. women's size 5 feet are 9 inches in length, which is over 4 inches longer than the miniature lotus feet.
The fact is one half size or one full size (which is only a quarter of an inch) makes almost no difference at all in appearance. (Refer to Appendix D on Shoe Sizes.) Moreover, with high heels, the difference between one full size is impossible to tell with the naked eye. Also, longer feet enable one to walk better in high heels, especially the higher 5, 6, and 7 inch heels. The longer the high heel wearer's feet are, the happier she should be.
All shoes should be slightly bigger (at least 1/8 of an inch) than each foot. Refer to a ruler to see how much this really is. One should never buy a pair that is tight (even the teeny-weenie bit tight) anywhere because they will bruise her feet and cause unnecessary pain and problems, including painful bursitis and Haglund's back of the heel deformity. If one ever hears the fact that "leather stretches", she should ignore it. By the time one finishes stretching a pair of tight fitting leather shoes, she will have suffered a number of foot problems and lots of pain.
On the other hand, shoes that are too big or loose can put extra strain on the ankles and will not look right on the feet. Just imagine them looking like mommy's shoes being worn by a little girl. They also have the same additional negative effect on the heels that mules do (discussed below).
One should always shop for shoes at the end of the day and after walking around for several minutes. This is when the feet are all swelled up and near their largest size. The only other time the feet are usually bigger is when one is flying in an airplane or in places at higher altitudes.
If one buys in a "brick and mortar" shoe store, it is best to always ask for and try on the three closest sizes to her feet. (For example, if one normally wears size 7, then she should try on sizes 6 1/2, 7, and 7 1/2.) The smallest size should feel tight. The largest size should feel very loose. The middle size should feel best, but they must be slightly bigger than each foot. Otherwise, go with the larger size. One should never buy any pair of shoes that is the slightest bit tight on either foot.
One should get both her right foot and left foot measured. Lots of people have a right foot that is of different size than their left foot. This is a fact that one usually finds out from custom shoe makers.
If one has feet of different sizes, she can get away with flats, but not with high heels. She may need to buy two pairs of high heel shoes or boots. One pair should have a right shoe that fits properly and the second pair should have left shoe that fits properly. It is well worth doing this. It is cheaper to pay for the extra pair of shoes, than to pay for all of the foot supplies to treat foot problems, visits to a podiatrist, as well as suffer lots of pain. Again, it is almost impossible to tell the differences in a few shoe sizes with high heels. Also, one can scratch off size markings on the shoes or cover them with a black "permanent marker" pen (available in stores like Kmart and Walmart), if desired.
Also, if the width of one's feet is anything other than B (or medium), she will have a very hard time finding high heels. Almost all high heels come in B (or medium) width only. She will have to deal with a limited selection of shoes. The best bet is to visit very large shoe stores, that carry multiple widths for their shoe selections. One can also try mail-order and the Internet shoe businesses that sell shoes with the "wide" width option. If one has A (or narrow) width, she may also want to check out shoes from Fredericks of Hollywood. Some of their B width shoes are actually closer to A width. If all fails, there are always custom shoe makers (who unfortunately are very hard to find. See Appendix A), to get proper width shoes. Thick foot cushions can also be used to take up extra space in width.
One will waste money on any shoe that is too tight or too loose, even if she loves the style. If one shops around year after year, she should be able to find plenty of high heels that she likes and fit well.
One should buy mostly shoes and boots with genuine leather (including calfskin, kidskin, snakeskin, and suede) or cloth uppers. Genuine leather and cloth can stretch and absorb moisture or sweat, allowing it to evaporate. Man-made leather (including most patent leathers, polyurethane, and polyvinyl chloride or PVC) do not allow moisture to pass through quickly enough, causing wet feet and skin rashes. Man-made leather is good only for sandals and open toe shoes. One should limit wearing any pair of pumps and boots with man-made leather uppers to 3 or 4 hours per day.
Leather soles cost more than man-made soles, but do make much of a difference unless they are rough. Shiny leather and most non-rippled man-made soles are very slippery on waxed, shiny, or wet floors. So, all high heel shoes and boots with shiny soles and especially those with spiked or thin heels, need to have no-slip pads pasted on the bottom of the soles. (See FIGURE 1.)
These pads help prevent one from slipping and injuring herself. If you remember how hard and painful it was falling to the ground as a kid, beware that falling with high heels on can be many times as hard and painful. One can even end up in a coma or die, if she falls and hits her head against a hard object. There were old tales about Parisian prostitutes (in Paris, France) ages ago, who fell in the streets wearing high heels and died.
Some high heels have metal shanks (or metal bars) under the soles. A metal shank helps keep the sole from bending, cracking, and wearing out. However, this makes the entire shoe very rigid and inflexible, like most platform shoes are.
There are pro's and con's for rigid shoes. A shoe that can not bend usually helps keep the feet from getting tired and prevents foot injury, in terms of bones and muscles in the foot. However, because the foot can not naturally bend while walking, it increases the work that the ankles and knees have to do. This can wear out the ankles and knees. Also, the part of the metal shrank directly below the ball of the foot can heat up when one walks a lot outdoors and burn the ball of the foot. So, ball of the foot cushions are usually necessary for outdoor walking.
Platform soles up to 1 inch can help cushion the foot, when walking outdoors on rough surfaces. However, platform soles over one inch look funky, girlish, and bring more attention to how short one is. They also do not look right on professional women and especially, on older women. Moreover, high platforms are like walking on stilts and look more awkward than sexy.
Generally, straps are good. They keep the foot secure inside the shoe, preventing the shoes from falling off and possible injury. They are also helpful, if the width of the shoes is a bit too wide.
Furthermore, ankle straps are a girl's best friend for walking in high heels. (See FIGURE 2.) Ankle straps assist or help one immensely in balancing herself and walk better in high heels, especially over long distances. They also prevent one from accidentally twisting her ankles.
However, beware that ankle straps should never be put on too tightly, as it could prevent one from stretching her Achilles tendons and also cut off blood circulation to the feet. Otherwise, ankle straps must be loosened several times throughout the day to allow one to stretch out her Achilles tendons by forcing the feet back into their normal position. Note that stretching the Achilles tendons help avoid or delay a shortened Achilles tendons problem (that can happen after wearing high heels for many years).
Ankle straps usually come in various widths, 3/8", 1/2", 3/4", and 1". Skinnier ankle straps look better on skinny legs. Wider ankle straps look better on wider or bigger legs. Removable straps are an added plus, as they can be taken off and put back on as desired.
On the other hand, one should avoid straps and open toe shoes that partially cover any of her toe nails, while she is standing up. They will damage the toe nail(s) and/or cause pain in the toe(s), when walking a lot.
High heel boots are usually available in three heights:
a) ankle high,
b) knee high, and
c) thigh high.
The higher the height of the boot, the harder they are to make. This is usually reflected in the price and taller boots are more expensive. Thigh high, high heel boots that are made with genuine leather uppers usually cost at least few hundred dollars.
Boots usually come with buckles, laces, or zippers. Buckles allow one to adjust for a better fit. Laces allow one to adjust to get the best fit, but take the longest to put on and take off. Full laces on thigh high boots can take about 15 minutes to tie on. Zippers enable one to quickly put the boots on and take them off in seconds, but do not allow one to adjust the fit.
Boots should always be looser inside than with pumps, but not too loose. This makes them easier to get into and take off.
If one plans on wearing boots for most of the day (or night), the feet and lower legs will probably sweat a lot. Nylons and sweat usually do not mix well and can cause an ugly skin rash and fungus infection (or athlete's foot) on the legs, as well as feet. So, it is usually best to wear boots either barefoot or with heavy cotton socks.
Also, if the boots have very tight ankles that prevent one from periodically stretching the feet and Achilles tendons back into their normal position, then she should loosen the buckles, laces, or zipper in order to do so periodically (every hour or two, if possible).
Walking in thigh high boots with high heels outdoors gives the most pleasant and sexy feelings than any other type high heel shoe or boots. (See FIGURE 3.) The experience is usually enjoyable, as well as unforgettable.
Mules, slippers, and loose fitting sandals (without straps that keep the foot securely in the shoe while walking) can cause extra shock to the heels of the feet. (See FIGURE 4) With every step, the heel of the foot comes pounding down (like a hammer) on the heel of the shoe. It usually sounds like the shoe and the heel are clapping or slapping each other. This may help cause heel pain problems.
One should always try to walk slowly and softly in these type of shoes. Also, wear them indoors only. They should not be worn outdoors on hard pavement, that does not adsorb shock, to avoid developing heel pain problems. Furthermore, rubber heels or all wood heels are better than spike heels (with metal rods in them) because they soften the impact of one's heel and shoe clapping.
3.8) The Ground
One should always be aware of the type of ground that she walks on. In general, one can wear high heels indoors on carpeted or wood floors for 10 hours without any problem to the bottom of her feet, but just 5 minutes outdoors can result in blisters.
Carpeted and wood floors will absorb shock and help cushion the feet. Grassy or dirt areas will also adsorb shock, but its unevenness can put extra strain on the ankles and knees. Also, wet dirt can give way and also cover the heels with mud.
Asphalt, cobblestone, concrete, marble, and other rock-hard surfaces do not adsorb shock. This can easily lead to blisters and calluses on the ball of the foot.
Furthermore, walking on very hard surfaces will take an extra toll on the calf muscles and Achilles tendons. This can lead to shortening of the calf muscles and Achilles tendons, after many years. (More about this later.)
3.9) Cushions or Platform Soles
If one plans on wearing high heels outdoors for over 5 minutes, she should always choose shoes or boots with platform soles (preferably less than 1 inch in thickness) or wear special "ball of the foot cushions" with regular soles. (See FIGURE 5.) They will help protect the ball of each foot from getting calluses and developing metatarsalgia (general pain in the ball of the foot).
Ball of the foot cushions are usually made out of foam rubber or silicone. Silicone cushions are so soft that they make walking in high heels on any hard ground surface feel like walking on pillows.
Special "high heel cushions" can help protect the arch and heel, but usually only a little bit. Full-sized shoes cushions usually do not fit high heel shoes properly and must be trimmed a bit between the ball of the foot and instep (or where the front part of the foot bends.) Also, one should try to avoid full-sized white-colored shoe cushions. They are sickly-looking and an eye sore. People usually get turned off by them, when seen in public.
3.10) Toe Type
There are several different toe boxes, toe types, or shapes of the front part of the shoes, including:
a) pointed toes
b) semi-pointed toes
c) British or European pointed toes
d) round toes
e) square toes
f) baby doll toes
These are all closed toe boxes, as opposed to open toe boxes where some of the toes can seen. Pointed toes are the most sexy, but they usually cause more pain and damage to the toes. (See FIGURE 6.) Even in flats, pointed toes can help cause or aggravate bunions. A bunion is a condition in which the big toe becomes crooked and deformed. It often requires surgery to correct. A bunion for a high heel wearer is like a liver problem for an alcoholic.
Pointed toes can also cause overlapping toes and toe nail problems. Furthermore, wearing pointed toes for a few hours often leads to pain between the toes and in the ball of the foot, so that one has to remove the shoes periodically to stretch the toes and give them air. When one does not do this, it may lead to a condition called neuromas, enlarged growths of nerves and/or trapped nerves between the toes resulting in constant pain or numbness. So, one should not wear pointed toe shoes (with flat, low, mid, or high heels) for more than a few hours or about 4 hours a day.
Furthermore, some people have short or long toes, just as some people have short or long fingers. Short toes make it very difficult to form a pointed ball of the foot. Usually, the outside edge of the big toe and outside edge of the smallest toe get pinched and bruised very easily. Long toes make it very easy to form a pointed ball of the foot, but it so easy that toes can begin to overlap. So, women with short or long toes should not wear high heels with pointed toes.
Non-pointed toes, like round and square, are much more comfortable than pointed toes, but not as sexy. (See FIGURES 7 & 8.) So, someone designed a fake pointed toe box with more space inside for the toes. The inside of the toe box is similar to a semi-pointed toe, somewhere in between the pointed toe and the round toe. However, the outside of the shoe is up to an inch longer and looks very pointed. They are referred to as British or European pointed toes. (See FIGURE 9.) Although a bit weird looking, they are still more sexy than non-pointed toes.
Non-pointed toes cause fewer problems for the toes. They are better, when one plans to wear high heels for more than 4 hours. Furthermore, larger non-pointed toe boxes (like round and square) can enable one to wear high heels for long periods of time, even for several days without ever taking off the shoes.
High heels with open toes may look very sexy, but can be a nightmare for the toes. When standing up and walking, the toes can sometimes be pushed through the opening, even through small peekaboo openings.. Also, when one walks, the toes normally spread out. So, this natural action may cause the toes to try to stretch the opening bigger and the toes can easily get bruised doing so.
This page was last edited on 09/30/2000.