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Well-Heeled

reasie commented in my previous post that high heels are something she likes the look of, but make her miserable to wear.  She said:

If I find shoes that fit, they will hurt.

If they don't hurt, they will be ugly.

No shoe without a heel is cute to me, and no heel is walkable. Two inch mary janes send me tottling like a toddler. What is this skill I'm missing? I can do "Tree Pose" in yoga for hours! Why can't I walk in heels?


...and asked for shoe recommendations.  My reply was so long, I decided to make it into a post.

High heels are an acquired skill, and not one that many people recommend.  High heels are anti-feminist, shorten your achilles tendon, cause bunions, wreck your feet, prevent you from running, skipping, or jumping with ease, and mostly exist to throw out your butt in a sexual way so that sexist men can admire it.  They descend in a direct line from Chinese foot-binding, designed to curtail the activities of women.  I will not defend my love of high heels as a reclamation of my feminist feminity; they are everything wrong, and more. 

They're also beautiful.  And they make me feel beautiful.  The right pair of heels can take a dress from cute to show-stopping, and I'm short (5'3"), and enjoy being taller, especially when everyone else in the room is inclined to dismiss me as petite and cute*, with nothing substantial to add to the conversation (being able to look someone in the eye is only possible for me in heels).

That being said, the right pair of shoes is very important.  Shoes should not hurt you - if they hurt (and not in a "my feet are tired" kind of way, but a "fuck!  My toes are trying to secede from my body!" kind of way), they're not good shoes.  It is never your fault if the shoes hurt, it is the shoe manufacturer's fault.  There are certain brands *cough*Candies*cough* that seem to be made for literal Barbie feet - plastic, permanently formed, nerveless - and should never be worn by actual women.**  Good brands will hug your feet and make you glad to own them.

Good brands?  Well, everyone's different, but I love Nine West, Steve Madden, and Sofft.  Aerosoles makes heeled shoes as well, and I do have a couple of pairs that are okay, but I go strictly on a shoe-by-shoe basis with them, since I've also bought shoes from them that made my instep cramp up after 20 minutes of wear.  In fact, all shoe shopping should be done on a shoe-by-shoe basis, I've just had the best luck with the three brands named above.  Nine West is far and away my frontrunner in comfortable heeled shoes - I have more pairs of deeply-loved Nine Wests than any other brand.

Now - Nine West is expensive (not the most expensive by a long shot, but regularly more than $100 expensive).  I usually balk at paying more than $50 for anything but the most heartbreakingly gorgeous shoes, and I'm happiest when I can get designer shoes at Payless prices.***  Hence, I am a regular at places like DSW and other places that sell designer shoes for cheap.  My favourite place is the clearance rack in the back, where everything is even cheaper.  I am a cheap, cheap person - I feel really good when I can have a champagne lifestyle, but only if I can get it on a spaghetti budget.  You need to visit often, but a good pair of shoes will last you years (I am assuming that I'm not talking to a "must have the latest fashions!"-type audience.  It's not possible to be cutting-edge designer fashionable on a budget, at least not any budget I can afford).  It's worth paying a little more for a good pair - they'll be worn, instead of languishing in the dark recesses of your closet, and with proper care, will last several years.

Don't be afraid to walk around in the shoes you're planning to buy - take your time, and test to see if there's anything annoying that turns up after a couple minutes of walking.  If they pinch now, they'll pinch forever.  A good pair of heels does not need to be "broken in" like work boots; they should feel like magic from the first moment you put them on.  If they don't, they will never feel good, and you've wasted your precious money.  Don't be seduced by pretty bows, or even by a store assistant telling you they're the latest thing and all the cool chicks are wearing them; one guy at a department store looked at me incredulously when I tried on a gorgeous pair of heels and immediately took them off because they felt like concrete.  "But they're [Designer brand]!!" he exclaimed.  I don't care who made them.  If they suck, they suck.  And designers aren't all-knowing gods, they're designers.  Not all of them understand feet.

Now - how do you wear them?  For starters, the stride is different in heels.  The step is slightly shorter (at first), and you step with a flatter foot, not heel first.  The reason for this is so your heel doesn't hit the floor and skid from under you.  As you get used to the feel of your foot hitting the floor (I do suggest trying it out at first at home, in familiar surroundings), your muscles will relax, and it won't feel so stiff and awkward.  Also, if heels hurt on you because your toes slide forward, consider platforms - they're often quite gentle in rise from front to back (I have a pair of 5" platform sandals with a mere 1.5" differential from toe to heel).

Now - all that said, heels aren't for everyone.  And if you're a flats kind of woman, then I'm behind you all the way.  The thing about shoes is choice - all choices are correct (except maybe wearing ratty sneakers to a formal wedding, but I'm not one to judge) (out loud).  Comfort is more important than anything.  But if you want to learn to walk in high heels, remember that it's like any other kind of physical skill - it takes practice, patience, and a certain amount of protective padding at the start.  I have always been in love with heels - I found my first pair in an old bomb site (from WWII - a gap in the houses on a street near my house) at 7, and despite my mother's protests, I kept them, and wore them.  I learned to run, jump, and skip in heels - it's possible with practice.  I learned also that time in heels must be balanced with time out of heels.  Be kind to your feet.

I actually spend most of my time barefoot, and put shoes on only when I have to, or when I'm going out.  I have bunions, but they've never hurt - I just have super-bony feet (I have huge pointy ankle bones, too).  But my toes are mostly straight, and I refuse to wear heels that shove my feet into tight points - my mother did that for most of her working life, and she had endless problems with ingrown toenails. 

Anyway, that's what I know about the Wearing of the Heels. 

*Not that I think of myself as either petite or cute.  I usually feel like a giant gallumphing thing.  Yo, sexism!  I got your self-hatred, right here! *gestures rudely*

**Yeah, I own a pair (mules), and I'm fond of them, but they're hell on my feet, and I only wear them places where I'm going to slip them off almost immediately.

***Speaking of which, never buy anything from Payless if you have sensitive feet.  They're cheap, they'll last less than a year (I had a pair fall apart the first time it rained), and they have no proper support.

Comments

( 15 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
damedini
Dec. 11th, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
I came by my bunions in ballet class. Those and hammer toes. Yay? I have a pair of Clarks that are not only way cute mary janes, but they are so comfy that I can traipse all over in them. This is rare for me.

Also, a big problem wiht heeled shoes is that your feet slide forward, causing your toes to bunch and your arch to not be properly supported. I find that for most heels, a toe pad that you peel-and-stick inside the toe area, so that the pad sits under the ball of your foot (try it and move it around before you stick it for the best position) helps tons. They're in the footcare section at the drugstore.
eac
Dec. 11th, 2011 01:52 am (UTC)
And actually, something that provides ball of foot support AND arch support can be even better...

chargirlgenius
Dec. 11th, 2011 02:07 am (UTC)
Yes! I have some Clarks in a velveteen Oxford. Really comfy, and really adorable with 50s dresses. :-) I can wear them out and about at the grocery store, which is really saying something.

WRT the post - I've gotten shoes I've really loved resoled. If they uppers are good, they can last you even longer that way.

reasdream
Dec. 11th, 2011 02:41 am (UTC)
My most beloved simple heels (one pair in black, one in brow) are Clarks. I adore them.
eithni
Dec. 11th, 2011 03:52 am (UTC)
"when everyone else in the room is inclined to dismiss me as petite and cute"

*snort*

Only if no one in the room has ever met you! Yes, you're smallish and not hard on the eyes, but only a fool would dismiss you as "only" those things.

I'm not a terribly graceful woman and spend most of my life in combat boots or turnshoes, but I'm with you - heels make a girl feel pretty!
dragon_moon
Dec. 11th, 2011 04:19 am (UTC)
I love heels, though I went through a period of a few years where I didn't wear anything but flats. So now I'm having to build back up into being able to wear a pair of heels all day at work. Most of my shoes are good for all day now, at least if I take them off for lunch they are. *G*

My newest favorite is a red suede platform bootie from urbanOG - sooo cute and so comfortable! They look scary (4.5 inches!), but because of the platform they're super easy to walk in and I feel nice and tall in them. ^__^
helblonde
Dec. 11th, 2011 07:21 am (UTC)
I take the Terry Pratchett approach to shoes: spend $50 to get shoes to last a lifetime, versus spending $20 over and over at Payless for shoes that fall apart in a season. (I've finally convinced my husband of this fabulous economy!) I will spend more than $100 on a pair of shoes if they're the right shoes. (Though DSW yields some gems, they rarely have the wide widths I need.) The right shoes must be absolutely comfortable and attractive.

I have great success in assessing the long-term comfort of heels and casual shoes, but I cannot find a pair of hiking boots which do not make my little toe fall asleep after an hour.
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attack_laurel
Dec. 11th, 2011 08:59 pm (UTC)
To hyperlink in the comments:

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sorcha715
Dec. 11th, 2011 08:55 am (UTC)
When I was younger, I would wear heels to work (6-10 hrs @ night), now I am older and cannot wear them as much as I would like to. I would even wear heels, once in a while, on a motorcylce. (This took practice to keep heel on the peg while shifting with the toes.) But, since I am "falling" alot at home, I usually wear flats, slippers, or go bare foot. It does suck getting older.
Robin Charron-Cabana
Dec. 11th, 2011 09:21 am (UTC)
Flats can hurt as much as heels! I've had good luck with 9 West and Clarks too. My issue with wearing heels a lot, I helped put some really bad people in jail, in the last 30 years..some are getting out now. I translated for Columbian Cartel guys, I have a memorable last name..(what you see me listed as, is an alias) Probably sounds funny, but I won't wear stuff I can't run in..
ladysybylgrey
Dec. 12th, 2011 01:58 am (UTC)
Personal fav for a woman with wide feet: my pair of $170 El Naturalista's.
reasie
Dec. 12th, 2011 02:56 pm (UTC)
Hrm... I think when I try to walk in heels I'm either striding heel-first or trying to tip-toe. I'll practice the flat-foot step. :)

Thanks for the advice and recommendations! Perhaps I'm just not being picky enough - I have yet to find that comfortable pair of heels, but it's good to know they exist and that it's not just everyone else having a higher pain threshold!


anotheranon
Dec. 13th, 2011 01:58 am (UTC)
I have plantar fasciitis and have finally come to the conclusion that I can't wear over 2" comfortable, and chunky ones at that. I want to be able to walk comfortably when I'm an old lady :P

I have to recommend the Barking Dog Shoes blog, as it is all about cute but comfy shoes. Some of the prices are steep, but wait till the end of the season/scour 6pm.com/pony up so as not to destroy my feet further are all options.
( 15 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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