How to walk in high heels: an expert view
I've lost count of the number of times a female friend has told me she 'can't' walk in heels, and even among those of us who persist, the experience can be painful at times. So why to we do it to ourselves? Fashion is the culprit, as ever: a new report by Scholl out today found more than half of us (54%) say it's important to wear shoes that are 'on trend' with people continuing to wear shoes that hurt their feet for a meeting, date or night out. 1 in 6 say they would endure uncomfortable shoes for up to five hours!
All this suggests we are not about to give up our killer heels in a hurry. But how can we ensure they're not killing our feet? If you want to enjoy wearing the tallest styles and would like to rescue all those forgotten heels you've banished to your cupboard, now's the time to give it another try: we've enlisted the help of Scholl's footcare guru Michael Harrison-Blount to advise on how to walk in heels in comfort and with confidence.
Why wear heels?
High heels are still an essential part of the wardrobe - they make your legs look longer and your bottom smaller. Although fewer women wear heels today (a reduction from 60% in 1986 to 39% in 2007) it has been shown that 42% of women would wear uncomfortable shoes and that 73% had shoe related foot problems. (APMA 2006)
What are the real risks of wearing heels?Women who wear high heels on a daily basis are at increased risk of minor injuries such as blisters, corns and calluses to more serious problems like repeated ankle sprains, foot deformities, arthritis, and adversely affecting posture and the musculoskeletal system.
Walking is a fine, synchronic interplay of the feet, hips and pelvis. High heels disrupt this interplay by dramatically altering the gait cycle (the step by step way that we walk). This affects stride parameters, kinematics, muscle activity, energy consumption, posture and plantar foot pressures.
What's the official advice on how to walk safely in heels?
Glamour - Let high heels give you that extra "sparkle" and save wearing them only for glamorous, special occasions. Limit wearing them to around three to eight hours.
Glide - Don't look like you're rushing to catch a bus - slow down and take smaller steps. Put your heel down first and glide! Not only will this minimize damage to your feet, it will give you that sexy high-heel wiggle!
Guide - According to leading podiatrists, 90% of patients wear shoes that are too small. So use a shoe fitting guide to get it right.
Give - Give your feet some extra-special attention after wearing high heels - enjoy a relaxing foot bath and a moisturising massage when you get home.
It is advisable to vary heel heights day to day to avoid problems, around 3cm being the optimum for day-to-day use. Walking in high heels can increase pressure on the ball of the foot; this causes the ankle to become unstable and can lead to tendon damage as well as hip and back pain.
Need some more help? There a lots of great videos on YouTube with sympathetic instructors with friendly tips on how to get that heel walk spot-on! Check out this lovely guide to walking in heels from Wendy's Lookbook.
High heels aren't always the bad guys!
In contrast problems can be associated with ballet inspired fashion flat shoes. This style offers little to no support to the foot, causing increased pressure on the joints in the lower body. Long periods of time standing or walking in this type of shoe can cause aches and pains in your feet and legs. Nothing holding the foot in place also means the toes are likely to claw and rub inside what can be a shallow and narrow toe box.
Remember, flat shoes can be just as damaging as heels so in the same way try not to wear them for long periods of time or when doing a lot of walking. Choose a flat shoe with higher sides and a slightly thicker heel to spread the load more evenly or wear soft insoles to reduce the impact on your knees. Try to vary the heel height from day to day and reduce friction by opting for a shoe with a strap or fastening.
Read more from Michael and see his great tips on summer sandals without pain here!