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How to Protect Your Feet in High Heels

woman in high heels with one shoe off and rubbing sore foot
Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

Do you come home with sore, blistered, or aching feet after a night out in heels? You could be doing more damage than you realize.

High heels don’t just make your feet temporarily uncomfortable. Over time, they can cause sprains and injuries, ingrown toenails, deformed feet, and even longterm issues in other parts of the body, like back pain.

If you aren’t careful, you could end up in a medical situation that prevents you from ever wearing heels again.

The best way to protect your feet from these adverse effects is to avoid heels altogether. However, there are also ways to make wearing heels safer. Follow these tips every time you strap on your stilettos, and you’ll be able to keep wearing them for years to come.

Limit Your Time

One of the best ways to protect your feet in high heels is to limit the time you spend wearing them.

It’s not just about avoiding pain. Even heels that feel comfortable put your feet in an unnatural position, which can cause damage. Wear your heels when you’re not doing much walking or standing, and always have some cute flats around as a backup. Rotate days you wear heels with days that you don’t.

You can even take breaks from wearing your heels throughout the day. Take your shoes off at your desk, in your room, or wherever you can. Do a few foot stretches before putting them back on.

Wear the Right Size

Heels that don’t fit will wreak havoc on your feet faster. However, the right size for you will change from brand to brand.

Try shoes on and walk around in them (on the carpet, so they don’t get damaged) before you buy them. Ask a sales associate if they run big or small, or if they’ll stretch out. Make sure the width fits, as well as the length. And never stuff your feet into a too-small pair, no matter how much you love them.

Look for Quality

Well-constructed shoes are usually better for your feet. Brands that invest in quality tend to design shoes that are made to be worn for a long time, so they won’t hurt as quickly as cheap shoes do.

If you want a quality shoe without the high price tag, check your local thrift stores. They’re often stocked with brand-name heels that were only worn once or twice before getting donated.

Comfort is part of quality, too. Even if the shoes have a designer tag, don’t bother buying them if they don’t feel comfortable.

Shop for Support

The less support your heels offer, the higher the risk of injury.

The more the shoe covers your foot, the more support it typically has. Heels with thick straps offer more support than barely-there slip-on styles, for example. The shoes should feel securely attached to your feet, without slipping around.

Lower the Heel

women's low-heeled shoes
Katrin Kot/Shutterstock

Today’s “flats” don’t have to be completely flat. You can find many chic shoes with a low heel of about an inch or two. Even a three-inch heel is less damaging to your feet than a higher one.

That doesn’t mean you can’t own any skyscraper-high stilettos. It just means that they shouldn’t be your only option. Try on shoes with a lower-than-usual heel the next time you go shopping—you might find a pair you love.

Check the Soles

A too-thin sole increases the pressure on the ball of your foot, which can lead to pain and other problems. Look for a thicker, padded sole or even a platform to help relieve that pressure.

Keep Your Feet in Shape

Having strong muscles in your feet, ankles, and calves will reduce the risk of an injury caused by wearing heels. Do regular stretches and exercises that engage these body parts: dance, yoga, and pilates are all excellent choices.

Make Adjustments as Needed

You can make your heels more comfortable and safer with a few smart adjustments.

If there’s too much pressure on the front of your feet, add a padded shoe insert. If the bottoms are too slippery, take them to a cobbler and have a nonstick sole put on. You can even use an anti-blister product if your shoes rub on parts of your feet.

Avoid Damaged Shoes

Damage can make your heels less stable and more risky to wear.

For example, if the tip of the heel gets worn away, you’ll be more wobbly when you walk in them. If a cobbler can’t repair the damage, trade in your old shoes for a new pair.

Wearing high heels will never be as safe as wearing flats, but we know some looks just don’t seem complete without them. Protect your feet with these tips, and you won’t face the health issues that force you to give up heels altogether.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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