How to make high heels more comfortable

Surviving High Heel Dress Shoes

As much as we don't want to enable bad habits, we'd much rather have a solution that fits

Let’s face it, other than the fashion side of things, there isn’t really much good about high heels.  The elevated heels shorten up the calf and other posterior muscles and shifts the weight forward, and the often pointy toe box puts lots of undue pressure on our toes.  I think most individuals who wear these types of shoes aren’t under the misconception that they are good for their feet.  Here’s a small infographic that illustrates a few more issues that can arise from wearing high heels.


Problem with high heel shoes

At SoleFit, our pedorthists wear two hats.  With one hat, we are Certified Pedorthists who are trained to find and relay to our patients the best possible solutions to treat and prevent pain.  Our other hat is that of realists who want to make sure we listen to our patient’s needs and work with their reality.  As much as we don’t want to enable bad habits, we’d much rather have a solution that fits within our patient’s lifestyle than a system that is just never used.  So to be clear, high heel dress shoes are terrible for our feet.  Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at ways that can help if they are being worn anyways.

Loosen up muscles that are shortened by high heels

The muscles along the back of the leg are in a shortened position when wearing heels.  This can trigger a number of injuries and can also be a problem when dropping down into flatter shoes and/or going barefoot.  In order to undo some of the damage, try kicking off your shoes under your desk when at work and/or commute to work in better footwear (the less you wear them the better).  Also, if you've been wearing heels more regularly, try to spend more time working on massaging out the muscles in your lower leg.  Even five minutes of heating pad on your calves followed by a couple minutes of self massage or rolling can make a huge difference!  


Work on straightening toes

85% of the stability of our foot comes from the proper position of the big toe.  As soon as our big toe starts getting pushed towards the lesser toes (hallux valgus), we become significantly more unstable.  Because many dress shoes are quite pointed, the big toe (and lesser toes) are put into bad positions.  Tools like bunion splints and Correct Toes can be worn around in the evening (or when you sleep) to help keep some of this damage in check.  Although it's a strange picture to have on your phone, taking a picture of the front of your foot (line up your phone with your knee and take a picture down on your toes) can be a good way to track the position of the big toe.  Take a new photo each month and if you notice that the angle is getting worse, it might be time to look into a corrective tool or try to limit the amount of time you spend in tight shoes (or change the type of shoes).  If it's improving because you're doing some of the things above, the photo is a great pat on the back that you're taking better care of your feet!


taking picture of bunion

To track changes in the angle of the big toe, line up your phone with your knee and take a picture.  Try taking a picture each month to see if things are getting better or worse.  If things are getting worse, try reducing amount of time in the pointy shoes and/or look into things like bunion splints or Correct Toes. 

Spot stretching shoes

With footwear, there is often 'perfect world vs life'.  When the 'perfect world' of appropriate footwear is not an option for whatever reason, we need to try and make a bad foowear choice, better.  Spot stretching can make a big difference for those with bunion issues.  Most shoe repair shops will have one of these tools that stretches a shoe only where it needs to be stretched.  They will often need to keep your shoes overnight and once they apply a bit of stretching cream, the shoe is stretched out on the trouble spot.  It's usually a pretty inexpensive modification that can make a big difference!


Metatarsal Pads

When looking at the infographic above, you can see how much of your weight gets loaded onto the front of your foot when wearing dress shoes.  This can often lead to problems with the joints at the base of the toes (metatarsalgia being one of those problems).  Gluing metatarsal pads into the front of the shoes to unload problem areas can help to make a bad shoe better.  Steer clear off off-the-shelf metatarsal pads as they are just cushioning and can make things worse by filling up more space in a shoe that often has too little space to begin with.  Metatarsal pads are best positioned by a foot care specialist who can determine location and amount of unloading necessary.


metatarsal pad for foot pain

Metatarsal pads can be a great way of unloading pressure off the front of the foot.  Placement of the pads is often quite counter intuitive as they need to be positioned behind the sore spot in order to unload the area.  Best to have them placed and glued onto dress shoes by a professional as placement and metatarsal pad height can be finicky. 

Arch supports

Another way to make a bad shoe better is to add arch supports.  The challenge with adding arch support to dress shoes is that there is often very little room to work with.  There are a few off-the-shelf options available from SuperFeet that are inexpensive and very thin (they make them for high heels and for flats).  Alternatively, custom made orthotics are always an option and can be customized to fit the smallest shoe that you'd like them to fit. 


We do understand that it’s difficult to always wear the footwear that we’re supposed to be wearing.  We feel that understanding what damage the inappropriate shoes are doing is very important so that we can take steps to undo some of the damage if problems arise.

As always, we’d love to hear back from you if you have any questions or comments.  To keep up with blog posts, health tips, and upcoming events be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter!

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