What Every Woman Should Know About Wearing Heels

Nov 24 , 2019

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What Every Woman Should Know About Wearing Heels

The average woman owns nine pairs of heels, according to a 2014 survey conducted by the American Podiatric Medical Association of 1,000. But a full 71 percent admitted they hurt, making them the most common cause of female foot pain. Although the right pair can easily elevate an outfit, knowing how to wear them, when not to, and which styles are healthiest for feet remain a mystery to many.

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1. Height Counts

Feet house more nerve endings per square centimeter than other part of the body, and as heels get higher more body weight is placed on the metatarsal bones within the foot. (One inch carries 22 percent of a person’s body weight, two inches carry 57 percent, and three inches hold 76 percent, according to the Spine Health Institute.) This extra weight can cause tendonitis, in-grown toenails, and pinched nerves in feet and toes. “Over time, high heels shorten Achilles tendons and destroy the protective fat pads in feet,” says Sutera. To keep toes happy, alternate heel heights and styles throughout the week.

Size Matters

Shop for shoes at the end of the day and try heels on as you plan to wear them in real life (for example, with stockings or barefoot). And make sure you purchase the correct size. While shoes that are too big cause feet to slip around and can lead to injury, a study from the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society shows that 88 percent of American women wear shoes that are ½ inch too small—which can cause not only pain and blisters but also corns, bunions, ingrown toenails, and hammer toes, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 

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3. Feet Get Tired Too

Four hours should be the maximum length of time for wearing heels nonstop because feet get fatigued. When commuting, Sutera recommends wearing switch-out shoes that are shock-absorbing, rubber- bottomed, and thick-soled. Sneakers are ideal; ballet flats and flip-flops should be avoided because they lack support.

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4. Podiatrists Have Tricks That Can Help

For those times when you decide you simply have to wear heels, insoles that are shock absorbent, cushioned, and supportive of arches can alleviate foot pain and protect feet’s paddings. (Sutera is a spokesperson for Vionic, and recommends their orthotics.) A caveat: They shouldn’t be placed in stilettos because they’ll force toes into an even narrower area. You can also consider a fairly new treatment performed by some podiatrists called “foot cushioning,” in which facial fillers, such as hyaluronic acid, Sculptra, or Juvéderm, are injected into the balls of the feet to provide extra padding on this high-pressure area to relieve pain and make shoes more comfortable.


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