There is such thing as the Holy Grail of heels. All shoes are made differently for different feet but there are some cardinal rules to finding the best fitting shoes. Here are my top 8 tips:
1. Heel to Heel location
This seems obvious but it took me years to figure out the correct heel location for my foot. You need to find yours, too. Depending on the way you walk, your heel touches the ground at a slightly different location for each person. A heel that is too far back will cause the very uncomfortable and unsightly outward bent heel and one that is too close to the ball of your feet will feel unbalanced. Find the spot where the bulk of your weight hits the heel of your foot—the heel of the shoe needs to be there. The thinner the heel, the more crucial the rule.
2. Material, girl
90% of my shoes are leather. I openly apologize to the wonderful hide that sacrificed its life for my shoes. I’ve tried vegan shoes; I’ve tried pleather; I’ve tried canvas and plastic. Nothing comes close to leather. It’s breathable, will form to your foot after the first few wears, cleans and repairs easiest and just feels right. If you’ve found comfort in vegan or non-leather shoes then definitely continue to wear what fits.
3. Sole matters
I’m not entirely sold on rubber soles but I think they work for many lifestyles. If you’re using your heels for an urban area with daily walking commutes, I’d say rubber soles are best. They provide the best traction and resistance to impact. In a carpeted office, they minimize slipping (something a leather sole fails at) but they are annoying on tiled flooring. Have you ever gotten the dreaded “quack” from a pair of rubber-soled shoes as you walk across a a hard, polished surface? In a quiet office, it always makes me snicker.
4. Soul in your Insoles
Ah, insoles. Ladies, go discover them. It took me too many years and I want to save you the hassle. The way your foot “sits” in a heeled shoe forces the ball of your foot to bear the most weight. Not only does it tire out your foot, it can actually be painful with time and wear. For a few dollars, you can buy replaceable inserts that provide extra padding, extra slip resistance (to lessen the fatigue on your foot as it slides forward with each step) and longer insole life. You can either spend the extra few dollars per pair or buy the washable/reusable kind you use with every pair. Also, if your shoes are just slightly too big, a well-placed insole can use up that extra space in the shoe.
5. Correct width
This one has plagued me since I started wearing heels. Do yourself a favor and measure your foot across the widest part. The “average” is a Medium/B width. If your foot fits into that average width size then congrats but I suspect many feet (just like many bodies) don’t fit the “average.” I’m a wide width in most shoes though a few companies make their medium width wide enough for my foot.
6. Heel height
Yes, each body has a corresponding perfect heel height. I feel most comfortable in a 3ish inch heel. I think a 2-3 inch heel won’t ruin your back but still gives you a little lift. They aren’t impossible to run/bend/stand/move in and they put me at a comfortable height of 6’3”…taller than most men, right? I’ve had girlfriends tell me they can’t wear anything higher than a kitten heel and others tell me they’d never be seen in a heel shorter than 4 inches. I have a range of heights but I always find myself reaching for/purchasing the comfortable 3 inchers. Wear multiple heights and find your comfort zone.
7. Walk with confidence
This one takes conscious effort. When you take a step, imagine a force on your back pulling slightly back and up. Keep your posture straight and inline with the rest of your body. Heels look incredibly more appealing with a confident gait and straight back. Of course, if you haven’t followed the above steps for great fitting shoes, it’s hard to walk straight but a pair of great fitting shoes will help you walk upright.
8. The Old Sock Trick
Last but not least, when all else fails and you’ve purchased the otherwise perfect pair of shoes but they are the tiniest bit too narrow or too stiff, try the old sock trick. Before wearing a brand new pair of shoes, I’ll pull on my thickest pair of socks, stuff my feet into the shoes and walk around at home looking like a lunatic. This trick works well for leather shoes as they’ll stretch just a bit and often just enough to feel comfortable for your next wear (without socks!). If the sock trick doesn’t work, most cobblers can stretch the shoes by a half to full size with a professional shoe stretcher. And that brings me to my bonus trick…
9. Make friends with a cobbler
Finding a great cobbler might be harder than finding a great pair of heels. It’s (sadly) a dying art—much like seamstresses and dressmakers. People don’t repair their shoes anymore…they toss them. A big reason I buy leather shoes is precisely because they’re repairable. I’ll have the cobbler replace the heels, soles, insoles and repair the leather until it’s so frankensteined that the shoe is barely made up of its original parts. But think of the extra wear I get out of every pair! Also, my cobbler will honestly tell me when a shoe is ready for the grave. Like my dry cleaning bag, I keep my “Needs Repair” shoes in a bag that I bring to my cobbler every few months.