Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Manners Monday" - How to Walk in High Heels

At only 4 ft. 11 inches (and change) on a good day, I practically live in my high heels! As far as I see it, I have no choice. If I don't want to get lost in the crowd or prefer to have a conversation with friends at eye level, I have to wear them. Over the years, my feet have actually become accustomed to wearing heels, especially in the last few years where they have become part of my everyday work uniform. Thank goodness the platform has made a comeback and seems to be here to stay protecting the life of the balls of my feet and allowing me to stand upright for longer periods of time.

When not wearing my high heels, I am often seen donning my Hogan platform tennis shoes which can only be purchased from an Italian website online (www.styledrops.com in case you were wondering.) I cannot tell you how many complements I receive on these and have seriously thought about obtaining a license to sell them here in America. My feeling is, if you have to wear tennis shoes (other than for a workout), they better be fashionable.

So what inspired this week's "Manners Monday?" Well, a couple of things actually. I was recently in New York and found myself darting around the city in my 4 1/2 inch platforms in favor of my high priced sneaks. At one point, I realized I had actually walked from Lincoln Center all the way across town to 62nd and Park Avenue without missing a beat! I ran down and up subway stairs, jumped in and out of taxi cabs and managed to maneuver the tricky terrain of cobblestone streets downtown pretty successfully if I do say so myself!

Coincidentally, back in Los Angeles, I had received two separate inquiries from a couple of teenage girls who were new to this whole world of stilettos and platforms and had enlisted my help to teach them how to properly walk in high heels. It was eye-opening to learn how concerned these young ladies were with being able to balance both comfortably and confidently in their heels and I realized that there may be a number of other women out there suffering from high heel anxiety. I think this is especially true nowadays when most women still seem to favor their Havianas and Uggs over a pair of heels any day and they have become used to letting their feet feel comfy and cushy in their shoes. The mere thought of squeezing their toesies into a pair of constricting pumps is too much to bear. Let me tell you, I hear you and I feel your pain (literally), but I also know from experience that it doesn't have to be so bad.

For those who are braving new territory or in need of a refresher course, here are a few pointers to help make the experience a much more pleasant one.

1. Educate Yourself. Know that there is a certain level of discomfort that you are going to have to endure no matter what. Taking the time to figure out your options will help. Shoe sizes can vary according to cut, shape and the height of the heel. The more narrow the heel, the more difficult it is to balance. Learn the varieties: kitten, wedge, pump, platform and stiletto. Lower kitten heels begin at 2 ½ inches and high stilettos go all the way up to 7 inches. Fashionable heels hover in the 4½ to 5 inch range. In my humble opinion, the platforms are the most comfortable. A word to the wise regarding price. Typically, the more expensive the heels, the more comfortable they are to wear and, believe me, that is worth every penny of your investment.

2. Consider the Terrain.
The most hazardous terrain is cobblestone and anything with grates, grids or slats. About 5 years ago, I took a terrible tumble down wooden patio stairs and severed the nerves in two fingers because my high heel was caught in a slat. Grass and carpet are also risky. Know the density as your heel may stick or snag. The more narrow the heel, the more danger you face of twisting your ankle or getting stuck and falling.

3. Go the Distance. Consider the distance you will be expected to travel in your heels. Setting a realistic time limit for yourself will help you to determine the height of your heel as well as your choice of style. For long periods on my feet, I prefer Stuart Weitzman. Louboutin's, although gorgeous and much more expensive, are the least comfortable.

4. One Style Does Not Fit All. You have to be able to select the right shoe for your type. Don't try to squeeze sausage toes into delicate heels. If you have a thicker foot, go for the more sturdy platforms instead. A woman with slender feet is able to easily slide into those Cinderella glass slippers. Know what feels best for your feet. Sling backs or ankle straps, closed toe or opened toe, bunions, corns, hammertoes, oh my! Everyone's feet are different and one style definitely does not fit all!

5. Don't Ignore Your Pedicures. It is virtually impossible to feel good in heels if your toenails are too long or if you have an ingrown toenail that is causing you pain. Beyond the pedicure, a lady should have painted toe nails. Make sure to keep polish fresh and chip free. There is nothing more distasteful than chipped toe nail polish, it simply looks dirty!

6. Find a Good Shoe Cobbler. Here in Los Angeles everyone swears by Arturo’s in Beverly Hills. Whenever I purchase new heels, I run them right over to the shop to have them fitted for rubber dancing soles and rubber heels to prevent slipping. I also recommend purchasing shoe trees or stuffing your heels with tissue paper to maintain their shape in between use.

7. Slip into Your Heels. Feet should be cool and fresh before slipping them into high heels. A hot sweaty foot will have a terrible time adjusting. Begin by sitting down with feet hip distance apart directly under the knees. Back should be straight, shoulders down and head held high. Lift the right foot with pointed toes and slide it into the heel. Allow the toes to wiggle a bit and acclimate to the new cramped feeling. Repeat with the left foot. Now the weight should be forward and balanced on the balls of both feet. Rise to a standing position with calves taut, ankles firm and legs and hips directly underneath. Your bottom, thigh and stomach muscles should all be held tight for posture and stability.

8. Put One Foot in Front of the Other. Ready to walk, begin with the toes and heels together. Lift the right foot and step out landing your weight on the ball of the foot and then spreading to the heel. When you put your foot down, land on the heel and instantly move weight forward. Refrain from lifting the left foot until the weight has been correctly repositioned. Walk with a heel toe, heel toe pattern as if you are a graceful swan walking on the water. Each step should be slow and methodical, swaying your hips naturally and intentionally. Arms relaxed by your side should swing effortlessly opposite each leg.

9. Give Your Feet a Break. After a long day in heels, the first thing I do when I return home is remove my heels and slip my feet into something much more comfortable. If my feet feel swollen or sore, I will give them a quick soak in the tub with some peppermint soap which livens them right up. After a bit of rest, I feel renewed and ready to return to the world of 5 feet and 4 inches.

Have any other high heel tips to share? Any war stories of how you made it through a long evening standing in heels? We'd love to hear from you!

2 comments:

Emily said...

This is great!
My question to you is:
How much platform is too much? When does it start to be un-classy?

Protocallout said...

Good question Emily. You know your platform is too much when (a) it becomes unbearable to wear and/or when (b) you pair it with clothing that is too short! A nice lean leg with a decent sized platform can be very flattering. On the other hand, too much leg with too high of a platform definitely crosses the line to un-classy.

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