The only feeling better than taking off your bra at the end of the day might be stepping out of a pair of gorgeous, skyscraper, maybe-just-a-little-too-tight heels.
We all have them. They’re those pairs of shoes sitting on our shelf that are just so perfect. The perfect confidence boost, the perfect amount of lift for your bum, the perfect shade to compliment your favorite top … they’re perfect. For everything except your feet.
But we wear them anyway! Because who can resist, right?
Well, it might be time to resist a little harder, because the evidence is mounting against squishing your feet into a shoe that’s not a perfect fit.
If the Shoe Fits …
Beauty is pain, right? Well, sometimes. But it doesn’t need to be, at least not when it comes to your feet. There are plenty of ways to still rock amazing shoes while taking care of yourself.
The first step is to find the right fit. It seems obvious, but shoes shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. Channel your inner Goldilocks! If your toes are squished together or touching the end of the shoe, you should probably size up. Similarly, if your heel lifts up in the shoe with every step, your footwear is too big, and you risk tripping and falling.
When in doubt, buy your shoes larger rather than smaller. While some shoes will stretch, it shouldn’t be counted on. Shoes that are too big can be customized by adding pads to the ball the shoe or adding heel tape to the back of the shoe. Both of these fixes make the shoes cushier and more comfortable too. Bonus!
You’ll also want to modify new shoes to prevent blisters while wearing them in. Each shoe is different, so before wearing them out and ending up with blisters and only a measly Band-Aid, wear your shoes around the house for an hour or so. At the end of this trial, evaluate any pain points you’re feeling, no matter how minimal — more time in your shoes will only amplify them. Then, pad your shoes wherever you’re feelin’ it with gel strips, blister cushions or moleskin. Your feet will thank you later!
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Comfort is more than just avoiding blisters, though. Finding a shoe in the correct width, particularly if you have bunions, goes a long way towards the wearability of your new pair. Cobblers can stretch shoes, but this doesn’t work in all cases, and if you can avoid spending the money by buying better shoes in the first place, wouldn’t you?
Humans started out walking flat-footed and barefoot. Obviously, things changed over time until we landed in our modern mecca of footwear. While the science of shoes has evolved alongside us, so have the extremes of fashion.
Flat shoes allow weight to be distributed evenly and naturally across the foot. Our spine and hips stay aligned normally and there is no increased pressure in the ball of the foot or the knee. Beware ballet flats with a minimal insole, though, especially if you tend to roll to the inside or outside of your foot. In some cases, your natural stance will cause your feet to become supinated or flat-footed without support.
Some shoes are designed to help correct these postural imbalances and encourage healthy walking. Running shoes and certain minimalist trainers offer amazing fit and freedom throughout the foot.
Does this mean your heels and dress flats are forever relegated to the back corner of your closet? Absolutely not. The key is to strike a middle ground.
All that means is you shouldn’t wear your highest heels all the time. Give your feet a break. When you wear high heels, the pressure on the front and inside of your knee grows, your lower back is forced to arch more, and your posture is compromised. Even if you’re used to it and may not feel the pain of heels anymore, your body is feeling it internally.
Some of the strain of heels can be avoided by purchasing lower heels or buying heels with a platform base on them. These are also nicer to the balls of your feet as you aren’t tromping on the ground quite as forcefully. While it may not be as comfortable as a well-fitting pair of mules, your feet will thank you for the middle ground.
Shoes can do more than amend your height and flatten your feet, though. Feet are our base, and they can affect us from our toes to our head, with the most obvious impacts appearing in the lower limbs. Unfortunately, it’s not all good, as shoes can come with a myriad of different impacts for your overworked feet.
High heels cause the achilles tendon and calf muscle to shorten and tighten along the back of the leg. They also create a longer tibialis anterior, which is the muscle running alongside your shin bone. Muscular imbalances in the leg can lead to postural problem and decreased range of motion. If you wear heels frequently, schedule in some breaks and make sure you stretch your calves out. Standing with your toes on the edge of a step and letting your heels sink to the floor can be the best relief after a day running around in stilettos!
During all that running (or walking) around, the contraction of your lower leg muscles act as a sort of pump that forces blood up through your legs and back to your heart. When these muscles aren’t working the way they’re used to — like when you’re sitting all day or wearing shoes that restrict your regular gait — you reduce their ability to return blood to the heart. Compression stockings or socks can help, as can choosing comfortable footwear at least part time.
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So what’s girl to do? How do you say goodbye to the almost perfect pair?
You don’t have to. Hold onto that pair, wear them sparingly, and raise the bar for future finds. While shoes will impact your health, it’s all about moderation. Be sensible in how often you wear shoes with little to no support or sky high heels. Keep some ridiculously comfy clogs in the closet for days you need a break, and always listen to your feet.