Everything You Need To Know About Shoes, Heels, And How To Walk In Them

We tend to have a love-hate relationship with footwear. For example, we regularly find ourselves drooling over a pair of cool lace-ups, but unable to find them in our size. Another example: we love the look of heels, but we have trouble walking in them for more than two hours. And that’s why we went to Meghan Cleary, the go-to source for footwear advice. Cleary, who got her start as a marketing consultant on Wall Street, is now the author of Shoe Are You? and regularly doles out foot-focused advice on E!, Tyra, and CNN.

Keep reading for Cleary’s helpful tips on shoes that are too small or too big, finding the right heel height, and learning how to walk in vertiginous footwear.

What are some shoes that every woman must own?

1) Super chic red carpet sandal in high, mid, or flat heel
2) High or flat knee high boot
3) A classic heel or a platform, something that’s neutral and goes with everything
4) A trendy trainer or sneaker
5) Ballet flat or loafer

What can I do if I bought shoes that are a size too small or too big?

Just don’t do it. No matter how tempting it is in the store or at Bergdorf‘s bi-annual sale — don’t buy them a “little big” or pretend not to notice they are “just a little too tight”. You will pay in pain times over, I swear. I understand the siren song, but it’s a relationship flawed from the beginning.

That said, if you have a pair that’s a little too big, try Heavenly Heelz by FootPetals and then throw in an insole as well. If the shoe is huge on you, try Dr. Scholl’s For Her 16 Hour Insoles or Summer Soles Softness of Suede Stay-Dry Women’s Full Length Insoles.

If you have shoes are a little too tight, and they are made of leather, try this radical step. Soak the shoes under running water for one to two minutes and make sure that they’re fully wet. Now put them on and wear them until they are dry. This step will give you a little extra stretch. If they aren’t leather and are the mysterious and ever-ubiquitous “man-made materials”, put them in the oven on very low heat (like 200 degrees) for a half hour. Then whip them out, put them on, and wear them until they are cool again.

Is there a right heel height?

There are many pediatric theories about the best heel height that incorporates all sorts of metatarsal, talus, and sinus tarsi bones, and other scientific tidbits. For practical purposes and when shopping for high heels, keep in mind the absolute sweet spot for heel height between two and two and a half inches. But wait, you say. How can I wear my super high platforms?

 Well, they actually have a nice little platform in the toe box that makes the actual heel height (what you experience in height as the shoe wearer) shorter. This is why everyone loves the YSL Tribute so much. With that platform, the actual heel height is two inches.

What’s the best way to take care of shoes? How can I make my shoes last longer?

You have to be sweet to your shoes. If they’re leather, make sure you clean them. A kit is invaluable. If you ever expose your shoes to salt in the winter season, you must clean the salt off as soon as possible. It will eat up your shoes and leave you with super cracked, hole-y footwear. Ew.

 Also, we all have favorite footwear, but try to mix it up as best you can. Give your shoes a breather from time to time and rotate your favorites. 

And my special secret to protecting footwear is to buy a can of leather protectant and spray them with protectant as soon as you get a new pair home. Do it five to six times, layering the sprays every hour or so, then one last spray, and leave them to dry overnight. This will make a great little seal against water and dirt.

I never wear heels, and when I do, they absolutely kill me. I’m tall enough that I don’t think the discomfort is worth it, but I’d love to be able to wear them without having to hobble barefoot two hours into the night. Is there a way to “learn” to wear heels?

I’m so glad you asked. It’s a question that has plagued women (and men) the world over ever since Catherine de Medici swayed into the French court in her sassy stilettos in 1533. The thing to remember when wearing high heels is that you are no longer balancing your body with your feet. All of your balance shifts upward. Walking in stilettos is just like Pilates — it’s all about your core.

 The next time you wear your favorite pair of heels try this: stand up straight, close your eyes, and place your hands on your “powerhouse,” or your pelvic floor. Take a few minutes and concentrate. When you wear heels, this is the place that all your concentration needs to come from. Open your eyes, and take a few strides forward while still putting all your attention on your powerhouse. You will be totally surprised to find how much easier walking in heels is when you make this super simple, slight adjustment. And lastly, be a smart stiletto-wearer and bring a pair to swap with on the way to and from an event. And save your stiletto for the most important part of your day or night — please don’t try to do an 18 hour day in heels. Hello? Do you want to be crippled from cute stilettos when you’re 90-years-old? No, you don’t.

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