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Stiletto sergeant runs high heel boot camp

Anastassia Khozissova doesn't just walk in high heels. She glides. She looks graceful and sexy at the same time, not missing a beat, not teetering even a little bit.

But she's a model so let's chalk that up to a lot of experience.

Me? I'm more of a stumbler in stilettos, a reluctant wearer of the most expensive shoes in my closet because I fear either I'll fall or they'll hurt.

Hopefully Khozissova can cure me of that.

In addition to being a professional catwalker for the likes of Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta, the Russian-born Khozissova has been tapped by the Web site Modelinia to teach the art of wearing — and walking — in towering shoes to the masses in a series of free online videos.

It's high-heel boot camp. She did a live version for myself and a few colleagues on the roof of our Manhattan office building.

Within seconds of meeting Khozissova, I got my slim 4-inch heel caught in a crack in the pavement. I wasn't looking three steps ahead of me like I should, she notices. That gives you enough time to react to grout, grates and drains, all potential pitfalls for high heels.

Before we start, she gives us some other pointers:

  • Every muscle should be working. Walking in heels is not for the slacker.
  • Your body should be straight, one line from the top of the head through at least the hips. Shoulders down.
  • Don't bounce. Each step should be even in stride.

Before you think about moving in heels, there are stationary exercises to be done, Khozissova says.

Diane Bondareff / FR81453 AP
**FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES** Model Anastasia Khozisova, of Modelinia's High Heel Boot Camp, teaches Associated Press staffers how to walk in their high heels, Wednesday, March 18, 2009, in New York. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)

Start with your shoulders, rolling them forward and back. It might seem counterintuitive to think about your upper body as you're concentrating on walking, but, she explains, it makes you aware of posture and position.

The most common complaint she hears from other models is pain in their arches. Spending time on your tippy toes, like when you're washing dishes or brushing teeth, should build up tolerance, and, she adds, it's not a bad exercise for your rear.

Swing your arms, too, to get used to the motion you should be making as you walk.

OK, now we're ready for baby steps.

Like a ballerina, women in heels should lead with their toe, not the heel, and the leg should be extended as you go forward. Body weight should sit on the balls of the feet.

Walking this way, exudes confidence, she promises.

She says she goes through the same motion even if she's wearing flats. "Walking with your toe first is just prettier."

This doesn't seem quite natural — and it's not, Khozissova acknowledges, but it will become second nature with practice.

"It's not just your feet that will hurt, at first, it's the whole body as you get used to the new way you have to move," Khozissova says.

And remind me why we're bothering with all this?

"You wear high heels for the same reason you'd buy a beautiful dress," she says. "The payoff is when someone says, 'You look stunning today.'"

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