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Heels are the perfect addition to just about any outfit — and they make our legs look like a supermodel’s — yet wearing them comes at a price.
And it's not just pain and blisters; even walking in them gracefully is a challenge.
So it's no surprise that a recent picture of Rihanna gliding over a New York City subway grate in pointy stilettos practically made our heads spin.
How did she do that?
Turns out it's not impossible.
We went straight to the pros to uncover the secrets to walking in 4-inch stilettos. Your feet will definitely thank us later for this one.
1. It’s all about posture.
Remember when your mom was always telling you to stand up straight? Yes, we’ve been there too. But it turns out mom really does know best.
“It is important that your posture is addressed in order to walk in your high heels correctly. My method includes the Alexander Technique, which re-educates the neuro-muscular system, so that the body returns to its natural state of perfect posture, perfect poise and balance,” Chyna Whyne, founder of the instructional program Walking in Stilettos, told TODAY.com via email.
2. Work that inner core.
Besides giving you hopes of getting a six-pack, building inner core strength can actually help you walk better. Dr. Suzanne Levine, a podiatrist at Institute Beaute in New York City, revealed that good posture starts with having a strong core. She added that Pilates is her exercise of choice. Perhaps that’s the secret behind celebrities and models walking for hours on end in sky-high shoes.
“To feel more stable in fabulous shoes, you need to have a fabulous core," said Dr. Levine, who explained Pilates can help with balance issues.
3. There’s some homework involved.
What you do at home can actually make a difference when it comes to hitting the city streets with grace and elegance.
“Prior to wearing heels, walking around your home on the balls of your feet helps to strengthen your legs and ankles,” Karen Lee Gybrowski, a model scout at Karen Lee Group, told TODAY.com via email.
Dr. Levine also recommended writing the letters of the alphabet with your feet daily to help strengthen the 38 muscles that are in your feet. Do this in bed or on the couch while watching TV.
4. How you step matters.
Walking might not be as easy as 1-2-3.
Dr. Levine said the key to walking in heels is trying a Y-step. Each time you step, land on the outer border of the heel and toe off.
“It is important when walking in high heels to lead with the ball of the foot. Never lead with the heel as weight will often make the high heel collapse and result in an accident or injury,” explained Whyne.
5. Now put this all together.
If this seems overwhelming, we promise it’s not. According to Dr. Levine, here’s what you need to remember: H-A-P-P-Y. So, what does this stand for?
H: Head held high
A: Abdominal muscles pulled in
P: Pelvis in neutral
P: Press chest down
Perhaps it’s not so hard after all.
6. You really can walk in heels on any surface.
What Rihanna did is not impossible. We promise. Channel your inner Carrie Bradshaw and follow suit.
“When walking on a surface such as grass, it is important to engage your calf muscles by elevating yourself even higher in your stilettos, which will elevate your high heel slightly above the grass and thus stop the heel from sinking,” said Whyne.
And when hitting the city streets, make sure to walk lightly (no clomping) and lead with the ball of your foot.
7. Does the shoe really fit?
Even if you take all of this into consideration, if the shoe doesn’t fit properly, you’re doomed. But, how do you know if the shoe fits? Keep these three things in mind.
- The ball of the foot should rest on the widest part of the shoe.
- Always go for the size of the bigger foot.
- The length of the shoe needs to fit your longest toe.
8. But can you actually walk safely in the shoe?
Sure it’s easy to walk around the shoe department, but are those five minutes of parading around and seeing how they look in the mirror enough ? No.
However, you can tell if the shoe is a good match before you leave the store by conducting a simple test.
“Most women are under the illusion that the more money that you pay for a pair of high-heeled shoes is the more reassurance that the shoe is hazard-free. This is not the case; what constitutes a well-made shoe is that it is stable and does not rock when tapped at the back from side to side," explained Whyne.
Whyne added, “If you imagine the foundations of a house not being stable, then there will only be one outcome — that eventually it will tumble. The same principle applies to the stability of high-heel shoes.”
9. When you shop makes a difference.
The reason the shoe isn’t comfortable once you try it on at home might have something to do with the time of day you bought it.
Dr. Levine said the ideal time for going shoe shopping is mid-day. At the end of the day, you’ll find that your foot is swollen and at the beginning of the day, your foot isn’t swollen yet. To find the perfect match, it’s best to catch your foot somewhere in the middle.
10. Give your shoes some TLC every now and then.
Have you ever had shoes that suddenly went from being your most comfortable pair to your most painful? The reason behind this isn’t magic.
If you find yourself struggling to balance while wearing the shoe, try changing the heels. A good rule of thumb is to change the heels on any pair you wear regularly every four to six months.
If your feet burn, don’t panic: A lack of cushioning might be to blame. There are plenty of products on the market that can add cushioning around the ball of your foot, explained Dr. Levine.
The soles of your shoes could be causing sore feet after a day of walking. Try changing your soles to crepe ones. They’ll help absorb more shock, leaving your tootsies feeling better after a long day.
11. Keep your feet on their toes.
There’s no truth to "no pain, no gain" when it comes to heels. To avoid throbbing feet, change up your shoes throughout the day. Invest in a pair of flats with a round, wide toe box that you can throw in your bag, suggested Dr. Levine. Throughout the day, switch from these to your heels. This will help the calf muscle stretch, preventing leg pain.
12. Take care of your feet. You’ve only got two.
Shoes aren’t the only enemy for your feet. How you take care of them is equally to blame.
At the end of the day, soak your feet in a bath of sea salt or Epsom salt, recommended Gybrowski. Then apply moisturizer, but don’t put them in socks. It’s important to keep them exposed.
Treat your tooties to a massage. Here’s what to do.
“Bend your right leg at the knee and place your ankle on the top of the left knee. Press both thumbs into the balls of the feet and massage in a circular motion. Continue this on the instep and down towards the heel of the foot. Repeat this as many times as you wish on both feet,” said Whyne.
And don’t rush to the nail salon for a pedicure. Dr. Levine warned that nail technicians often remove too much skin from the calluses. Instead, she suggests using a foot exfoliator or cream with glycolic acid to simply remove any dead and dry skin.