High-Heel Boot Camp: Tips to Survive Stilettos

Fashionable masochists, you can walk with a little grace and less pain

From the Grammys to Fashion Week, celebrities, models and regular people alike are strutting their stuff in pumps that have upwards of five inches in heel height. Ridiculous? Nah, we're used to it, most of them say.

A survey conducted for Insolia inserts found that after asking 4,000 women, 20 percent admit that the prospect of aching feet is doable if it means they can still wear their heels. Even worse, their research revealed that the average woman can stand in her high heels without pain for only 34 minutes. So it's not just me then!

I'm with you, ladies! In the name of style, elongating my legs and adding inches of height to my already-short stature, I opt to suffer in stilettos, too. The problem is, I look good standing, but when it comes to walking, I appear distressed -- some might even say injured. Since I'll never trade my heels in for flats, I sought advice from experts. If I'm going to rock stilettos, heck, I want to look good doing it, not to mention stay pain free (or as close to it as possible). Here's what they told me to do:

Practice
Try them out at home first, says Stephanie Pedersen, author of Shoes: What Every Woman Should Know. "Slip on the shoes and walk. And walk. And walk -- preferably indoors where you know the terrain," the shoe guru advises. "While you're practicing, twirl, turn corners, stand on your tip-toes, step side to side as you would in a slow dance, do a jig, climb stairs, bend down, sit down and get up." Pedersen also suggests to:

• Keep your legs as straight and close together as you can. Your feet should point forward with each foot placed near and in front of the other.

• Step by placing your heel down first, then bring the rest of the foot down quickly and smoothly.

• Take smooth, even steps. If you feel unstable, consider shortening your stride.

• Swing your arms for balance.

Work It
Christian Siriano, fashion designer and Project Runway winner, reminds ladies to own it. Walk like a supermodel by following his tips:

• Don't let nerves get the best of you -- walk with confidence.

• Pick the right size. A shoe that is too big or too small can be your downfall. An oversized shoe can make you flop around and a tight shoe (which everyone can tell you squeezed into) is never a good look.

• Consider the occasion. For example, towering heels aren't ideal for the cobblestone street you'd have to walk on, but great in a cab on your way to the party. Save the drama for the runway -- runway shoes are supposed to be dramatic because it's all about the look of a show. When I'm reworking runway styles for real women, I keep their day-to-day activities in mind: where she's wearing the shoes, what her needs are and how she wants to look.

Do Yoga
Kino MacGregor and Nikki Estrada, Zobha Circle of Grace members, suggest these poses:

Downward Dog is a great posture to gently begin to get weight pouring into the heels with a light stretch.

Padahasthasana really increases the stretch along the back of the legs and helps strengthen the feet and open the entire back of the legs, all the way down to the Achilles tendon.

• A good standing pose, such as Mountain Pose, is especially great at setting a good balance in the feet.

Cheat
Some ladies are wising up. Of those 4,000 surveyed, 40 percent say they bring a spare pair of shoes to change into. You can carry a shoe tote to house your comfy shoes, style mavens. (Sneakers with tights, anyone?) Or, you can try one of these cute, foldable flats:

CitySlips ($24.95 and up at CitySlips or After Soles)

Relax Missy Foldable Ballet Flats ($58 at Relax Missy)

Yosi Samra Foldable Ballet Flats ($47.16 and up at Endless)

And, if you're really desperate to walk like you don't suffer from vertigo while in super-tall heels, you can give those power bands a try. I hear they help with balance. Happy heel walking!

Ysolt Usigan is iVillage's beauty and style editor. Follow her on Twitter: @ysolt11.

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