High heels are not exactly known for being comfortable. For many women, a high-heeled shoe can make them feel glamorous and confident but aren’t worth the level of discomfort. Particularly as you get older, the toll high heels take on your feet and legs can feel greater and not worth the effort.
But you don’t have to hang up your heels for good just yet! There are plenty of ways for older women to reduce the discomfort of high heels, so they can continue feeling stylish and elegant.
We asked Susannah Davda of The Shoe Consultant for her take on this topic. Susannah told us: "Heel height and chunkiness are important, but the position of the heel can make a big difference too. If your heel is positioned right at the back of your shoe and there is a large gap between the heel and ball of your foot, you are not being properly supported.
"Our centre of gravity when we wear heels runs down our legs into the shoes. If you were to draw a straight line down your leg, this would continue a little forward from the back of your heel. When your heel is positioned in line with your leg bones, your balance will be vastly improved.
"You may even find you can wear a higher heel than you thought."
While high heels may always come with a little soreness, here are a few tips to minimise pain and feel as comfortable as possible so you can keep feeling fabulous.
How big is your heel?
Not all heels are created equal. Heels come in different shapes and sizes, which can all affect how comfortable they are to wear. This doesn't mean you can't wear a stiletto from time to time if you want; just save them for occasions when you're not likely to be spending long periods standing and walking around. Your feet, legs and back will feel the burn after a while, and you run the risk of falling over as you get more tired.
Shorter heels will place less pressure on the balls of your feet and be more comfortable to wear for longer periods. There are plenty of great styles out there, so you can feel glam in three or four inches. Thicker heels will also help your balance and keep you more stable. For occasions where you’ll spend lots of time on your feet, think about a wedge heel to maximise your comfort and stability throughout the day.
Try it at home first
Like many other shoes, high heels will be more comfortable if you break them in first. Try wearing them around the house for a few hours with a pair of socks on to stretch them out a little and mould them to your feet. Doing this in advance of an event or special occasion will make them far more comfortable when you pop them on the second time.
If you don't have time to wear them in before the event, you can try a few other things. If you have time to leave them overnight, just fill a ziplock or freezer bag with water, place it inside the shoe, then put the shoes in the freezer. Once you get them out, the ice should have expanded, so you just need to let them thaw a little, remove the bags, and your shoes should have slightly stretched out. If you're pressed for time, blast your shoes with a hairdryer to soften the material. Then just bend the material around a little to make the shoes more pliable before you put them on.
Prevent problems in advance
As well as breaking in the shoes before you wear them, there are a few other preventative measures you can take to maximise comfort. Many high heels have slippery soles, which can increase the strain on your feet when wearing them out and about – particularly if they are brand new. If you rough up the shoe sole with sandpaper, you’ll slip around less and feel more stable and comfortable throughout the day.
When you're wearing them in, try to pay attention to any particularly tight or uncomfortable spots on your feet. Before you wear them out to the event, you can add extra protection to these areas with blister patches or regular plasters to avoid blisters forming. If you're not wearing tights or stockings, you can also use talcum powder on your feet before you slip on your shoes to prevent blisters.
Invest in extra support
All high heels put more pressure on the balls of your feet than flats, so you need all the support you can get. Particularly if you're planning on wearing them all day or all night, insoles or gel inserts can prevent your feet from getting tired and make your shoes significantly more comfortable. You can get insoles from most pharmacies or supermarkets, and they are generally not too expensive – and worth every penny. If the insoles are quite thick, you may need to think about going a size up when you buy your heels.
Another trick favoured by models is to tape your third and fourth toes together. It sounds bizarre, but thousands of women swear by this trick because it balances the weight across your toes better, which keeps you comfortable for longer. Of course, this only works with closed-toe shoes that hide the tape!
Kick them off when you can
Even using all the above hacks, high heels will eventually take their toll. If it’s a dinner or sit-down event, you can usually get away with slipping your heels off under the table. This will give your feet a short break, and you can give your toes and arches a stretch while no one can see.
After a long event in heels, you will want to slip into some flats for walking between places or making your journey home. If you have a larger bag, pop a pair of pumps or plimsolls in. Or there are plenty of foldaway shoes you can buy online, which roll or fold up small enough to slip into a smaller bag. By the end of the night, you’ll be grateful you packed them.
Don’t ditch your heels just yet
Not everyone loves heels, and that’s okay! There are plenty of gorgeous flat styles that will still look chic and fashionable with any outfit. But if you do love heels, don’t let getting older hold you back. Give these tricks a try, and you'll be amazed at how much you can prevent the discomfort in advance and flaunt your favourite heels.