How Do You Walk in Those?

As we’ve continued to explore the Art of Dressing, we’ve discussed both shoe obsessions and storage options and are moving onto the simple (yet daunting to some) matter of navigating in them.

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Even though I don’t specialize in skyscraper heels, I’ve got my fair share of high-enough ones that prompt the question from time to time.

A Selection of my Higher Heels
A Selection of my Higher Heels

Fact is, I walk in them the way anyone walks in any shoes: with a heel-toe motion and by not losing my balance.

But, for the curious let’s look at a few things that will greatly improve your chances of strutting your stuff without becoming a moving violation:

Posture

To All the Shoes I've Worn Before
from my comic, to the tune of To All the Girls I've Loved

Wearing heels is like standing on tippy-toes: your weight shifts forward. Unlike being on tippy-toes, though, high heels give you a kick-stand and you need to take advantage of that kick stand or you’ll just wear yourself out.

The natural inclination is to walk on the balls of your feet and–don’t get me wrong–that’s going to happen, but using both parts of the shoe (the toe and the heel) will give you more to work with. Stand straight in your heels and you should feel your calves and thighs tightening a bit and your butt lifting. Your shoulders, though, need to relax back a bit to counter-balance that lean-forward feeling.

One more note: bend your knees a bit as you walk, it’ll make the mechanics of the steps easier and get you to a smooth stride that much sooner.

Stride

The biggest problem I’ve ever had, walking in heels, is remembering to shorted my stride. The higher the heel, the shorter the step. Don’t try to be a supermodel stomping it down the runway. Even if your blessed with legs up to your neck, it’s best to take shorter steps and more of them. Think of it as a great workout!

Also, as I said before, it’s a heel-toe step just like you do in tennis shoes. Unlike being in tennis shoes it’s not a smooth roll across the sole, but keeping in mind the heel-to-toe movement will help you avoid stomping, clomping and wrecking yourself down life’s hallways.

Speed

All About the Shoes Illustration
A quick shoe sketch from a 2010 convention.

Three words: Slow. Your. Roll.

Along with the shorter step, take your time with each–especially when you’re learning–to prevent a stumble. If you’ve really got to be somewhere quickly: wear flats and switch into your heels when you get there. When you’ve acclimated to higher altitudes, then you can hustle where you need to without worrying about spraining an ankle.

Hazards

Okay, you’ve practiced in the hallway enough and now you’re ready for a real-world road test. Before you head out with your head held high, look down to see if any of these potential pitfalls await:

  • Slick, high-shine tiles, most often found in shopping malls and banks. The loss of traction is worse than that fourth turn in a race track–this is the one time I advocate not using the kick-stand and concentrating your steps on the balls of your feet to prevent the heel from sliding out from under you. Wear lower heels if you must have height for your shopping expedition.
  • Uneven brick or asphalt found on sidewalks and parking lots. These have been the only places I’ve actually fallen off my stilts (skinning my knees in the process). The trick to looking stable in these unstable surroundings is to slow to a measured stroll and test each step before you commit to it.
  • Grass and sand are no friend to high-heels, either, I’m afraid. Not only will your heels sink in softer versions of each, but dirt and grime will discolor and damage the finish of the covered-to-match heels that are so common (and pretty) these days.

A Few More Tips

If you’re new to heels, don’t start with stilettos! Going straight from flat to four inches is a recipe for disaster. Start, instead, with a 2-inch stacked heel and get used to the posture and stride changes before moving to taller and thinner heels.

If you’re going to be wearing heels one evening and you’ll be on your feet more than not, go easy on your feet and wear your comfiest shoes during the day so your feet won’t be worn out before your evening starts.

Heel Liners
Heel Liners

If the fit isn’t perfect, there’s something you can do about it. While I’ve never had great experiences with the stick-in foot pads that go under the balls of your feet or under your heel (they always shift on me, making things worse) there’s one insert that I swear by: heel liners. A major pit-fall is stepping out of your shoe and the steeper the arch of the sole the more possible it is that your heel might be a little loose in the shoe (yes, even with ankle-straps buckled). Heel inserts add padding inside the heel cup as well as narrowing the fit and grabbing your heel before it slips out and causes a spill.

And, one more lesson from my own personal experience file:

One of the few pedicures I’ve ever received, I thought it made perfect sense to have sandals ready to wear out of the salon. Preferring heels as I do, I have this great pear of strappy sandals with a low, stacked heel that seemed imminently sensible.

Nope.

I slipped and slid nearly out of the shoes on the way to the car and, when I got to my next stop and was trying to walk around a local craft fair I was having to fight to keep my footing on the hilly paved paths (it was held at a local park).

Sure, my toes looked great but I nearly fell a couple of times. Lesson: take the flip-flops to the salon and wait a few hours before trying any to-die-for shoes.

All the world may be a stage, but breaking a leg for luck is only a figure of speech.

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Now that we’ve thoroughly covered the shoe ground, let’s walk back into to the closet and tackle the never-ending battle of clothing clutter…

5 thoughts on “How Do You Walk in Those?

  1. Jenny @ Kerrfect! says:

    when I was about 13 I wanted to wear heels and my father let me buy a pair (would probably be equal to a kitten heel, but they seemed so tall at the time), but I couldn’t wear them out of the house until I could walk up and down the wood floored hallway without making a sound. lol. My dad is older (71) so he grew up in a world where women not only “dressed” but presented every aspect of themselves in a certain way. He felt that since his mother had trained that way and his sister had, that I needed to too. lol I’m thankful now that I learned how to walk properly, especially when I see girls clod-stomping around in shoes they never should have wasted their money on. lol. A lot of my more expensive brand pairs of heels came from thrift stores with next to no wear even on the soles. I always chalk it up to someone buying shoes they fell in love with, but couldn’t walk in.

  2. Jenny @ Kerrfect! says:

    you never put the heel ALL the way down, sort of like a dancer. I make noise now, lol I can’t maintain the walking on the ball of my foot as long as I used to be able to, lol.

    1. Scraps says:

      I saw a woman walking up the hill the other day. 4″ stilettos and slipping out of them at every step. It was an accident waiting to happen! So sad when $2.50 would have fixed it.

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