A walk in my shoes

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I first starting wearing high heels, especially after breaking out my first-ever pair of 4-inch heels last week.

Librarian for Life + Style | A walk in my shoes

The school year is starting up, which means I’ll be wearing work heels in regular rotation again. Also, a few weeks ago, a Facebook friend and new librarian suggested that I do a post about wearing high heels, as she doesn’t yet feel that comfortable in them although she likes the look for work. I totally knew what she was talking about.

Librarian for Life & Style

Walking in heels

I remember feeling the same way when I started my first professional job as a librarian a decade ago. I felt really self-conscious about wearing heels, and it felt like being able to walk comfortably in them was this mystical skill that I had somehow missed out on growing up. And when I was wearing one of my first pairs (low-heeled black slingbacks) back in 2003 at my first professional job, a co-worker remarked how I must not be used to heels. So embarrassing! But then it clicked:  I had felt self-conscious and awkward, and my colleague had picked up on that. Knowing that the worst had actually happened somehow made me calmer, and helped me get over it. And then I approached it like a librarian:  I did my research. And I practiced.

So this is not really a post about how to walk in high heels (those kinds of how-tos are more than adequately addressed here and here, for starters); the dangers of wearing heels (for more on that, see here and here); a shopping bonanza; or even a debate on whether one should wear heels or not. That is a personal choice. And I choose to wear high heels sometimes. I’ve never felt that my style blog is prescriptive or particularly advice-oriented. At its core, this blog is about my own personal style journey — but if I DO inspire others along that journey, that is all gravy. It makes me feel good, to pay that inspiration forward in small ways.

This is a post, simply, about my personal, continuing, decade-plus journey with high heels. Y’all up for a walk in my shoes? 😉

Librarian for Life + Style | Heel heights

So a decade ago, I searched out several articles about the proper way to walk in heels (put heels first, not toes). Some things I read also recommended taking smaller steps and imagining you’re walking along a single line, therefore putting one foot in front of the other and creating a Marilyn Monroe-like wiggle. But those two things didn’t work for me personally. I actually felt more confident taking my usual long strides — which just feels more natural to me, as I like to walk with purpose — and making sure my legs were straight and parallel, so it was like I was walking along two parallel lines, not one. To each her own.

This fun video by French style photographer Garance Dore helps visually illustrate how to walk (and NOT to walk) in heels here.

I also read a few articles about the structure of heels, that the heel should be centered underneath the heel pad so that the pressure on your foot stays balanced. This made sense to me. (You can also read some interesting articles about the architectural process of shoe design here and here.) It might just be all mental, but I feel more centered in my well-centered heels. Below is one pair of my heels that I chose partly for its sturdy  and well-placed heel. (The fact that they’re purple suede and oh-so-feminine didn’t hurt, either. 😉 )

Librarian for Life + Style | High heel placement

My purple suede heels, a good example of a well-centered, sturdy heel. So even though these heels are 3 inches high, they are quite comfortable to wear.

And I also was lucky enough to catch a shoe exhibit at the Racine Art Museum called “Icons of Elegance:  The Most Influential Shoe Designers of the 20th Century,” back in 2007 when we lived in Wisconsin. Even though the focus was on the last century of shoe design, this awesome exhibit from the Bata Shoe Museum also had a section about the history of heels, plus an area with designer shoes to try on. Trying on a pair of Manolo Blahnik heels IN REAL LIFE and being able to see the kind of detail that goes into these high-end shoes? Bliss. And this exhibit made all that reading I had done on heel structure and architecture come together and make sense. Yep, doing research and then visiting a museum were two light-bulb moments in my personal path to wearing high-heeled footwear. Do I have the heart of an academic librarian OR WHAT?! 😉

Librarian for Life + Style | Shoe museum exhibit book

The catalogue from the ‘Icons of Elegance’ shoe exhibit

While practicing wearing heels, I realized that wearing them with pants — like wide-leg trousers that covered most of the heel, as seen below — made me feel less conspicuous and more confident. And even now, when I’m tired and feel I need some external packaging to boost my self-confidence, I turn to the heels + wide-leg trouser combo.

Librarian for Life + Style | Blue + black + animal print

I have medium-high arches, so a 2-to 3-inch heel is actually the most comfortable height range for me. And most online shopping shoe sites, like Payless and Zappos, have search options so you can narrow down results by heel height. I also found that searching for “kitten heel” or “mid heel” as keywords come up with good results. (Yes, I can find a way to stress the importance of keywords, even in a post about high heels. I am AWESOME at being a librarian. 😉 )

Payless screenshot

Search limits on Payless

Zappos screenshot

Search limits on Zappos

And I have slowly graduated up the height scale in heels through this past decade, starting with about a 2-inch maximum, then up to 3 inches, and now I’m feeling ok after spending an evening in 4-inch heels. It wasn’t a conscious evolution, but it’s interesting to look back and see how I’ve slowly become adjusted to walking in higher heels.

Librarian for Life + Style | Heel heights through the years

A personal evolution of heel heights

In addition to the placement of the heels, I always look at the internal padding. I have raved several times about the ComfortPlus and the Dexflex lines at Payless, which have tons of padding. Easy Spirit, Naturalizer, Nine West, and Aerosoles are always reliably comfortable brands, as well. And just about every pair of shoes I own — flats included — I have added extra padding, like these foot pad inserts shown below (I have a variety of shoe inserts from Foot Petals, Dr. Scholls, and Fab Feet). Also, click here for a well-written rundown on shoe inserts by Audrey @ Putting Me Together.

Librarian for Life + Style | Shoe padding

Holy double-padded comfort! Here’s a closeup on the padding in the dexflex + ComfortPlus lines at Payless

Librarian for Life + Style | Shoe padding inserts

Foot pad inserts from the Foot Petals brand

Librarian for Life + Style | Shoe padding inserts

Nude-colored shoe inserts are good for slingbacks

If you’re a regular reader, you know I love wedges. I’ve even posted a “shoe love” post featuring all my wedges, and there are 3 rows of wedges here in all-shoes-in-one-photo post. Wedges make me feel more stable while walking, and they help visually balance my wider ankles. I also keep an eye out for platforms — and I don’t mean those clunky platforms that look more like bear traps on the feet. There are elegant, and subtle, platform options out there, and they really help high heels feel more comfortable and manageable. And mentally reducing a 3-inch heel with a 1-inch platform to a more wearable 2-inch heel height makes me feel like I’m winning at life — like I’m getting away with something! 🙂

Librarian for Life + Style | Platforms

High-heeled boots were also a stepping stone — hee hee — for me. There’s something about boots that make me feel supported and more sure-footed when walking in heels, because they are literally helping support my ankles. This probably was part of the reason why it took me SO LONG to come around to the idea of wearing ankle boots. And it comes as no surprise, then, that my first pair of ankle boots has a lower heel. So with new styles of footwear, I’m repeating my personal cycle of starting with lower heels and working my way up. I had never thought about that before! 🙂

Librarian for Life + Style | New ankle boots and black tights

I’ve also found that however practical I am — and I am VERY PRACTICAL — I are more likely to wear heels when I have ones that make me light up inside and go, “Oooh, pretty!” It’s amazing, that feeling you get when wearing shoes that make you feel special, like my new 4-inch heels or my black-trimmed peep-toe wedges. Or my new pair of patent leather tortoiseshell wedges. Happy sigh. 🙂

Librarian for Life + Style | Pretty high heels

Pretty shoes that make my heart skip a beat

Even though I love me some wedges and special heels, I’m also a flats-loving girl. I feel no shame whatsoever in loving both ends of the shoe spectrum, and all the options inbetween. I like variety and the ability of choice. There are plenty of pretty flat options out there! I’ve come to realize that I tend to go for flats with interesting details, like the bold stripe pattern on these canvas flats, the mixture of textures on my grey and bronze flats, patent leather, or front buckles and bows, as seen below:

Librarian for Life + Style | Collection of flats

Flats from my personal collection

I remember years ago when a good friend told me that, for her, life was too short to wear heels. I respect that. Again, it’s a personal choice. For me, life is too short NOT to wear high heels — at least once in a while. 😀

If you’ve made it to the end of this long post, thank you. Thank you for reading about my decade-long relationship and continuing journey/love affair with high heels. And I’d love to hear about YOUR personal journey with wearing heels. Please leave a comment and let me know!

Link ups:  Friday’s Fab Favorites  /  Favorite Fashion Friday  /  Best of Friday Linkup  /  Passion for Fashion  /  Fashion Informant Fridays  /  Friday’s Five  /  Simple Easy Style  /  Fashion Friday   /  Sunday Style  /  IFB Project #119

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35 thoughts on “A walk in my shoes

  1. Laura

    Oh mah GAAAAAAAHD, I want to be Garance when I grow up. Chic, talented, French, and her boyfriend is The Sartorialist? I mean, really.

    I love the look of heels–they instantly elevate (ha) an outfit and I think they make my legs look nicer. But wearing them all day will make the balls of my feet sore–and if I have to dance en pointe after wearing heels all day, my arches cramp. You would think that as a dancer, I would have stronger and tougher feet! I need to invest in some of the inserts that you mention.

    Reply
  2. Rebekah

    OK, so I’m giant, and my husband isn’t, nor are pretty much any of my friends, so I was self conscious about wearing heels for awhile. I have to admit, though, if I’m not standing by anyone else, I just feel sassier and prettier in high heels…if I can walk in them, which oftentimes I can’t because I have weirdly shaped heels or something. But yeah, I do have one pair that are 4.5″ (silver wedges shown here, here, and here), and I feel like a freakin’ giant in those. My comfort zone is right around 3″.

    Reply
    1. Jen @ Librarian for Life and Style

      Yes, it’s true, quality shoes do make a difference. But for me, the ultimate “signs” of quality mean internal padding and well-centered heels — oh, and straps that don’t dig into my feet or ankles. So I think some lower-end lines, like some in Payless, can be just as effective as other, more expensive shoes. And I find that I really just have to try them on — that’s the ultimate deciding factor, if they feel good on, in the moment. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Amanda

    Awesome post, loved the video. I felt like such a dork in Paris briefly this August clomping around in my Chacos while all of the Parisians were in their super chic shoes…nevermind that for a mile I actually had to carry a 40 pound pack AND an almost 5 year old child, which I daresay is NOT possible in heels of any height. But still…after I put down the pack and the child, I was wishing for more grown-up footwear. Next time!

    Reply
  4. Erin @ Loop Looks

    ARGH! I wrote really long comment but I’ve been having trouble logging in to leave comments on wordpress.com blogs lately. And then my comment gets eaten.

    Anyway, the gist of my comment was that I appreciated knowing that the heel placement and the architecture of the shoe can make a difference in why some high heels feel perfect and others feel awkward. I love the looks of some shoes but have never tried them on because I think “a 4 inch heel is too high!” But now I’m thinking I should just try them on anyway because you never know! I love heels and wear them almost every day. Mostly cause I’m short and it’s more fun than just getting my pants hemmed.

    Reply
    1. Jen @ Librarian for Life and Style

      LOL, I loved the last line of your comment! Yes, I also have pants that only “go” with higher heels, because of their length. And I agree, try them on to see how they feel — you never know! It’s interesting how much more attention I place now on heel placement — it really can make a difference! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Shoesandbijou

    I’m a flat girl everyday. But sometimes you want the extra touch of glamour for an event, so I have bought some heels but really it’s a pain for me and my husband who has to deal with me walking slower than a snail and looking like a T-Rex, and sporting the naked feet look after the event, not glamorous at all! LOL but I will consider some of your advice, about comfort inserts and the position if the heel. And maybe I should practice before the next appearance…
    Xoxo

    Reply
  6. Paula

    I am 45 years old and this is the first time in my life that I’ve worn heels on a regular basis. I decided this summer to change my style to a more professional style and adding nice heels was part of it. Wedges work great. Skinny heel types, not so well for me. I cannot wear heels without those ball of the foot pads and also heel straps for sling backs. They make the sling stay in place. Thanks for a great article.

    Reply
  7. Jacqueline

    I used to be pretty conservative when it came to wearing heels at work. I usually wore flats or sperrys. Now, I have now found more confidence when wearing heels! I wear them almost all the time!
    xo,
    Jacqueline

    stylininstlouis.com

    Reply
  8. Amy

    Thank you for this post! Now, I wanna put on all the heels I’ve bought but never worn out of the house 😛 I tend to wear flats all the time, especially my moccasins, but it’s nice to break out of my comfort zone – so thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
    1. Jen @ Librarian for Life and Style

      Yay!!! Go for it, and just see how it goes. It was fun to look back at my journey and realize just how far I’ve come. I NEVER would have thought I would be comfortable in 4″ heels back when I was wobbling around on 2″ ones at work — and getting called out for it! 🙂

      Reply
  9. ambercanread

    I’ve got to practice walking around my house in one of the two pair of heels I own (er, I have three, but my wedding heels seem ridiculously high. I barely even wobbled down the aisle in them!). I love the look of heels; I think they instantly elevate casual looks to a more professional level.

    Reply
  10. Ann

    Hi jen, this is a great post filled with all kinds of shoes and interesting info. Your black ankle boots are cute and I’ve been looking for a similar pair. I remember starting to wear heels in high school and loving them. I really not a practical gal but I do wear comfort shoes with arch support to keep my feet healthy. I wear heels for short amounts of time when I’m not standing so much. Your heels look great with the wide leg pants!

    blue hue wonderland

    Reply
  11. Rachel

    this is such an amazing peice, thanks for sharing. i too have been on a shoe journey and am going from flats back to heels, but in comfort. Thanks for linking up to Passion for Fashion, hope you’ll join us again tomorrow xx

    Reply
  12. Amanda

    Late reply, but I saw this in your year end round up of posts and wanted to comment anyway. I like how you show the evolution of heels that you went through. I’m a flats-only girl because I’ve only ever known heels to be painful and awkward to walk in. A secondary reason is that my husband is 8″ taller than I am, and I’d rather embrace my shortness and be comfortable. Heels do look nice, and fun though. I’m wondering now if they might be an option someday … when I learn to walk in them, lol.

    Reply

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