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.
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.
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? 😉
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. 😉 )
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?! 😉
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.
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. 😉 )
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.
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.
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! 🙂
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! 🙂
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. 🙂
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:
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