Wearing high heels every day can suck. But we have good news: according to Paul Greenberg, a board-certified podiatric surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital and Belvedere Podiatry Group, “It’s a myth that high heels are bad for your feet.”
Dr. Greenberg diagnoses and treats a range of foot problems, and the majority of his clients are working professional women. So when it comes to high heels, Greenberg is a realist.
“We’re not going to tell everybody, ‘You need to wear a hiking boot or an athletic shoe to work,'” he said. “A corporate executive is not going to dress that way in New York City.”
Instead, Greenberg laid out some simple tips to make wearing high heels a better experience.
1. Aim for a 1-2 inch heel.
Dr. Greenberg said there are a number of foot conditions that can actually be helped by wearing high heels — in fact, he always recommends heels over flats.
“When somebody uses a completely flat shoe, the foot collapses down, the arch collapses down, you stretch the muscles, the tendons, the ligaments, and they develop symptoms,” he said. “So I tell them an ideal shoe is an inch to an inch-and-a-half heel — even a two inch heel is fine.”
(While any heel is better than a ballet flat, Dr. Greenberg said, finding the right height is ultimately a matter of preference; it’s ok to wear 3 or 4 inch heels if you do it regularly and you’re comfortable with it.)
2. Pick shoes with stronger soles.
Next time you’re considering a new shoe purchase, pay attention to sole firmness under the ball of the foot. The more rigid the sole is, the better.
Dr. Greenberg says you want the whole sole to function as a single unit. Otherwise, he said, “for a very, very flexible sole, when they bend, they’re gonna be putting a lot of stress underneath the metatarsal region, and that can certainly create certain problems.”
3. Platforms are a-ok.
One way of ensuring you have firm, rigid sole under the toes is to go for a platform shoe.
“I like a shoe with a platform because it does give stability,” Dr. Greenberg said.
4. Pointy is ok, too.
“It is a cliche, but if the shoe fits, wear it,” said Dr. Greenberg. Shoe pointiness is less important from a biomechanical standpoint than sole firmness and general comfort.
5. If you really need to break them in, then maybe skip them.
Dr. Greenberg noted that most shoes will continue to break in over time, but that isn’t something you should rely on when making your initial purchase.
“They should be comfortable from the start,” he said.
6. Remember to stretch out your calf muscles.
There are of course problems that can arise from constantly wearing high heels — namely, your calf muscles can contract over time. But Greenberg said this is only common among elderly women who’ve worn heels regularly for decades.
And you can prevent it.
“If I know somebody’s going to be living in a high heel shoe most of the time, we usually encourage stretching exercises,” Dr. Greenberg said.
The number one exercise he recommends is a calf stretch, like a basic running stretch. So remember to do those after a long day at the office.