How Can I Wear High Heels Without Pain?

If you love high heels, you are also probably accustomed to the pain that follows after wearing them. And for some of us, even a moderate heel can cause discomfort. But you don’t have to give up style to have happy feet!

How can I get used to the pain of wearing high heels?

Like all things, practice makes perfect. High-heeled shoes hold your foot in an unnatural position that pushes your weight on to the balls of your feet. It takes practice to be able to hold that position with any level of comfort. Practice will also help you find the most stable way to walk in your heels. The pointier the toe and the narrower the heel, the more precision is required when moving.

Professional entertainers will often “learn” a new pair of high heels by walking around in them for short periods of time at home before wearing them for a full evening onstage. They will start out wearing them for 5-10 minutes at a time and work their way up to an hour of continuous wear.

It also helps to stretch after wearing high heels. Exercises that stretch your calves are particularly important to prevent or reduce pain after wearing heels. Heel raises are a good option, and you can also explore exercises and stretches for plantar fasciitis. (Wearing heels without stretching can actually cause this painful condition!)

What tricks can I use to avoid high heel pain?

There are many “hacks” to reduce pain while wearing high heels. Their effectiveness varies based on an individual’s feet, but here are some strategies that may work for you:

  • Give your feet a break – The easiest and most effective way to alleviate high heel pain is to take the heels off and swap them out for flat, supportive shoes periodically, especially if you’re going to do a lot of walking. Even discretely slipping your shoes off for a few moments can help!
  • Get a padded insole for the ball of your foot – One of the major reasons we have pain when we wear high heels is that the metatarsals (the long bones of the foot) are under much more pressure than they would be in flats. A little bit of padding can reduce that discomfort.
  • Taping your third and fourth toe together – Anecdotal evidence has shown that wrapping medical tape around these toes twice can help reduce inflammation, which may reduce nerve pain in the intermetatarsal nerves. This trick doesn’t work for everyone, but it is inexpensive so it may be worth a shot.

Another trick you may have heard of is using numbing cream. This can work, but only for a very specific issue, which is why we didn’t include it in the list above. Numbing cream only deadens sensation on the first layer of your skin. If you are wearing shoes that are uncomfortably tight or rub slightly, numbing cream can help with that surface-level pain, but it won’t help with pain from inflammation or irritation inside the foot.

How can I choose heels that won’t hurt?

Of all the strategies for reducing pain while wearing high heels, this is actually the best one: choose the right shoe! Here’s what to look for to reduce pain:

  • A wide toe box
  • A sturdier/thicker heel
  • Heels that are under 2” tall

Every shoe doesn’t have to meet all these criteria, but know that the more of these requirements you meet, the more comfortable the heel will be for long wear.

If you try all these strategies and are still experiencing pain while wearing high heels, a visit to the podiatrist may be in order. If you have other issues causing pain beyond just your choice in footwear, they can help you address those to get back into your favorite heels as fast as possible.