For our younger readers, 411 was the number dialed for get a phone service called “Information”. Now you just Google it…
I confess, I’m a shoe addict. Didn’t use to be. I hated shoes when I was a young and hated shoe shopping even more. The reason – shoes never fitted my feet.
In 2011, after yet another ankle reconstruction, I searched for shoes that fit my feet. I have strange feet, a thick toe box, massive arch, and skinny heel; my podiatrist tells me that less than 1% have feet like mine. I could just barely get my toe box into men’s 9.5 EEE shoes, then had about ½ inch gap on each size of my heel and a ½ inch gap in front. I determined these gaps were a contributing factor to my many reconstructive surgeries. I searched the internet for “thick toe box/narrow heel shoes” and the only shoes that Google came up with were women’s. I tested this theory with a pair of cheap women’s running shoes, and the regular women’s size 10 fitted better than any men’s version had ever before. I switched to women’s shoes that day. And haven’t had ankle problems since.
Now that I found shoes that fit, shoe shopping was fun. I got several pairs of booties with 1.5- 3-inch heels and more runners.
In 2015, I was forced to raise both my heels 4 inches to heal a severe leg injury. Since you can’t wear two plastic booties, I told my doctor I was going to try high heels. After 5 months in 4- inch heels, I tried to go back to flats (or 1-inch heels) and my hip pain (from a previous injury) returned in one week. I have been in high heels ever since.
I’ve learned a lot about shoes and shoe shopping, and I want to transfer that knowledge to you.
Basics of Shoe Shopping
Many women’s shoes, unlike men’s, come in and sell out fast, never to be seen again. If I find something that fits great, I will sometimes buy a second pair – maybe in another color.
This is THE most important feature. I bought my first pair of 4-inch heels from a clearance rack at DSW. A woman shopping in the same size range saw me trying on heels and told me this very important principle of shoe shopping, “Life’s too short for shoes that hurt.” I live by this. I put my shoes on in the morning and go off to work. I wear them for 6, 8, 12 or even 16 hours straight. I can’t afford heels that hurt.
Women ask me all the time “don’t your feet hurt?” And I usually respond with “I only buy shoes that don’t hurt.” A shoe maybe very cute, even gorgeous, but if it doesn’t fit, the “cuteness” doesn’t matter. Most women buy heels based on looks and don’t worry that they don’t fit right. It’s no wonder women say they can’t wear heels when fit is at best a secondary factor. It’s hard to be confident when your feet hurt. In many posts here in Kandis’ Land, were the author say their feet hurt after 2 or 3 hours in heels.
If they are cute BUT hurt when you try them on, don’t buy them. If they hurt after an hour, two hours, take them back. I’m not saying, “don’t buy cute shoes”, rather, “only buy cute heels that fit!”
There are many tables on the internet that will convert sizes, men-to-women, USA-to-EU, etc. In the U.S. the rule of thumb is your women’s size = men’s size + 2. But size varies even within the same brand, some
makers are known for narrow shoes, some foe wide shoes. While most of my heels are size 10, I have a few that are size 11. Toe shape – pointed, round, almond, straight – plays a role here as well.
If the shoes are leather or suede you may be able to stretch them a bit, but many man-made materials do not stretch. See Tools below.
I consider myself very lucky because I wear a size 10, and that’s considered a normal women’s size. Therefore, I can shop anywhere, but it doesn’t mean I can wear every style of shoe. There are still some styles that will never fit my feet. I feel for those with larger feet.
I use gel pads in almost all my heels. I was given my first couple of pairs and have purchase the rest. They perform two functions; they make it softer on your toe pads and they help to keep your foot from sliding down and stuffing your toes.
The other thing I keep around are blister pads. Sometimes new shoes need to be broken in and blister pads come in handy.
I have two tools that I use. High-heel shoe stretchers, shoe stretchers that are made for high heels. And a (Leather) Hole punch. Very useful in adding extra holes to straps or enlarging existing holes. I sometimes add two or three holes to a toe strap.
Although it’s not a “tool”, inserts for keeping your boots from folding over is very important. I keep the inserts that come with my new boots and store my boots with them standing up. I make insert from cardboard for my tall boots that don’t have inserts. My boots are expensive investments that I plan on keeping for many years. Store in a cool DRY place and they will last for years.
Shop Amazon’s Handbags to go with your shoes!
Learn to Walk
I was lucky, it took me only minutes to find my balance and be able to stand, walk, and lecture for hours in 4+ inch heels. But most will need more time to get comfortable walking in heels. Take your time. Don’t start with stilettoes, get comfortable in block heels or wedges. After mastering walking in-doors it’s time to take it outdoors. Walking outdoors is very different. Surfaces are not always flat, some tilt to one side, are uneven or are littered with debris. Cracks are everywhere, in sidewalks, wooden decks, at elevators openings and stilettoes are magically attracted to these cracks. (BTW – stilettoes are great for aerating your lawn.) Walking down a steep driveway is EXTREMELY hard. I’ve been known to have to hold on to my girlfriend (while she laughs) to make it down some driveways.
Above all, you need to be confident walking in your heels. It’s hard to enjoy your heels if your feet hurt with every step. If you are fumbling around, unsure in your walking you will draw unnecessary attention to yourself. And be careful on stairs, it’s very easy to catch a heel on a step so always hold the handrail.
Above all, enjoy your heels.