I’m in my 20s and I can honestly say that it now takes so much to make my feet hurt. And it’s all because of my love for some high heels.
It started years ago. Every time we would buy school shoes, I would try to get my grandmother to buy me something with a bit of a heel. High enough to make me feel like an adult, but not too high that would make my teachers at my (very) Catholic high school send me to the disciplinary office.
In university, where you can pick any shoe you want to go with your uniform, I was almost always in stilettos that were between four to six inches.
I also dabbled in a bit of runway modeling for some extra money and it was at that point when I realised I can run in the highest heels that I own. That was pretty helpful since I was always late for class.
Wearing heels all the time is not necessarily a healthy practice. While I got my big but thankfully thin feet from my mother, my love for pointy-toed shoes ensured that the front end of my feet look narrower than normal. I can wear heels all day and experience very minimal discomfort. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing either since they’re probably just numb now. While this habit may result to me spending my old age on a wheelchair, I just can’t seem to give them up.
That is, until we moved to Berlin.
I’m now wearing heels less and less due to the evil cobblestones that plague this continent’s streets. And while I know their existence will try to help keep me upright once it starts snowing, I just can’t help but feel annoyed at how they ruin my shoes. I do have a penchant for long, slender heels.
One time, while on our way to a Filipino community event, my heel went through a crack in between cobblestones. It was so embarrassing.
I had to pull it out and to my horror – there were scratches on the heel.
It wasn’t an expensive pair – they were Charles and Keith and on sale. So yes, it was more of a bargain shoe. However, I loved its classic style and have owned this pair for 3 years.
I’m not someone who buys thousands of pairs so I really take care of the ones that I own and treat them as investments, going above and beyond their cost per wear.
I wanted to hit those cobblestones and make them swear they won’t do this to me again. That wasn’t the last time, obviously. So, I started wearing flats to events and even sneakers on more casual days. But I still miss my heels. So, with a little determination and a bit of practice, I’ve found ways to keep my heel-loving self happy and my shoes unharmed. Let me share them with you here.
Know your pair
It’s always best to know your pair as it is the first step to knowing which one is best for you for which occasion. Here’s a handy and pretty accurate chart that I found via Fractals.
My personal favourites are stilettos, mary janes (that come with a thinner heel), t-straps, d’orsays, ankle straps, and kitten heels. Yes, kitten heels get a lot of bad rep but when worn right, they make for an effortlessly classy look. They’re also good motivation to tone those legs and keep walking.
A note on choosing stilettos:
Skip the platform fronts (they look cheap) and go for a sole that’s closer to the ground. Pick one with a high arch and a heel that’s perfect for your height. To know whether the shoe’s arch and height are perfect for you, try this test while shopping for your shoe:
- Wear the heels and stand straight
- Make sure your legs are aligned
- Try to go on tippy-toes by lifting the heels of your feet
- As long as you can lift your heels without tipping over, then the heel is not too high and the arch should also be ok.
Also, a word on platform wedges.
I hate them with so much passion. Despite the momentary comfort they give, they have the tendency to look the exact opposite of classy. Platform wedges are also a magnet for what we Filipinos call tapilok. It’s when you stumble in such a way that your foot actually bends to the side. Embarrassing and causes major sprains.
So please, for the love of St. Crispin and beautiful foot wear, do not go for platform wedges. Should you want to wear a wedge, skip the platform-style and go for something like this and not like this. See, when the front is flat, it doesn’t look so bad. But the higher the front section of the wedge, the clumsier it looks. It’s like wearing the Titanic for a night out.
Weather in Berlin can be pretty unpredictable. The forecast can say cloudy but it would start drizzling in the afternoon. At the slightest chance of rain, better skip suede and satin shoes as well as those that are pale in colour.
Should you need to wear a light coloured pair of leather pumps, spray some protector on them to keep water and dirt at bay. I use The Art of Crep Protect Spray not just on my heels but even on my trusty Stan Smiths as well.
Let’s start with the worst of them all, shall we?
They want nothing but to ruin your heels – these slippery, uneven, pesky things! If you know you’re going to be walking on cobblestones, opt for a thicker heel. It can be chunky, but find one that still tapers for a classier look. Huge, boring blocks for heels spell less confidence on your walk.
If you must wear your stilettos, find your centre of gravity and try to walk using the balls of your feet. Depending on where you are in Europe, there should be a smoother side of the sidewalk either nearer or further from the shops. In Kurfürstendamm, the smoother part is away from the shops. Bikers usually think it belongs to them. Nope and nope. There are no marks on the road that say they are exclusive for you. Sorry.
If it’s literally all cobblestone, you can leave the walking street and walk with the traffic. Stick to the side and pray there aren’t a lot of drivers that day. If the ones that are there do get annoyed, maybe just flash a sheepish smile?
They can be wooden or any other type but my advice is to stick to the centre. The thinner the slats, the harder this is, though. So, once again, put all your weight on the balls of your feet. For the love of God, do not let your heel sink in one of the gaps. Go fast and straight. If it’s the summer and it’s a wooden footbridge, you may consider removing your shoes for a more non-chalant, casual vibe. But maybe stick to doing this in Paris. In Berlin, there’s the risk of stepping on broken beer bottles.
If the grass is wet, there’s huge chance the soil under it is too. And, your stiletto’s heel will definitely sink. It’s a lot of effort but weight on the balls of your feet – again. Don’t let your guard down on this one.
It maybe pretty but marble is also the enemy. It can be too slippery so better hold on to your partner. Flying solo? You can also get some sandpaper and scuff your soles before the event. Scuffing soles are not for expensive pairs, though. For them, I’d go for transparent, double-sided tape. Lay them over the soles in an ‘X’. Should they lose their adhesive quality, you may need to add more. Take them all off at the end of the night so that you won’t have a thick pile under your sole next time you use them.
Thick-pile carpets pose more danger. Better stab your heel into the pile as you walk, digging in a little more should you need some balance. This, however, damages the carpet in the long run. So, better skip the stilettos and opt for a thicker heel if you’re going to a dear friend’s house or if you’re having the event in yours.
At all costs, avoid carpets’ little brothers – rugs. They exist to make sure you slip and embarrass yourself. Well, unless they’re nailed to the floor.
Escalators and stairs
Going up, dangle your heel over the edge of each step. Going up, however, you’ll have to be a little more careful. Hold on to the rails and land on the balls of your feet for each step. In an escalator, gently set your heel down, making sure it doesn’t go in between the grooves.
Shoes don’t have to be expensive to be comfortable. I’ve bought some high street brands that have served me well and have lasted for years. I’ve even invested on some pairs that are a little pricier, only to find them more painful to walk with. So you don’t have to splurge just to find something comfy. Believe me – it’s all about finding a good pair. I always go by this rule when buying shoes: When it’s not comfy when you try it, it won’t be comfy ever. So try it on, walk around the store a bit and get a feel of the pair before spending your hard earned money.
When a pair is too tight
Okay, so you ended up buying a pair of heels that are a little too snug. Blisters, anyone? Ouch. Get some zip-loc bags and fill the bag halfway with water. Seal tightly. Then, place them inside your shoes, pushing them into the tight areas. Get a bigger zip-loc bag and pop your shoes inside before putting them inside your freezer. Don’t put them in your fridge without putting them in their own bag cos that’s just gross.
Leave them there for a couple of hours till the water freezes. Then, take the shoes out and let them thaw. Pull out the bags of water then wipe your pair. They should be ready for use right away. This method works best on leather. On suede and synthetic leather, you may need to repeat the process a couple of times for it to work. Although my suede platforms were already comfy after just one go.
Expect the worst
Try wearing your shoes at home before taking them out for a spin so that you can break them in. If you don’t have the time for this, however, buy gel pads for the soles for extra cushioning. Bring band aids in your purse so that you’re ready for any blisters.
Don’t store shoes in the cellar or in areas where it can get too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer. This will ruin the shoe’s fibres and even mess with the size. A shoe that perfectly fits you may end being too tight or deformed after it gets damaged in storage. Add some fillers inside to help keep their shape. You can get shoe trees or just crumple some paper and pad the insides of your shoes. Just make sure they’re all dry.
Make sure you wipe your shoes before storing them. Moisture is the enemy. Don’t forget to put silica packs to keep it away. To keep insects at bay, use cedar instead of moth balls. Moth balls smell bad and can be toxic to kids or pets in your household so it’s better to go natural. Cedar smells nicer too!
Heels aren’t good for your health
Yes, I know. But I love them. So, if you’re like me who can’t seem to give them up, try to do some exercises that your feet will thank you for. Do some ankle circles every now and then. Some foot rolling and calf rolls won’t hurt either.
Thanks for reading and I hope you find this article useful!