I once met a man with a sense of adventure

He was dressed to thrill wherever he went

He said “Let’s make love on a mountain top

Under the stars on a big hard rock”

I said “In these shoes?

I don’t think so”

-In These Shoes, Kirsty MacColl

Since ladies entered the ‘butt-kicking ring’ they’ve had some pretty interesting attire, I will grant you that. In an attempt to keep a heroine feminine and often ‘sexy’, costume designers and comic book artists alike have made some pretty impractical choices. There is one staple of these outrageous duds however that I will always defend: The heel.

I am absolutely sick of hearing the criticism, “You can’t do that in heels!”

To these people I say THIS!

Why am I so adamant that this view is wrong? Well let me explain. If you’re saying “running, jumping, climbing trees, putting on make-up while you’re up there” (Eddie Izzard, Dressed to Kill) isn’t possible in heels, you are probably suffering from one of the following: A) You don’t know how to move in heels, B) You’re buying the wrong heels.

If you don’t know how to move in heels, it’s all a matter of practice. Practice, practice, practice. Remember that it’s toe-to-heel, not heel-to-toe like how you would walk normally. It’s a completely gear shift when it comes to the locomotion of movement, so it’s okay if you haven’t quite perfected it yet. Most weight should be distributed to the balls of your feet. If you can feel your heel shake when you walk–you need to shift your weight distribution. If you have access to a full length mirror, as silly as it sounds, walking in front of it to keep an eye on your ankles is pretty helpful! Something to remember is when running you are usually completely on the balls of your feet anyway!

As for finding the right heels? I grew up with the philosophy of never buying a pair of shoes I can’t run in. So here are things I’ve learned to consider:

1. Height – This is pretty much a no-brainer. Heels come in all different heights and you should NEVER buy a pair that’s taller than what you’re comfortable with. Work your way up to those 6-inchers. Stand on the balls of your feet. It’s usually wise to stick to a shoe that doesn’t raise your foot higher than that–otherwise you’ll be thrown off balance. If you’re looking for more height but less strain on your arch, try looking into something with a bit of a platform to it. An extra inch without pitching your center of gravity quite as forward.

Go-Go Boots tend to be a good example of this rule. Heel height varies but even the lower of the spectrum engages the calf in a way that gives it that great shape you get with heels.

2. Width – Walking around on a pin-point is not only difficult, it’s uncomfortable–plus you run that fantastic risk of breaking the heel itself or worse, your ankle. So it’s always a good plan to consider the width of the heel. The more surface area of the shoe, the more balanced you’re likely to feel.
In this respect wedge heels are a rather handy weapon to have. You have height and elegance but still relatively the same surface area connecting to the ground as you would with a normal shoe.
Width is also important because it will add to the stability of the heel. When purchasing a pair of heels, always grip the heel and make sure it’s attached firmly to the shoe regardless of how thick it is.

3. Tread – Shoes need traction–and I don’t just mean those little rubber pads you can buy separately and stick on the bottom of your dress shoes, I mean actual treads. More and more I’ve been seeing women’s shoes that actually have traction and thus eliminate that worry of slipping on carpet and falling on your rear–or face, if you’re like me and prone to the least graceful of pratfalls. If you can’t visually tell if a shoe has good tread–and sometimes you can’t–put them on and try to slide your feet in them. If they don’t move easily–or at all–then they make a good grip with the floor–which means they won’t slide from beneath you when you’re taking down that gang of Two-Face’s Goons.

4. Security – By security, of course, I mean “How does this shoe secure to your feet?” Straps, laces, doesn’t matter–however it latches on, it needs to do so as firmly as possible. A shoe that slips off your heel or has an ankle strap with too much give means you run the risk of your foot contorting inside the shoe, or the shoe getting out of alignment with the bottom of your foot–which means injury, injury, injury! So be sure when you try them on to raise your foot and give them a shake. How much does the shoe move around? This is usually easiest to tell when sitting down.

5. Comfort – Of course this is a factor. Just because it’s a nice shoe doesn’t mean it should be uncomfortable! Will you be wearing socks/tights/nylons with it? Is it comfortable with that kind of attire–is it comfortable barefoot. Don’t ignore little pinches! Yes, all shoes need to be broken in a little but those little pinches won’t go away with time! You should never sacrifice your poor tootsies just because you think a shoe is pretty. We’ve all done it–let’s put a stop to it.

The key really just to make sure you try on the shoes before buying them–which yes, we all do–but when you try them on–actually try them! Can you jump? Do you feel like you’re going to slip? How do you have to adjust to stand comfortably? They’re simple enough rules but people tend to forget them. But if you keep them in mind and remember they aren’t just for looks, soon you too will have a shoe collection that one of our masked mademoiselles would envy!

Then I met an Englishman
“Oh” he said
“Won’t you walk up and down my spine,
It makes me feel strangely alive.”
I said “In these shoes?
I doubt you’d survive.”

-In These Shoes, Kirsty MacColl