17 Clever Hacks To Take The Pain Out Of Wearing High Heels

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women with heels

We've all been there. We get a pair of heels that we're just obsessed with. But then we never wear them because they are incredibly painful.

If only there were methods to make heels more comfortable and finally get some pain relief. After all, we all want to look fashionable in an amazing pair of heels, right?

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Why do high heels cause pain?

"High heels may be painful for anyone; women suffering from varicose veins and underlying venous insufficiency are especially prone to discomfort," warns Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth, an endovascular surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates.

"Veins have a series of one-way valves to facilitate the return of blood towards the heart. While veins anywhere in the body can become varicose, veins in the legs are most affected due to the larger pressure from sustained standing, walking, or other stress on the legs or feet."

Though varicose veins can be unsightly and cause cosmetic concerns, they can also cause very significant symptoms, some of which may not be immediately noticeable yet can be indicative of underlying vein disease. Common symptoms include throbbing pain, heaviness and fatigue in the legs, and swelling in the legs and feet.

Whether you have vein issues or are just choosing the wrong shoes, there's a lot we can do to keep our heels as comfortable as can be and minimize pain when we want to look our best.

How To Make Heels More Comfortable

1. Stand less.

"Long periods of standing can cause veins to stay filled with blood, so make sure to take sitting breaks if you find yourself on your feet for a long time," advises Dr. Hollingsworth.

Do ankle rotations while sitting and standing to help keep the circulation going and alleviate some of the stress.

2. Alternate your shoes.

Sure, you have those favorite stilettos, but you'll have healthier and happier feet if you have a few shoes of varying heights and inclines to switch to during the week.

"To keep feet happy, alternate heel heights and styles throughout the week and even throughout the day," advises Dr. Jackie Sutera, podiatrist and Vionic Innovation lab member.

3. Only wear your heels once you arrive.

You've seen ladies on the train in suits and sneakers, and there's a good reason for that.

Commuting in comfortable flats and switching to heels later is good news for your feet, and is a great way to make heels more comfortable. (Because we all know how horrible a commute can be when your feet are aching.)

According to Dr. Sutera, "Wearing commuter shoes to and from work or your event is a great way to cut down on the amount of time that you're wearing your high heels daily."

4. Never break in new shoes by wearing them.

You know those shoes that totally hurt when you try them on, but you convince yourself they will hurt less once you wear them out for a bit? Don't do it.

"Use a shoe stretcher and wear them for 15 to 30 minutes at a time," advises Dr. Sutera. Try adding on super thick socks while breaking them in to avoid blisters.

5. Buy shoes that fit.

Swelling can occur in the legs and feet due to pooling of the blood and can cause your feet to go up a size or two. Nobody wants that.

"Avoid unnecessary stress on the feet by making sure to buy shoes that fit, even if it’s not your 'regular' size," warns Dr. Hollingsworth.

Shoes should feel snug but not tight when you first put them on, and there should be no pressure points.

"This is a plus if you have a shoe with good support and some cushioning," adds Taryn Rose MD, orthopedic surgeon turned shoe designer.

6. Bring extra shoes.

There are days when we do a lot more running around than intended, and if we are doing so in heels, that's really stressful on our feet and can be what causes heel pain.

"Keep an alternate pair of comfortable shoes on hand and consider wearing light support hose when possible to reduce pressure," says Dr. Hollingsworth. You can throw them in your purse or even keep them in your desk so they are handy.

7. Make sure the shoes are wide enough.

Sure, high heels are sexy, but not when your feet are covered in blisters! Another great way to get heel pain relief? Stop buying narrow shoes.

"The biggest mistake is to buy shoes that are too narrow for your feet. A shoe may look great on the shelf because they are slim and sleek, but if they are too narrow, they will cause a lot of pain," warns Rose. Make sure you are wearing the right width.

8. Don't wear too-high heels.

According to Rose, most women can tolerate up to 2 1/2 inches comfortably. But beyond that, you need to be used to high heels or have special technology or extra support.

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9. Elevate your feet.

Put your feet up throughout the day and elevate them when you get home at night, especially if they are painful or swollen.

"Try rubbing in some homeopathic Arnica after a long session in heels to reduce pain, bruising, and swelling by morning," advises Dr. Hollingsworth.

10. Change your walk.

Walking in heels is a science. You have to focus on your body — your entire body. When walking in heels, try these two body tricks to improve your walk and make your heels a lot more comfortable.

First, make sure to engage your abs when walking. It might sound weird, but it truly helps because it counters the elevated angle of the heel. Second, always walk heel to toe.

11. Pick the right heel shape.

This is pretty simple, but you need to know what heel works for your feet. If you have wide feet, don't pick a pointy shoe. If you have flat feet, anything over 3 inches is going to hurt.

Invest in heels that fit your foot's shape and style. This way, you won't have to force your foot into a torturous heel you'll end up hating.

12. Remember that moleskin is your best friend.

Line your heels with moleskin material. This will help reduce any rubbing going on and avoid blisters. You can even cut the material and apply it straight to any blisters you already have or any you feel coming on.

13. Wear heels with platforms.

These types of heels give you a bit of help when you want some elevation. Platform heels give you less of an angle than you would get with a stiletto of the same height. This platform, in other words, saves your feet from aches and pains.

14. Carry an anti-blister stick in your purse.

If you're wearing heels, it's best to pack an anti-blister stick in your bag before going out. Those sticks save your feet from horrible hot blisters.

Just swipe the stick around the edge of your heel and where the heel edges touch your skin. This will prevent the creation of blisters by reducing friction.

15. Use inserts.

Go to your local convenience store and get those Dr. Scholl shoe inserts. Your feet will thank you. The inserts cushion the ball of your feet so it's not being leaned on too hard and causing pain.

16. Use heel grips.

If you have narrow feet, it may be very difficult to find heels that fit you exactly. To help with that, invest in heel grips. These padded gadgets help the back of the heel grip onto your foot to avoid them from falling off or moving around.

17. Tape your toes.

This may sound weird, but taping your third and fourth toes together actually helps reduce foot pain. These two toes have a nerve in them that is directly linked to the pain you get in your feet.

So taping them together helps alleviate that pain and prevents it from happening.

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyle writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly.