Guide to Comfortable Heels

Cole Haan - Air Talia PumpThis shopping guide for comfortable heels is inspired by one of our all-time top posts from 2010, The Quest for Comfortable Heels. We’ll try to revisit the text of this page from time to time; in the meantime please add your own comments about comfortable heels on this page. Please keep all comments on this page strictly on topic. Last updated: Jan. 28, 2014.

Forget the Holy Grail — the quest for comfortable heels can be a lifelong hunt for some women. As one might expect from all the Mary Jane and other comfortable-type shoes I post (what? I wear ‘em with pants) this author has problem feet — it’s incredibly difficult to get shoes that both feel and look great. Not only does it seem like there are variances within each brand (e.g., some of my Cole Haans I love, others I want to throw across the room), but shoes that were favorites in previous seasons become hated things in newer ones (and never get better). (Pictured above: Cole Haan – Air Talia Pump, available at Zappos for $198.)

Brands for Comfortable Heels: The brands of heels most often touted as comfortable ones can be broken down into these price ranges, and then into two categories: the first is the stylish/trendy brand that everyone swears by for comfort (whether it’s marketed as a “comfort shoe” or not).  The second line is the ones that are marketed for comfort — but they’re often a bit funky/clunky next to, say, a pencil skirt.  For specific shoe recommendations (both from Kat and the readers) check out our regular Hunt feature (hunting for one wardrobe basic in a range of prices) or our afternoon Coffee Breaks (which often feature shoes).

In our last poll on comfortable heels, readers mentioned other favorites including Alfani Step n’ Flex, Brooks Brothers, Butter, Calvin Klein, Coach, Corso Como, Enzo Angiolini, J.Crew, Joan & David Circa, Seychelles, Vanelli, and Via Spiga.  We’ve also named names for some of our least comfortable heels (brands and styles).

Special Sizes:  Wide heels can be found; we’ve also talked about general shopping tips for problem feet.

Alleviating Pain Caused by Shoes, During: I got the chance to try some Insolia inserts, and they really do make a difference for heels — something about the slim pieces of plastic helps my flat feet feel more comfortable in heels. (Read my Insolia review here.) I’ve also been a longtime fan of ball-of-the-feet inserts, like those by Dr. Scholl’s or Foot Petals.  Finally, if you really can’t walk far in your heels, there are a number of foldable ballet slippers that you can stash in your purse, including City Slips, Footzyrolls, and Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats.

Alleviating Pain Caused by Shoes, After: The book Your Feet Don’t Have to Hurt has a bunch of great foot exercises that help flex the muscles that might be sore after walking in heels — things like drawing the alphabet with a pointed toe, or spending a few minutes, barefoot, trying to pick up a pencil with your toes. I would heartily recommend the book if only for that section! Yoga Toes can also be miracle workers after a long day in heels or on your feet.

Finding Great Deals for Shoes: 6pm.com (sister site to Zappos) has a lot of great deals on shoes, including regular Cole Haan Air sales; you can also occasionally find good deals at Bluefly, DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse), Last Call by Neiman Marcus, or Sierra Trading Post. Amazon has some killer deals, but the site can be difficult to navigate (here’s a link to the “at least 50% off” section for pumps). I highly recommend using Shop It To Me if you only want to know when specific brands hit a specific price range,  ShopStyle alerts if you are stalking a particular brand or Shopping Notes if you’re stalking a particular shoe. (Read my other internet shopping tips.)

Commuting in Heels? Although some rockstars can walk for miles in their five inch heels, don’t worry too much if you can’t. While some people who walk to work prefer to wear wedge heels, my personal secret has always been to have a pair of commuting heels like Clarks or Danskos that are nearly the same height as my office pumps, and then switch into the prettier ones at work. If you prefer to commute in flats, though, there are products that help you fix your hem, such as Zakkerz. (Check out our guide to hem lengths for thoughts on which lengths look best which what kind of shoes.)

Finally: shoes are so much more comfortable (and last longer, and look better) when they’re properly taken care of — don’t skimp on shoe care.


* Please remember that peep-toe shoes are not appropriate for every office; same with knee-high boots and shoes with heels higher than 3.5″
— we’ve even addressed whether Louboutins are appropriate for the office. Also, don’t forget to check out our @corporettedeals Twitter stream for deals on shoes and more.

Readers, which brands are your favorite for comfort? Do you have any tips and tricks for making high heels more comfortable?

(L-#)

Liked this article? Don’t forget to check out other Corporette shopping guides, or The Corporette Bargains page.

Comments

  1. Emily says:

    I have a really hard time wearing heels all day due to a common condition called sesamoiditis. As a result, I often wear heels when needed but keep flats close by for commuting. However, I can wear any pair of Nine West’s 3′ heels without consequence all day. I’m not sure what it is about the fit, but I’ve never had any problem with them. One of my co-workers also swears by Nine West heels.

    • 2L NYC says:

      Nine West heels are the best, I agree. Also, they last forever. Apparently they change the shape of the toe region every year on some of their classic heels, but keep the rest of the shoe the same — I know because I tried to buy an identical shoe to one I bought in 2006.

      • A majority of people on this blog seem to hate Nine West, but I can wear the Nuncio for hours on end, and I’ve had the same 3 pairs for 4 or more years.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have a closet full of Prada, Stuart Weitzman, and other expensive shoes, but my Nine West Nuncios are my favorite. I own four pairs. The finish is perhaps not as spectacular as on the Prada’s or Weitzman’s, but if you ruin a heel in a storm grate, you don’t burst into tears. The Nuncios make my legs look fabulous, and I can wear them all day with no issues.

  2. alhambra says:

    Cole Haan Nike Air, hands-down, especially if you get the lower-heel version (I have the Air Mid Talia). Also, I don’t find my Louboutins to be particularly comfortable. They’re well-made, but a 4″ heel (100mm in Loub-speak) is a 4″ heel, and there isn’t much you can do about that.

    I bought my husband a pair of Cole Haan Nike Air loafers and now he can’t stop talking about them, which is another bonus: if you can convince your husband to spend the extra money on comfy shoes, he might be more forgiving about your shoe budget.

    • Alessandra says:

      Cole Haan Nike Air – Air Miranda — These will forever and always be my most favorite shoes. At $200 they aren’t the kind of shoes you buy every6 months but you won’t need to. They last forever and if you build a good rapore with your Cole Haan store, they will polish them for free and give all kinds of free comfy inserts. Not to mention, Cole Haan shoes go on sale all the time. I’m constantly finding great deals. Best shoes, hand down. I wear heels everyday to work because I’m short and work with all men. I need to have a little more authority.

  3. I have shoes from Audley, Gentle Souls, Hispanitas, Chie Mihara, Faryl Robin, Butter and Cydwoq (their shoes are pretty funky) that I consider quite comfortable.

  4. I have found Clarks to always make excellent comfortable shoes in my student price range. And the bonus is, for the last couple seasons the styles have been getting less and less clunky, so I heartily second that option.

    I don’t see Miz Mooz on here, and those I have always found comfortable. Not usually in stores, though, have to get them online, and the styles tend to fall in the funky Fluevog category.

  5. Serena says:

    For cheaper shoes, I love Tahari – so comfortable and you can get them at DSW.

    Cole Haan Air are hit or miss for me. I’ve bought 2 pairs that were seriously uncomfortable.

  6. Cole Haan Nike Air usually work for me, but I recently bought a pair of heels by Butter on sale and, despite the 3″ heel on this particular pair, they are truly comfortable! I typically bring a pair of flats to switch into for any walking further than 3 blocks – at first, I did this for comfort, but now that I have found some more comfortable heels, I do it to save the heels from the uneven streets in San Francisco.

  7. I’ve had the best luck with Calvin Klein and Enzo Angiolini for classic heels (which I can usually find for under $100). For fun colors or details, I like Nina’s lower-heeled options (up to 2.5″)…a little on the fancy/dressy side, but they add some nice pizzazz to a regular biz cas outfit. And of course any heel is more comfortable with a Dr. Scholl’s For High Heels insert thrown in (helloooo gel arch support).

  8. Laura says:

    Cole Haan Nike Air – anything for me – the mid talia ones are my go to shoes for giving 4 hour lectures to graduate students.

  9. Anonymous says:

    manolo, stuart weitzman, enzo (in order of cost and style)

  10. wrkbrk says:

    YEAH Franco Sarto!

  11. Bunkster says:

    The most comfortable shoes I own (note I say “shoes”, not heels) are from this brand:
    http://shop.nordstrom.com/sr?keyword=athena+alexander&origin=PredictiveSearch

    Unfortunately, they only appear to make sandals/open toe shoes. I have the “Benny” pair from this season, as well as a pair from an earlier season. They have extra padding in the footbed.

    In summer, I wear these shoes to work every day. They’re awesome. I just wish they made shoes for all seasons.

    • TX Attny says:

      Bunkster, I love the pairs of Athena Alexander sandals I have! Spent about 5 hours walking the San Antonio Riverwalk in a higher-heeled sandal, and my feet never flinched.

  12. Selia says:

    I really like Kate Spade pumps – great colors and styles – and very comfortable. For what it is worth, I have a large (10) wide-ish foot.

  13. FYI, Taryn Rose no longer owns the shoe company by her name, but the company still makes comfortable shoes. DSW sometimes has a few styles in stock. Taryn Rose (the person) has a new budget line sold on the Home Shopping Network (High Heel Power) and is reported to be starting a high end line with Neimans (Haute Footure). No idea if they are comfortable, but I would guess yes, given her background.

    My favorite work pumps are from Botticelli. I would put them in the “designed for comfort and mid-range pricey” category. They make some very sensible but fashionable work shoes and are on the less expensive side for shoes actually made in Italy (their boots are still a fortune, though). Seinfield fans might also recognize the brand from the episode where Elaine buys a pair…btw, the website is a little busted, so this might be a nyc-only recommendation…

  14. UnSub says:

    I like the Cole Haan with the Nike Air, but right now I am absolutely loving Kenneth Cole New York with the 925 Technology. I bought two pair for $40 each (75% off!!) in their Las Vegas store last year and they are fabu. I feel like I am walking in tennis shoes and they are stylish and well-made. I have to stop myself from wearing them everyday. Highly recommended.

  15. SV Associate says:

    Without a doubt, Cole Haan Nike Air. I have a wide range of shoes in my collection – 3-inch pumps, 4-inch pumps, boots, work-appropriate sandals, and casual sandals. I can’t complain about any of them.

  16. Amanda Kay says:

    I have bought no less than 3 pairs of the Nine West Barbe pump. They’re affordable, comfortable, and come in a variety of colors and finishes. I adore them.

  17. Michelle says:

    I’ve bought no fewer than 5 pairs of Calvin Klein pumps – very comfortable, and classic.

    • Ballerina girl says:

      I find Calvin Klein shoes to run a bit narrow–just a PSA for those out there who run into this problem.

      • I second Calvin Klein Diema for a 1.5 in heel or Dolly for I think a 3 in heel.
        I agree they do run narrow but they’re great for narrow footed people like me since they don’t slide out as easily!
        Break in period is almost nil,which i a huge bonus. I’ve worn them around the mall right after purchasing and they’re almost done breaking in already. I can feel the little bumps my toes made in there. :)

  18. I have been hunting for comfortable heels for a lifetime (it seems). My hands down favorite are a pair of Facconable peeptoe sling backs that are 3 inch high. They are so comfortable despite the height. I have tried every brand named above in varying heights and none are as comfortable as the Facconable. My feet are on the wide side (but not enough to warrant “wide” shoes) and I have a narrow heel. I used to think that it was the narrowness of the shoe that was making them uncomfortable, but after trying on pairs and pairs of shoes, it is not the width, but the depth. I think I need a deep toe box or the space between the bottom of the shoe and the vamp. I guess I have thick feet (sounds awful, no?). I have had some luck with the Calvin Klein pumps of late, but need the heel stickies to avoid shoe slippage. If anyone has any other recs for thick footed people, please let me know!

  19. Michelle says:

    Corso Como – extremely comfortable!!

  20. Debbie says:

    I second the Corso Como recommendation — priced right, extremely comfortable without being stodgy and fashionable enough to wear to after work events too!

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