Reader Mail: How to Make Heels Comfy

how to make heels comfortableHow do you make your heels comfortable?  (Update: Check out our Guide to Comfortable Heels!) We’ve gotten a lot of questions about shoes lately and thought we would have celebrate today as a shoe day. So we’ve got two posts coming your way: first, a question about how to make heels comfortable. Second, a question about how high is too high.

First, a reader wondered how to make heels more comfortable:

Love the blog! Can you do a post on making high heels comfy? I know a number of women at the office wear killer heels and swear by various inserts, etc. to make it happen. I don’t need to wear 6 inch stilettos or anything but I’m 5’1″ and a litigator so low heels are a no-go in court since I can barely see over the podium. If someone could enlighten me as to how to make long days in heels a little easier, I would greatly appreciate it!

For us it comes down to a) buying shoes that fit properly, and b) adding ball-of-foot cushions, primarily. We’re huge fans of Dr. Scholl’s line (link at left); we also like the Foot Petals line (available online at places like Other things to keep in mind include what kind of heel is on the shoe — you may want to get a plastic heel tip replaced with a rubber one.

If your shoe doesn’t fit properly, you can make it fit better through certain tips and techniques. We end up adding heel inserts to almost everything because we’re constantly sliding out of our shoes otherwise. Other people we know swear by the blister sticks (such as the Dr. Scholl’s one, at right) or the add-where-you-want comfort strips (also at right). One woman we knew used to swear by wearing white athletic socks and a new pair of heels around the house until she was comfortable in them; another advised us to wear the shoes with bare feet, and to go to town spritzing them with a bottle of perfume — something about the alcohol in the perfume helping to mold the leather to your feet. (We highly recommend just getting shoes that fit properly from the get-go, though — we end up sticking to a few brands that we know and like for our feet. Boring, yes, but it keeps us from crying.)

Something else that works for us: switching shoes on a daily basis. It lets the leather and the insole and everything else breathe, which keeps the shoes in better shape. Readers, what are your tips and tricks for making your heels comfortable?


  1. I swear by Band-Aid’s Blister Block Stick. This is the most amazing product – it makes your shoes fit better and prevents any and all blisters. I carry one in my purse and can’t live without it! Unfortunately it looks like it was discontinued (although I have no idea why because it’s amazing) but you can find it on eBay. It looks like a little deodorant stick, but goes on clear and is not sticky. Also, it doesn’t collect dirt and dust the way other similar products do. This is the best solution for comfortable shoes all day!

  2. When it comes to heels, Foot Petals changed my life! I always get blisters on the backs of my heels, and they have a padded insert just for that. You can also buy them in-store at Nordstrom. They’re pricey, but worth it. I tried some drug-store-off-brand-knock-off, and they didn’t stick as well.

    Another trick for a new pair of shoes that pinch is to take them to a cobbler and ask them to stretch them out a bit, to soften the leather.

  3. newassociate :

    my tip: splurge on a few pairs of really good shoes and stop buying the cheap, cute ones. they’re just not made well enough to be comfortable, and no amount of padding/inserts is really going to help. i swear by the cole haan nike air line.

    i wore heels occasionally before i started working, and now i’m in them every day. i look young, so i can’t get away with dressy flats without looking even younger. i used to buy cute shoes of decent origin (i.e. department store sales, not aldo or whatever), but they just aren’t comfortable. they have all been since donated.

    by carefully watching online sales for 40%+ off opportunities so $100-$200, i’ve amassed five pairs of the cole haan nike air heels. i can walk for blocks in them and not cry afterward. there is also perhaps a 1-day minor discomfort break-in period; then it’s bare feet (i’m in CA) with no problems.

    i do stick the heel rub things in all of them though. for that, i recommend the foot petals line at nordstrom rack: same stuff for about half the price.

  4. Help! I just read newassociate’s comment, and as a law student going to a medium-big firm this summer in FL, I’m now concerned that my flats aren’t going to fly because they make me look too young? I am slightly older than most 2Ls (I’ll be 26 this summer), and I’m 5’11 in flats! If I have dressy nice flats (expensive by law student tastes at $50-60 on sale), will that make me look too young/unprofessional? I’m really uncomfortable in heels and have some ankle issues, but can wear very low heels if necessary. As a final note, the firm is business casual all the time. Any advice would be great!

  5. Hah, and then there was this case in moot court at my university (Netherlands) where a 5 feet tall girl put on stilletto heels to court that she couldn’t really balance well on, and ended up falling over AND taking the podium with her…

    Heels break down in 3 do’s:
    1. Try on a pair of dancing shoes (I mean for ballroom, or latin) with high heels once. Ray rose, dance naturals, international etc are all fine brands to try. When you do, remember the feeling in the shoes. This is the feeling you want in your daily high heels. This feeling is what they call a centered heel. Too often, the heel is placed just off-center and this makes walking in heels very very difficult. When you have a well-centered heel on your shoes you will actually be walking over your heel, meaning the step will start with the heel and all the brunt of your weight will go on your heel – not your ball of the foot!
    2. Try to go with boots whenever possible (under pants for example), they afford more ankle support.
    3. If your shoes are still bothering you, try getting some products figure skaters and professional dancers are using. I’m thinking, among others, of gel cushions like bunga or silipo pads (forget “party feet” and such brands, bunga is only twice as expensive but ten times better!). Feels like chicken fillet stuck in your shoes but they’re pure bliss.

    and 2 donts:
    1. Don’t walk around in shoes that cause you blisters. There’s special sprays you can get – both for your feet and for stretching the shoes in problem area’s. A reason that people get blisters is by the way rubbing, so you may want to try thicker soles or going barefoot and experiment around a bit with that, to prevent your feet from slipping in the shoes.
    2. Don’t get heels longer than your feet. Essentially, you still need to be able to get up on your toes in high heels, and end up being taller than you are in your heels, and your heels should take off the ground. If not, you’re plain sadomasochistic.

  6. I will be summering as a 2L this summer and want to invest in a couple of pairs of shoes that wont make me cry at the end of the day. Is the cole haan nike air line really worth the $$?? Any other brands like this that make a point of trying to be comfortable without being old-lady-ish?

    Also, I am 5’8, so I am also looking for heels less than 3 inches…

  7. Second the recommendation to spring for higher quality shoes that fit and for Cole Haan Nike Air. When I was a student, I always bought cheaper shoes and they would always cause pain and limit my walking. Like newassociate, I’ve gotten rid of all of those shoes, and I can go shopping in my Cole Haans. The “fixes” for my cheaper shoes alleviated some of the pain for awhile, but did not make the shoes comfortable.

  8. UK Associate :

    Always, always buy the most expensive shoes you can afford, even more expensive than you can afford. They really are made better, they last better and they look better. Buy cheap – pay twice.

    I have managed to get hold of several pairs of Manolos, Jimmy Choos and Louboutins, in sales or via discount online sources, all of which can be worn all day (and in the case of the Manolos, several meetings all through the night) without any discomfort whatsoever, and lots of coos of envy from colleagues. As a frequent visitor to NY, the sales at Bergdorfs and Neiman Marcus are wonderful – always visit there witn an open mind and you’re pretty likely to get hold of 3 great pairs of work-appropriate classic shoes for $1000-1200.

    You have to know your size in whatever make you choose – never just assume your size or go with vanity sizes – I’m a different size in different makes of shoe – but they all fit my feet.

    Get them properly resoled and reheeled, in leather, by an expert.

    Take care of shoes – keep them in tissue in boxes, and make sure they’re cleaned and dried after each wear. Polish them properly if they are leather.

    Don’t buy shoes where the heel descends directly down from the back of the shoe, as they’re not balanced properly. Make sure the heel curves inwards so is directly centred under the ball of your heel (if you know what i mean).

  9. I also gave up on buying less expensive shoes. I now live with fewer shoes, but am happier with my shoes. Go to Off Fifth, Nordstroms Rack, and scour end of season (and pre-season) sales. Black pumps are timeless and can be bought year-round. Higher quality materials seem to last longer, look more substantial, and provide more padding, etc. As for Cole Haan Nike Air — I have a pair and wear them often, but I can’t walk more than 4 blocks in them. For serious walking days, I stick with Stewart Weitzman.

  10. Antiperspirant works just as well as the blister sticks (for cheaper). They tested this strategy in army recruits in training, and it really does reduce blisters. I have a dedicated stick just for my feet.

  11. I also second the quality; I keep 2 pairs of classic black pumps at my desk and have another pair that is less expensive but comfortable enough for walking around when out. I live in NYC and therefore walk a LOT. Commuting in my shoes is a no-no. Sacco Comfort line (they have a website) makes super cute shoes with low enough heels; I commute in those and flats/boots.

  12. GW2L, at 5’11” you can probably get away with wearing flats and not looking too young. I would stick to dressier flats and perhaps ones with pointed as opposed to rounded toes. Just keep an eye on what the other female attorneys are wearing to make sure you’re not completely out of place (remembering that as a summer associate you’re on a 10-week interview and should err on the more conservative side of what they’re wearing).

  13. Anyone have a toe stretcher or get their shoes stretched out at cobblers? I have to get some of my shoes stretched out to fit my wide toes, and am trying to figure out whether it’s worth getting a toe stretcher ($50) v. streching them out at a cobbler’s (~$10).

  14. Anonymous :

    I think the key is to find the right heel placement in shoes. You also have to be very careful to make sure that the shoe doesn’t become unbalanced. Spike heels, for example, wear down quickly in whichever corner your foot rotates toward. For example, I always wear down the outside back corner of high heels, which makes the shoes less balanced and very difficult to wear. You can fix this by 1) not using good shoes for commuting, or 2) being obsessive about resoling and reheeling your shoes, or 3) wearing shoes with chunkier heels, instead of spiky heels.

  15. GW2L- CF by any chance? If so, I’m there with you :).

  16. Oops, hit enter too soon. Meant to add: if you are at CF, Nordstrom in International Mall (right next to the office– not sure re: other Nordstrom stores, but worth a shot!) will stretch shoes (helpful if you’ve actually purchased a pair or two from them, but do what you will) for free.

  17. GULC2L- Be there or be square :)

    See you May 17! (I guess you’ll know who I am since I’ll be the tall one!)

  18. I have problem feet and an addiction to ballet classes, and several years post- foot surgery, I decided to ditch all the heels. If Carla Bruni can do it, so can I. Repetto makes gorgeous, well-constructed shoes that are suit-compatible and office appropriate. My feet (and my lower back) are thanking me for it, and at 5’10” in bare feet, I don’t really miss the extra inches.

    PS: I can’t resist the urge to pull out a 3″ or 4″ heel for depositions and negotiations, sometimes. There’s nothing like the psychological edge you get by towering–literally–over male opposing counsel.

  19. M. Heatherington :

    IMO, the ONLY fix for ill-fitting shoes is to give them away and search for a shoe that fits. Then buy 3 or more pairs of it in different colors or textures. All “fixes” proposed here do not work: I, who have unfortunate feet, have tried them all for years & years, with uniformly unhappy results. Heels are more difficult than flats, of course…

  20. Elle Woods :

    Re stretching – if you want to save on the cobblers’ bills, get some plastic freezer bags/sandwich bags, fill them with water (they need to be sealed, obviously) stuff them in your shoes and put the shoes with the bags in the freezer. As the water freezes, it expands and stretches out the shoe.

    This actually really does work. You may need to do it a couple of times if the shoes are really tight, though.

  21. CDNLawyer :

    I always get my cobbler to put rubber on the bottom of my heels. Of course this is necessary for leather soled shoes to prevent wear but I find it really helps with shock absorption and walking on floors with shiny surfaces (e.g. marble, high gloss hard wood). Cost is typically $10 to 20 per pair.

    Heel inserts are a must as well and I commonly use odour eater inserts for comfort and to fend off any odours!

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