How to buy comfortable high heels

Tuesday, 11 November 2008 | Tags: , ,

When we say high heels, do you say "ouch!"? That's because you've been buying shoes that haven't been made for comfort. For our show Anna & Kristina's Beauty Call, we learned what goes into designing a comfortable high-heeled shoe, and how you can spot them on the shelf.

The high-heel shoe is a complex creation, with many parts combining to make the whole. Knowing the anatomy of the high-heel shoe can help you understand how each part should be constructed, and how the shoes should feel, even before you try them on.

The upper

  • The upper is the entire top part of the shoe that covers your foot.

  • On designer shoes, uppers are typically hand-crafted through a multi-step process.

  • The upper is attached to the sole with glue and nails. They’re hidden on well-made shoes, but can be seen and felt on cheaper footwear.

  • Some designers use the (labour-intensive) “coda” method, which involves stretching a single piece of leather to form the entire upper.

The toe box

  • The toe box is the section at the tip of the shoe’s upper that covers your toes.

  • Round toe boxes or rounded points create less compression on the toes. Severe points can lead to bunions and other foot problems.

  • Extra wiggle room in the toe box is important for balance as well as comfort.

  • Fit: when standing, aim for 3/8 to 1/2 an ich of space between your longest to and the end of the toe box.

The toe spring

  • The toe spring is the degree at which the toe sole angles away from the ground.

  • Ranges from 5-20 degrees, and helps your foot roll forward, especially if the sole is thick or inflexible.

  • A big angle and a stiff sole can put a lot of strain on your toes, feet, and legs, so try to avoid stiff-soled shoes.

The platform

  • The platform is the area where the front part of your foot (from the balls of your feet to your toes) sit within the shoe.

  • The higher the heel, the higher the platform should be in order to reduce the angle of elevation between the heel and toe, and to prevent arch collapse.

 The heel placement

  • For maximum support and comfort, the centre of the shoe’s heel should pinpoint the centre of your foot’s heel.

  • If the heel’s centre is too far forward or back, you will have trouble with balance.

 The heel counter

  • The heel counter is the back part of the shoe that hugs your foot’s heel.

  • The counter should be firm with a small amount of give. Press it down toward the inside of the shoe. If it touches, it won’t provide enough support.

The lining

  • Lines the inside of the shoe to form the layer between your foot and the upper.

  • Look for leather lining, which allows the foot to breathe and also absorbs moisture.

  • Synthetic lining causes the foot to sweat, which can lead to unwanted odour.

The insole

  • The insole is the layer between the sole and the foot.

  • The insole hides the seam of glue and nails that are used to attach the upper to the sole.

  • Leather insoles are more durable and comfortable than synthetic.

The shank

  • The shank is the central, thinner part of the sole that supports the arch.

  • The shank should be quite rigid, though the other parts of the sole should be flexible.

  • Grip the shoe at the heel and toe and try to twist the shank. It should at least be moderately resistant to twisting.


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