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A good pair of high heels can instantly dress up an outfit while providing life in all the right ways. On days when you feel out of sorts, they can be just what you need to feel confident. But in order to make sure your heels help you to stand tall, it's important to get the best ones for you and learn how to navigate your way in them. "Walking in heels is an art form," says Andréa Bernholtz, co-founder of Rock & Republic. "You need to walk the shoes, do not let the shoes walk you—take control."
Many of us who have dealt with shoes that cause pain know that you want to find the best heel height for you. "Do not start with the highest heel," explains stylist Jenn Loyd. "Instead, set yourself up for success by starting small."
Meet the Expert
Andréa Bernholtz is the co-founder of Rock & Republic, founder of eco-friendly supportive swimwear brand Swiminista, and a trusted expert on all things style.
Jenn Loyd is a wardrobe stylist, the founder of statement earring membership company Lobe Love, and a trusted fashion and lifestyle expert.
Ready to take your style to new heights? Grab a low heel and keep scrolling for our step-by-step guide on how to walk in heels.
Before navigating how to walk in heels for real, it's a good idea to practice walking on your toes around the house. "This can strengthen your calves and will build your confidence and your balance," says Bernholtz. "Also, stretching your calves, toes, and back is also great." If your feet could use some pampering afterwards, try a cool soak and a massaging device.
Break Your Heels In
Wear your heels at home first to break them in and to build your confidence. "I often tell my clients to vacuum the house in them," says Loyd. "But in all seriousness, practice at home before wearing them in public." When walking, try ever so slightly to take steps in line with the center of your body instead of straight ahead. "This gives you a catwalk-like allure," says Bernholtz.
"Make sure you walk heels first, then toe," Loyd advises on a good technique for walking in heels. "Do not step down on the balls of your feet or toes first." And start with a wider heel until you become comfortable—this type works well on various surfaces and can be worn with longer skirts and wide leg pants.
If you're not sure where to start when it comes to finding your ideal pair of heels, perhaps the below picks can get you started. Naturalizer shoes are known for their comfort, and these heels pair well with cutoff shorts or a mini skirt. Sock-style boots create a modern feel with straight leg jeans or a cable knit dress, while a unique ankle strap will stand out every time it peeks out of your favorite maxi dress. But perhaps the most versatile place to start your walk-in-heels journey is a simple nude pump—dress it up or down and enjoy how the chunky heel comfortably upgrades any outfit.
Try a Slimmer Heel
Once you feel comfortable in a chunkier heel that provides some lift, you can graduate to a slimmer heel while remaining within a manageable height range (two to three inches is a great place to start, but feel free to go higher or lower depending on your comfort level). An embellished pair jazzes up a comfortable bridal footwear idea, while those who love an LBD should go for sparkly slingbacks. Basic black pumps will keep it practical for interviews or brunch. But no matter what you choose, it will be your confident posture that takes center stage.
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Reach for the Sky
Once you feel comfortable with mid-height heels, you can now start experimenting with styles that are five inches and higher. Keep in mind that these can sometimes be uncomfortable because the higher they are, the steeper the incline. This can cause more strain on your back since your toes may feel squished against the front of the shoe. "When I buy closed-toe high heels, including boots, I go half a size bigger and add a gel pad for the ball of my foot for extra padding as most of your weight will sit there," says Bernholtz.
When it comes to style, the world is your oyster once you're comfortable with different heights. Strappy pumps are a forever classic, whether you go for a neutral or a fun shade of lavender. A pair of heels with clear detailing feels perfect for all the Y2K-inspired looks that have taken over fashion. And last but not least, tall boots with high heels are the perfect way to make a statement all fall and winter long.
Make sure to have a rescue kit the first few times you start figuring out how to walk in heels—you should include Band-Aids as well as gel pads. "You can also carry a fold-up pair of flats to switch your shoes out in case of an emergency," says Loyd. Additionally, when wearing a new pair of shoes, rough up the soles so that they will grip instead of slip when you walk. "An easy way to do this is with sandpaper or a nail file," Loyd explains.