For many of us, heels are a fashion item that we hate to love. They can be stylish, provide some inches of height that perhaps we wished we’d grown, and elevate a look for a work presentation or another important event. However, the price of them often comes not just in a dollar amount, but in several kinds of aches, pains, and ailments in our feet, legs, and back.
If you haven’t surrendered completely to the idea of flats for every occasion, you’ve likely gone down a rabbit hole reading customer reviews of retailers upon retailers, weighing the validity of each to reach some conclusion. In creating this list, we did that work for you with the guidance of two New York-based podiatrists: Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, of City Podiatry and Emily Splichal, DPM, of the Center for Functional and Regenerative Podiatric Medicine.
Read on for the best comfortable heels on the market right now and advice from Dr. Sutera and Dr. Splichal on how to minimize pain the next time you find yourself in uncomfortable shoes.
Meet the Expert
- Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, is a New York-based Podiatric Surgery Specialist at City Podiatry. She earned her Bachelor of Science from Fordham University and her DPM from New York College of Podiatric Medicine.
- Emily Splichal, DPM, MS, CE, is a New York-based podiatrist at the Center for Functional & Regenerative Podiatric Medicine. She is also the founder of Naboso Technology, a sensory product line that optimizes the way people move, feel, and live.
Sarah Flint Rosie
Sarah Flint is well known for her ability to design chic luxury shoes that don’t sacrifice comfort or foot health, which is why her styles place in several categories on this list. The Rosie is the best overall because it has a very low block heel, extra padding, and a roomy, almond-shaped toe box—features that podiatrists say, on their own, are paramount to comfort in any pair of shoes. When combined into one shoe, they create the ultimate comfortable heels. They’re also tastefully designed and versatile; you can wear them to work, run errands, or attend lunch with friends.
Price at time of publish: $495
Heel height: 1.18 inches | Colors: Black Suede, Taupe Suede, Chocolate Leopard Hair Calf, Navy Suede | Size Range: 4–13 (the brand recommends ordering a half size down)
Amazon Essentials Slide Sandal
Simple and sensible for their versatility, these slide sandals with a block heel are rated highly among reviewers for their quality, comfort, and overall wearability for the price. For about $30, these are a steal compared to any other number on this list.
Heel height: 2.66 inches | Colors: Black, Brown Leopard Print | Size Range: 5–12
Best Low Heel
For something with a little lift and a lot of cushion, Aerosoles has just the shoe for you. The Yorketown style is an everyday slip-on leather sandal with a 1.25-inch wedge, so it supports—rather than strains—the feet. Its maker has a great track record of creating comfortable footwear and is generally podiatrist-approved.
Price at time of publish: $61
Heel height: 1.25 inches | Colors: Black Leather, Leopard Combo, Tan Leather, Natural Snake, Bone Leather, Gold Metallic Leather, Berry Leather, Lilac Leather | Size Range: 5–12
By nature, the platform is one of the most comfortable heels, Drs. Sutera and Splichal say. This pair by Aerosoles keeps the feet flat yet supported with a natural arch. It’s also extremely wearable—you can quickly complete a look with a basic T-shirt and cropped jeans. We particularly love the several velvet renditions for chillier months.
Price at time of publish: $110
Heel height: 2 inches | Colors: Black, Soft Gold, Off-White, Tan, Forest Velvet, Taupe Velvet, Navy Velvet, Grey Velvet, Blue | Size Range: 6–12
Castañer Carina Wedge Espadrilles
Castañer has perfected the espadrille in terms of quality, versatility, and comfort—at least that’s what reviewers on several e-commerce sites, like Shopbop and Revolve, right along with their five-star ratings. The founders created the brand’s signature wedge in the early 1970s for a customer you might recognize: Yves Saint Laurent. They’ve been a mainstay in fashion ever since.
Price at time of publish: $110
Heel height: 2.5 or 3.5 inches | Colors: Ivory, Black, White, Oro Claro, Rojo Carmín, Rojo Rubi, Olive, Tostado, Fuschia, Sand | Size Range: IT 35-41 (size up if you typically wear a half size)
Sarah Flint Perfect Pump 85
Public figures from Lady Gaga to Meghan Markle love Sarah Flint’s pumps, which the designer says she created with the idea of good-looking comfort at the fore. Handmade in Italy, the widened toe box and V shape of this particular style prevent toe crowding without eliminating toe cleavage. It’s also made with arch support and extra padding in the footbed—must-haves by podiatrist standards—and rubber soles for better traction, which the designer felt was necessary to make her luxury heels most practical.
“[The rubber sole] was something that I always used to get added to my shoes after buying them, which I thought was crazy that you could spend so much money for luxury shoes and then have to go to the cobbler to get that added on,” Flint says in a video on the brand’s YouTube channel.
Price at time of publish: $550
Heel Height: 3.3 inches | Colors: Black Calf, Black Suede, Taupe Suede, Navy Suede, Gunmetal Lame Fabric, Sand Calf, Chocolate Leopard Hair Calf +more | Size Range: 5–11 (the brand recommends sizing up 1/2 size)
Dior J’Adior Slingback Pump
If you’re looking for a slingback and willing to spend for a well-crafted shoe that’s rated for comfort, look to Dior. The quality of these shoes speaks for itself; this pair of slingbacks is lined fully in Italian leather and has a cotton ribbon backing that won’t dig into the top of your heels. Plus, the pair is made from the brand’s signature technical fabric, which has more give than patent leather, so it’s fairly easy to break in.
Price at time of publish: $990
Heel Height: 2.5 inches | Colors: Black, Nude | Size Range: IT 34–42
Naturalizer Verney Waterproof Boot
The best footwear is versatile, comfortable, and weatherproof. Naturalizer does a great job of checking all of these boxes with the Verney boot—a waterproof shoe with an almond-shaped toe, side zip closure, and thermal sock liner for heat retention. Reviewers say they also love the rubber sole, which offers great traction and a modern look.
Price at time of publish: $190
Heel height: 3 inches | Colors: Black Leather, Ciderspice Leather | Size Range: 4–12 (medium width), 6-12 (wide width)
Crocs Brooklyn Low Wedge
For a sandal that you can wear all day long, Crocs has you covered. Its Low Wedge is a platform that keeps your heel low as if you were wearing a very supportive flat. The shoe also boasts a foam footbed and deep heel cup. This style has nearly 1,300 five-star reviews, many of which cite comfort as a great benefit.
Price at time of publish: $55
Heel height: 1.75 inches | Colors: Black/Mushroom, Black/Black, Pale Blush/Mushroom, Oyster, Army Green/Mushroom | Size Range: 4–11
Marion Parke Pippa Crystal Stiletto Pointy Mule
Marion Parke’s shoes are highly rated for comfort and style, and the new bridal collection is no exception. The label was founded by a former foot surgeon who wanted to design luxury heels focused on comfort (the cushioned insoles are twice patented). Since they aim to increase stability, adapt to your feet's curvature over time, and reduce fatigue on the balls of your feet, there's no need to kick these off on the dance floor. The Pippa heels come in both white and baby blue—perfect shades for your wedding day.
Price at time of publish: $695
Heel height: 2.8 inches | Colors: Pearlized White, Blue, Black | Size Range: IT 35–43
Swedish Hasbeens Mirja Platform Sandal
Swedish Hasbeens makes slightly clunky casual shoes that you can’t help but love, and this Toe Strap Clog style is no exception. Its lining and insole are both constructed from leather. This softens and molds the material to your foot with wear, making it easy to break them in. It also has a rubber outsole for good traction when walking.
Price at time of publish: $209
Heel height: 2.5-inch heel; 1-inch platform | Colors: Nature | Size Range: 6–11
Best Block Heel
Sarah Flint Perfect Emma
This style has been favored by A-listers like Amal Clooney and Alexa Chung for its low block heel—as well as many other of the features for which Sarah Flint is known, like a wide toe box, arch support, and additional padding. Reviewers say this style is “unbelievably comfortable” and rivals even the best of luxury brands, like Jimmy Choo.
Price at time of publish: $495
Heel height: 2 inches | Colors: Black Suede, Taupe Suede, Navy Suede, Chocolate Leopard Haircalf, Sand Calf, Espresso Suede +more | Size Range: 4–12.5
27 Edit Naturalizer Abilyn Pump
These heels are strappy, sculptural, and very comfortable—brought to us by 27 Edit, Naturalizer's new collection of premium styles. It has a full leather lining, extra cushion, and a rubber outsole for shock absorption and traction. Reviewers rate this pair highly for its classic design and cushiness.
Price at time of publish: $135
Heel height: 3.5 inches | Colors: Black Leather, Gold Leather, Pelican Grey Leather, Taupe Suede, Cocoa Suede | Size Range: 5–12 (in narrow and medium widths)
Repetto Camille Ballerina
Repetto claimed bragging rights decades ago when Brigitte Bardot sported the Cendrillon style for the film "...And God Created Woman." But it’s continued to produce stylish footwear through the years, expanding beyond ballet flats to pumps, oxfords, boots, and more. Our favorite style is this hybrid shoe, or a small step (1.25 inches, to be exact) above the standard ballet flat. Made in France, this shoe's style is wrapped in leather, lined in cotton canvas, and soled with rubber for waterproofing—perfect for the fall, spring, and early summer seasons.
Price at time of publish: $325
Heel height: 1.25 inches | Colors: Noir, Noir Patent, Classic Blue Patent | Size Range: IT 34–41
Vionic Josie Kitten Heel
Vionic's Josie Kitten Heel boasts a nearly 2-inch heel height and a classic pointed toe with a toe box wide enough to keep your feet comfortable. It's ideal for long days on your feet, like work or any other occasion that requires hours in professional dress. Reviewers who cited having issues like plantar fasciitis and bunions said these shoes served them well.
Price at time of publish: $140
Heel Height: 1.75 inches | Colors: Tort, Sand Leather, Light Grey Leather, Wine Croc, Snake White Black, Black Leather, Black Suede, Navy Leather, Black Croc, Leopard Tan | Size Range: 5-11 (in wide and regular)
Maryam Nassir Zadeh Agatha Sandal
Minimalism makes for a very versatile shoe, while quality materials and thoughtful design yield a comfortable one. Both are attractive, and because this shoe by Maryam Nassir Zadeh offers so much in terms of support and versatility, it leaves little to be desired. Made in Italy, it features an open round toe, a leather upper, a lining in luxurious grained calfskin, and a 2-inch block heel—all must-haves for the making of a comfortable heel. On versatility, its clean lines and neutral color make it easy to dress up or down, either by pairing with other neutrals or with a more vibrant palette.
Heel height: 2 inches | Colors: Fern, Burlap, Brown Cobra, Stonewash, Auburn Snake | Size Range: IT 35–42
What To Look For in Comfortable Heels
Podiatrists agree that the most comfortable heels tend to be block heels, wedges, and platform heels. That’s because these types “transfer body weight across a greater surface area when compared to pumps and stilettos,” Sutera says. Beyond that, it’s important to check shoes for a cushioned sole with arch support and shock absorption. These features best protect your feet and joints from the impact of walking, particularly on hard surfaces.
Wearing the correct size and width “will save your soles,” Sutera says. A large shoe won’t keep your foot in place, so you’ll constantly feel like it’s falling off, and a small size will create crowding, which can be very painful.
Which types of heels are most damaging to your feet?
Stilettos with a pointed toe are the most damaging to your feet. "Your body weight is concentrated on a very small area of the thin high heel, and your forefoot gets pinched and crammed in the toe box with weight being shifted toward the ball of the foot,” Sutera explains.
Both doctors agree that extreme heel heights put great stress on the feet, knees, and lower backs. Customer reviews across the web indicate that the most comfortable and supportive shoes are generally 3 inches or fewer, though studies by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) show any heel over 2 inches is capable of causing damage.
How do you measure heel height?
True heel height is the distance between the heel and the toe rather than the floor and the heel. “This is [how] platform shoes can be misleading,” explains Splichal. For the most accurate heel height, she suggests placing the shoe on a flat surface or tabletop, then measuring from the back and bottom of the heel to the point where the heel block connects to the front shoe seam.
How do high heels impact the body?
When you wear heels, your body weight shifts toward the balls of your feet, or the metatarsals. “This creates a misalignment of the entire skeleton,” says Sutera. “When weight gets shifted forward, the knees and hips go forward, as well, and the back has to hyperextend.” This effect not only causes short-term issues like blisters, shin splints, and sore muscles from the feet to the back, but it can also strain Achilles tendons and worsen bunions and hammertoes. Pinched nerves, stress fractures, arthritis, and nail problems are also long-term side effects.
What are some ways to prevent heels from hurting?
Aside from choosing heels and shoes that are as feet-friendly as possible, Sutera suggests taking breaks from heels, rather than wearing them all day or every day. Opt for very low heels, flats, or sneakers whenever possible, like on a commute to work.
To keep your legs strong and supportive, Sutera says to try some isolated exercises. These include calf raises, toe grips (picking up an object with your toes and holding it), and alphabet outlines (drawing the letters of the alphabet in the air with your big toe, moving only your ankle joint and balancing on one leg at a time).
Get a Massage
Massaging your back, upper legs, calves, Achilles tendons, and arches—be it with the help of a professional or on your own with a foam roller—will curb a buildup of tension, Sutera says. And for isolated foot treatments at home, Splichal suggests using two products from Naboso Technology, a sensory product line that she founded: a neuro ball for nerve stimulation and toe spacers to keep the feet aligned.
After wearing high heels for a few hours, Sutera says the best thing to do for your muscles and joints is to stretch your calves. The practice relieves tension and stiffness by keeping the muscle flexible. Here are a few stretches that Sutera says to try:
- Sit with your straight legs in front of you, then wrap a yoga band (or a towel, if you need to improvise) around one foot. Use it to gently pull your toes back and your foot up. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, then switch sides.
- Get situated in a downward dog yoga position. Hold it for 30 seconds.
- Stand facing a wall with your feet staggered. Bend the front knee slightly and extend the back leg fully. Place both hands in front of you, then lean forward against the wall until you feel a stretch in your back leg. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, then switch sides.
Why Trust Byrdie
This shopping guide was written by Byrdie contributor Hayley Prokos. A seasoned commerce writer and editor, she’s constantly on the hunt for products to make getting ready easier. Her work has appeared in SELF, Newsweek, and the daily Greek newspaper eKathimerini, and she holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from Northwestern University.
American Podiatric Medical Association. Your Podiatric Physical Talks About Footwear. Accessed March 1, 2022.