How to Walk in High Heels

how-to-walk-in-high-heels

“How to walk in high heels?” is one of the most frequently-asked questions by visitors to this site – and from people in real life, too. It’s no secret that I love my heels, and while I don’t wear them exclusively (I’m not one of those shoe-lovers who’ll insist on wearing stilettos, no matter what the situation!), I do wear them on a pretty regular basis: which means I get to spend a lot of time answering the question, “But how on earth do you WALK in them?”

I’ll be honest: I really struggle to know how to answer this question. Some pairs of heels are definitely less comfortable than others, but in general, I’ve never found them difficult to walk in. I can’t remember ever “learning” how to walk in heels, either, which means that when people ask me how I do it, I always have to think about it for a bit, and try not to answer with, “Um, I just… walk?”

Today, though, I’ve had a good long think about the fine art of walking in heels, and I present to you my best tips on how to do it. I’d love to hear from other heel wearers on this, though, especially those of you who found walking in heels difficult at first, but figured out how to do it: what was your method?

Here are some of mine:

How to walk in high heels

1. Work your way up

If you’ve never worn heels on a regular basis, a pair of 6″ stilettos probably isn’t the best place to start. Instead, go for something mid-height, and, once you’re used to walking in those, start to gradually work your way up. Thinking about it now, I reckon this is how I “learned” to walk in heels: I wasn’t aware of it as a learning process at the time, but I know the heels I considered super-high as a teenager, say, would feel pretty low to me now, so I think I started small and moved up without really noticing.

2. Go for thick heels rather than stilettos

In general, the thinner the heel, the harder it’ll be to balance on it, so when you’re still getting used to walking in heels, choose thicker, sturdier heels, which will give you more stability and confidence.

how to walk in high heels

3. Platforms make high heels feel lower

Platform shoes might look higher than non-platforms, but they can actually be much easier to walk in, as the platform makes the heel feel shorter. A four-inch heel with a one-inch platform, for instance, will feel like you’re walking on a three-inch heel, which is a lot more reasonable!

4. Choose wedges for extra comfort and stability

If you’re really struggling to walk in heels, wedges are the high heels that don’t really feel like high heels. Because of the extra arch support, and the fact that the sole of the shoe is completely flat, they’ll give you height (sometimes a LOT of height) without forcing you to do much in the way of balancing. They’re the most comfortable type of heels to walk in, and also probably the easiest, so they make an excellent starting point if you’re completely new to the world of heels.

how to walk in high heels

5. If the shoe fits…

…it’ll be a whole lot easier to walk in. Fit is particularly important with heels, because if you’re struggling just to keep them on your feet (or wincing in pain every time your foot hits the ground), you’ll find it practically impossible to walk in them. In fact, shoes that are constantly slipping off your heel can actually be dangerous, because you run the risk of stepping right out of them, or going over on your ankle. It’s almost too obvious to write down, but buy shoes that fit, and break them in around the house before wearing them on a big night out so you know you’ll be able to walk comfortably and safely in them.

6. Place your heel on the ground first

High heels don’t just make you walk taller, they also force you to walk differently. In flats, sneakers or flip flops, your full foot hits the ground  more or less at the same time. In heels, however – and particularly in very high heels – this method won’t only feel uncomfortable and awkward, it’ll look like that, too. Instead, you need to adapt the way you walk so that your heel comes into contact with the ground first. This might take a bit of getting used to, which brings me to my next point…

how to walk in high heels

7. Practice. Then practice some more.

If you’re not used to walking in high heels, it’ll feel very unnatural and awkward the first time you try it. And if you simply give up after that, and don’t try again for a few months or years, it’ll feel awkward and unnatural the NEXT time you try it, too… and the time after that, and the time after that. Practice is the key, and as silly as it might sound, you might find it useful to try to practice in front of a mirror (or get someone to film you, even): sometimes being able to see yourself walk will help you identify anything you’re doing wrong, and work out what you need to change. Don’t just practice walking in a straight line, either: make sure you try turning, changing direction,and going up and down stairs (hold the hand rail!). Walking downhill in heels can be the trickiest thing of all: take very small steps and lean backwards ever-so-slightly to keep your balance.

8. Baby steps

I’m not still talking about practising, or working your way up here, I mean literally take baby steps. Like it or not, you can’t really stride or run in heels (well, you can, but you’re probably going to want to wait until you’ve mastered the “walking” bit first!), and if you try to march along with your arms swinging by your sides, it might look a little bit unnatural. Again, being able to see yourself in a mirror will really help with this, and you should instantly be able to see what looks natural, and what doesn’t. In general, though, try to take smaller, slower steps than you would in lower shoes and don’t try to run before you can walk!

how to walk in high heels

9. Relax

A lot of women have a tendency to hold themselves very stiffly when they’re walking in high heels. This is partly because of the different way your body moves in heels (your might think your feet and legs are doing all the work, but your lower back and abdomen are working hard too, and are often the first places you’ll feel the strain if you’ve been overdoing it), of course, but it’s also natural to stiffen up if you’re feeling off-balance. Try to relax: not only will it look more natural, it’ll also be more comfortable, and make you less likely to hurt yourself.

10. Consider other options

For my final point, I just want to make it clear that no one should feel like they HAVE to wear high heels. I’ve written this post in order to (hopefully) help those who WANT to wear them, but if they’re just not for you, then there’s no reason in the world to force yourself to wear them. It also goes without saying that if you have foot, leg or back issues, or any other kind of physical issue that would make heel-wearing difficult or dangerous, for the love of shoes, don’t wear them. Your feet are more important than any pair of shoes!

What about you? Any tips on how to walk in high heels? How did you learn?

Shoeperwoman.com is updated every week day with new shoes and fashion picks. Please follow me on Bloglovin' or Twitter to make sure you never miss a post!

24 Comments

  • Reply October 3, 2012

    Theresa

    You mentioned balance. Something I have discovered is that subtle differences in heel placement can have a lot to do with how comfortable I am walking in them. I have a very skinny pair or heels, but the heel is in just the right place for my foot and I can walk fine. I have another pair that is technically thicker, but I feel like I wobble in them because the heel just sits at a different spot on my foot. I think trying shoes on is the only way to figure out whether or not they work, but don’t give up on a height or heel width if one pair doesn’t work.

    • Reply October 4, 2012

      Shoeperwoman

      Yes, excellent point: I have some shoes that are much harder to walk in than others, even although they’re not any higher, and I also have some that LOOK like they’ll be impossible to walk in, but which are actually really comfortable – you really do have to try a few on to find out what works for you!

  • Reply October 3, 2012

    Leslie

    Great tips! Thought you’d be interested to know this popped up when clicking on your Facebook link to this and to Fashion Police- The link you are trying to visit has been classified as potentially abusive by a Facebook partner.
    Yeah, these fashion sites sure are abusive! Pff

    • Reply October 3, 2012

      Shoeperwoman

      Thanks for letting me know, Leslie – we’re looking into it now! Obviously the sites aren’t “abusive” (lol!) so I can only assume that someone has reported them out of spite or something: lovely!

  • Reply October 3, 2012

    Sandy via Facebook

    Hmmm? Your link is telling me it “has been classified as potentially abusive by a Facebook partner”!!!? I shall have to go via my bookmarks then! LOL!

  • Reply October 3, 2012

    Stephanie

    One of the best ways I’ve found to practice walking in a new pair of heels, or to break them in a little before a big night out, is to wear them to the grocery store! You can hold on to the grocery cart as you make your way around, and it gives you plenty of opportunities to practice turning corners.

    • Reply October 3, 2012

      Liz

      Genius! Why have I never thought of this. The cart can also carry a pair of emergency flat.

    • Reply October 4, 2012

      Shoeperwoman

      That’s a fantastic idea – AND you get to shop at the same time!

  • Reply October 3, 2012

    dmgirl

    Awesome post! I would love to one day ‘walk’ in high heels! In my limited experience, tips number 1 and 9 are great for starters. I recently got a pair of ‘high heels’- very small on the heel side plus they are wide heeled. I found them at a yard sale minimally worn – they were for a costume and worn only once, and incidentally they were spray painted as well, which I wasn’t aware of until the lady pointed out the mess-ups, oh, well! They are a great pair to start off with though! ;-)

  • Reply October 3, 2012

    Eleonore

    Amber,I get asked the same question all the time and I also don’t get it. I’ve been wearing heels since I was 16 probably and never thought of “how to”… Your tips are quite good:-)

  • Reply October 3, 2012

    Eleonore

    PS : I run in heels (when necessary !)

  • Reply October 3, 2012

    Louise

    I’ve been wearing heels since I was about 15, so as long as I don’t try and squeeze my hoof into a shoe that’s too small then I never have a problem. I think holding yourself straight helps, if you slouch forward I think it affects your balance and makes you heavier on the shoe.

  • Reply October 3, 2012

    Tracey

    All good advice, especially making sure your shoes fit properly!

  • Reply October 4, 2012

    Jessica

    I LOVE the look of high heels but hardly ever wear them. I’m always afraid of slipping in them. The soles tend to be made of a slicker material than rubber. Do you have a way of making your shoes less slippery, or is that not a problem you’ve encountered?

    • Reply October 4, 2012

      Shoeperwoman

      I normally find that just wearing them a couple of times will roughen up the sole enough to make it less slippery, but I know some people use sandpaper on the soles too… You can also have rubbed grips (or full rubber soles) fitted if they’re really slippery – I’ve never done that myself, but I wouldn’t think it would be too expensive!

  • Reply October 4, 2012

    Maca

    About two years ago I started taking ballet classes. After a few months, I was able to wear my favorite heels to weddings and parties without having to change them mid party for my pair of emergency flats.
    By strengthening my ankles and calves I could go on a much higher demi pointe (standing on the balls of the feet), which translated to being able to wear higher heels with ease.
    I have theory: if the heels are higher than your demi pointe, it’ll be impossible to walk in them.
    Some people may have strong ankles naturally, but you can always strengthen them (in my case with releves, fondues, etc. etc.)

    • Reply October 13, 2012

      Juliette

      I never thought about ankle strength! I guess this could be a problem for many people–I’ve been taking ballet since I was 4 so I guess that was never really a problem for me. Balance is another thing that you need to walk in high heels–especially on your tip toes, since walking in heels is basically walking on your tip toes.

  • Reply October 4, 2012

    Call me M

    I get the same question from time to time, and I always answer with no.1: Walk your way up! But your tips are really helpful, even to me, that I’m wearing high heels for years.
    I’ve found that every pair of shoes is different and even if you can walk in heels it doesn’t mean you can walk fine with your your new pairs too. Because you must learn how to walk in this particular pair too. You should find the right balance of each pair you own.

  • Reply October 5, 2012

    Zoe

    So, I’m more or less a heel natural (like you, I don’t really remember learning to walk in them). However, there’s one thing that still gets me: grass. I’ve seen outfit shots of you outside in the grass and stuff- how to you manage it? I always end up sinking in. Oh, and driving. I just take my shoes off if I’m driving because I can’t do it.

    And a tip for newbies: keep a pair of flats in your bag! You don’t want to get stranded.

    • Reply October 5, 2012

      Shoeperwoman

      The outfits shots would be grass near a path (or similarly solid ground!) that I just stood on for a couple of seconds to get a photo – I don’t wear heels to actually walk on the stuff! If I do have to walk over a patch of grass in heels, I just walk on my toes so the stilettos don’t sink in :)

  • Reply October 5, 2012

    Aparna

    How do you keep your feet from slipping off the shoe? I’m talking about strappy heels which don’t have a lot of, well, straps, to anchor your foot. I have to stop and push my feet backwards into the shoe, only to find them slipping out again after a few more steps. I don’t think it’s the fit, they fit quite well, but gravity takes over. Help!

    • Reply October 5, 2012

      Shoeperwoman

      This is why I don’t often wear strappy sandals! Have you tried using gel insoles? You get ones which are designed for sandals, and they’ll stop your foot slipping forward – I find they work pretty well, but as I say, I don’t often wear that type of shoe, so that might just be me!

  • Reply October 5, 2012

    Steph

    Definitely agree about relaxing. I’m always asked how I manage in my skyscrapers and I honestly think its largely down to confidence. If you feel self conscious and paranoid about falling you will inevitably be more wobbly on your feet. I sometimes feel a little vertigo at the start of a night in my highest heels, but find once I’ve had a drink and settled into my surroundings I just stop thinking about putting one foot in front of the other! That said, it’s always advisable to watch how much you drink if you don’t want to seriously injure yourself! Getting drunk in heels would be a very silly idea! Also, it probably sounds obvious, but planning where you’re going ahead of time is always a good plan – more than once I’ve turned up to an occasion in my fave shoes only to find its a dark nightclub with wet, slippery floors! Or once even a Hawaiian themed bar with sand instead of floorboards! Heels were not appropriate for the occasion!!

  • Reply August 19, 2014

    Rachel

    Heaps of people mention ankle strength as a factor – ladies it definitely is a major factor. A few years ago I broke my ankles, and I’m only recently getting enough strength back in them to be able to wear heels. If you want to wear heels but have weak ankles try talking to a physio about exercises to strengthen them.

    Something else which can contribute is weakness in your knees.

Leave a Reply