How to Find Sexy - and Comfortable - Heels

Yes, you can wear hot, healthy shoes (no sneakers allowed!)
- Kathryn H. Cusimano, BettyConfidential.com
When we think of power shoes, we think of sky-high heels. Just take a look at the heels Jessica Alba has on! Say the words "comfortable shoes," and visions of Birkenstocks and loafers dance through our heads. Is there some middle ground between the two? We checked in with Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, doctor of podiatric medicine and surgery and a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association, to find out what to look for in a great pair of shoes. Lucky for us, Sutera knows her way around a four-inch heel, so she was able to tell us how to maximize comfort and style while minimizing pain and damage to our feet.

"The three major things you want with a shoe [are] arch support, cushioning and shock absorption," Sutera says. She recommends shoes with extra cushions in the heel and front part of the shoe, as well as opting for cork heels whenever possible. "[Cork] is one of those materials that helps absorb shock." Sutera also says women should avoid spending a full day in pointy-toed shoes. "You'll be better off if you limit your time spent in that particular shoe." Sutera's favorite brands: Nine West, BCBG and Tahari shoes, but she also recommends Aerosoles and Geox. Read on to find out what to look for when picking out specific styles.

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Heels: Heel heights may soon rival the Empire State Building, but Sutera says women should generally try to stay closer to the ground. "You really want to try to avoid wearing a heel that is more than three inches [high]," she explains. Though she will make exceptions for special occasions, Sutera said there should be a limit for an everyday heel. "Keep in mind that a three-inch heel puts seven times the stress [on the foot] as a one-inch heel." Seven times! We had no idea (though the balls of our feet suspected as much). Sutera recommends looking for heels with deep toe boxes to avoid crushing your toes, and chunkier heels to help distribute your weight across the shoe more evenly.

Try the Nine West Rocha pump ($78.95, nordstrom.com), BCBGeneration Titta2 pump ($80, zappos.com) or Aerosoles Women's Pep Rally open-toe pump ($43.97, endless.com).

Wedges: Sutera says wedges are among her favorite shoes, because they don't force you to sacrifice height for comfort. Much like chunky heels, wedges allow your weight to be distributed more evenly across the surface of the shoe. However, wedges aren't for everyone: "if you have bad ankles or you've had a sprain recently, you probably want to avoid [a wedge], because it can create a balance problem."

Try the Jade Mini Heel ($139, couturecandy.com), Miss Me Bash 8 woven cork wedges ($39.95, dsw.com), or Miss L Fire Sapphire Pineapple wedge glitter shoe ($94.83, asos.com).

Platforms: Traditional platforms have the same benefits - and drawbacks - as wedges. While your weight may be distributed more evenly, you could sacrifice some stability. "You still have to be careful with that type of shoe if you're going to be in it for a long time," Sutera said. The newest platforms are platform heels, such as pumps with one-inch covered platforms in the front, as popularized by Christian Louboutin. These shoes can actually give you the best of both worlds. "Whatever the platform height is in the front, you get to subtract that from the heel in the back," Sutera told us. Pick up a pair of these babies to get the height of a four-inch heel with the comfort of a three-inch heel. Just make sure you don't jump up to the five-inch platform heels that have been spotted pounding the pavement - your feet will thank you!

Try the Rory platform heel ($109, luckybrand.com), Guess Hondo high heel platform peep-toe pumps ($90, Bloomingdales.com) or alice + olivia for Payless Downtown Girl open-toe boot ($49.99, payless.com).

Flats: While flat shoes can be a great alternative to seriously high heels, not all flats are created equal. "When shoes are too flat, it can wreck havoc on your arches and on your heels, because they're not cushioning [your foot] enough and there's no support," Sutera warns. "If you pick up the shoe and you can bend it and twist it and pick it up and fold it and put it in your pocket, that's probably not a good shoe for you." Instead, look for shoes with great arch support and rubber soles, which will help absorb shock.

Try the Cairo flat ($89.50, martinandosa.com), BP Prissy flat ($59.95, Nordstrom.com) or Merona Yadira Huarache flat shoes ($26.99, target.com).


Whenever you wear a heel - no matter how comfortable it is -use a "commuter shoe" to get to and from your destination. "You don't really need to hit the pavement in your stilettos," Sutera says, although Sex and the City tried to teach us differently. She recommends finding a comfortable pair of cute flats with tough rubber soles, thick cushions and strong arch support for running around town, then changing shoes when you get to the office, restaurant or wherever you're headed. And when a doctor insists you have not one but two cute pairs of shoes with you on a daily basis, who are you to ignore her? The next time your boyfriend whines about your ever-growing shoe collection, just shrug your shoulders and say, "doctor's orders!"

Tell us: Do you wear heels that hurt your feet?

Kathryn H. Cusimano is an assistant editor at BettyConfidential.

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