If The Shoes Fit...

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

March 6, 2009 5 min read


Your perfect pair should be comfortable as well as chic

Vicky Katz Whitaker

Creators News Service

If you have to kick off your shoes to dance the night away, they're probably too tight, too high or too short.

The same applies to fitting into those spaghetti-strap stiletto-heeled sandals that seemed oh-so-perfect with that sleeveless spring shift or floral summer mini you've been eyeing.

"Even if the style looks fabulous, if it's uncomfortable when you try it on, there's a high probability it's only going to get worse," said Anne Crays, merchandising and fashion forecasting vice president for shoebuy.com.

It's a view echoed by both medical experts and designers such as Taryn Rose, a former orthopedic surgeon whose Taryn Rose International line of footwear is especially popular with busy celebrities like Oprah and Angelina Jolie.

"Women tend to buy shoes for only the looks and then discover they have a hard time wearing them," said Rose.

This happens especially for formal events such as proms. She suggested wearing a new pair for several hours a week prior to your event.

When it comes to picking your shoes, if you're accustomed to wearing high heels, you can go for a three to four inch heel height. Rose, who stands at 5 feet 2 inches, prefers a tall platform heel with an evening gown "to increase my height during these special occasions." But, she added, "I run into the Department of Motor Vehicles in ballerinas."

Rose warned that a higher heel puts seven times your body's weight in pressure on the balls of your feet, increases pressure on your knees and causes low back pain from the increased arching you need to keep your body aligned over the high heel. "If you're an occasional high heel gal, stick to something lower than two inches to avoid excruciating pain," she said.

When selecting your perfect pair, remember that tight-fitting shoes can cause bunions -- painful bumps at the base of the big toe that can throw foot bones out of alignment, said Jeffrey Goldstein, an orthopedic surgeon at New York University's Hospital for Joint Diseases.

How do you know you're being seduced entirely by style? While standing, trace the outline of each foot on a piece of paper, placing the shoes you plan to wear on the outlines. "Try to imagine how your foot will feel crammed into that shoe," he said.

Penny Shuster, president of the Montreal-based La Canadienne footwear line, said she understands the eternal struggle for women to find a balance between comfort and style. A high heel creates a more dressed-up look, said Shuster, "but women should always be mindful to wear a heel that best suits their needs. If you're comfortable and confident in a high heel, then go for it."

They may elongate the body and make women look and feel slimmer, but during the summer -- when you tend spend a lot of time on your feet -- wedges, low heels, platform sandals and sleek flats will keep you feeling "comfortable and chic throughout the day," she said.

Another veteran designer, Susan Ryder, women's product director at Aetrex Worldwide, expects to see fewer "sky high" heels and flats and more mid-height heels and wedges on store shelves through 2010. Neutral-colored pairs made of softer, higher quality materials that can go with more than one outfit will top the shopping list this spring and summer -- a reflection of today's economy. "People are eyeing shoes as an investment," she said.

If you're choosing for prom, peep toes or sling backs will look good with above the knee styles, said Melissa Gallo, accessories buyer for David's Bridal. If you're planning to wear a floor length gown, make sure the heel is high enough to keep the dress from dragging.

Faryl Robin Morse, head of Farylrobin Footwear, whose shoes adorn some of the biggest celebrity icons including Halle Berry, Gwen Stefani, and Cameron Diaz, suggested buying shoes first and then the dress. "Women often make the mistake of finding a dress and then buying a boring black pump."

However, she also emphasizes comfort in picking your shoe. "If you buy a heel that you can't walk in, you will not look or feel sexy. You'll just look uncomfortable."

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