Tales of a High-Heel Walker

May 25, 2011

Once upon a time, I walked down runways in 7″ high heels.  From atop my Lucite platforms, the choice of pageant girls and pole dancers everywhere, I could conquer the world or, at least, the evening gown competition.  Yes, at the age of 16, I was a pro at walking in high heels.

Then, six years later, I moved to D.C. and switched my stiletto savvy for a flat fetish.  I still wear heels (4″ or less please) sometimes, and I can still strut down the hallway with the best of them.  But I am not a big enough diva to wear them all day, every day in a pedestrian city.

That being said, let me just say, that there are some women on Capitol Hill who do not have the first clue about how to walk in high heels.  I see them in the corridors lumbering like linebackers, stomping like the Stay-Puft marshmallow man and tip-toeing like Tinkerbell.  It’s depressing.  Because when you walk in high heels you should look graceful, and the stride should look effortless.  That’s what makes it sexy.

Want to know the difference between the schleppers and the strutters?  Watch this video.  (Thank the Lord on High for YouTube.)

So what did we learn from this video? Walking well in high heels requires good posture.  Something most Americans don’t have.  (Even I have to make a concerted effort not to drop my shoulders and chin.)  

Improving your posture is as simple as rolling your shoulders back, lifting your chest, tightening your abs (lower back support is critical) and lifting your chin so that it’s parallel to the ground.  Walking this way takes a lot of getting used to, but it can help strengthen your core, alleviate pain in your shoulders and back and prevent wrinkles on your neck.  

That’s right, slouchers get wrinkles.  So lift that chin.

Once you have the posture down pat, you need to learn to glide through the foot.  This is the tricky part.  My pageant coach, Debbie, used to say that the trick is to put the forefoot and heel down at almost the exact same time. Victoria Beckham counsels the wearers of sky high heels to do the same.  Needless to say it takes practice to master this technique when you’re used to heel strike walking.  So put a mirror at the end of a hallway, and just practice over and over and over again.

Also, walking well in high heels requires strong legs.  Leg lifts, ankle circles, yoga and other exercises can help you tone up the legs.  Not only will this give you nice gams it will make walking in heels easier and less painful.

If you need more tips on wearing heels, read this article on Glamour.com.  

Tips and Tricks

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  1. Jen says:

    Nooooo. Women who put their toes down first look like moose! You have to keep a natural toe-heel gait & use that hip swing to bring your leg/foot forward.

    I note that the YouTube video model puts her heels down first on every walk, but especially on the final, finished one. I agree.

  2. Jen says:

    Nooooo. Women who put their toes down first look like moose! You have to keep a natural toe-heel gait & use that hip swing to bring your leg/foot forward.

    I note that the YouTube video model puts her heels down first on every walk, but especially on the final, finished one. I agree.

  3. amy b.s. says:

    damn. and i thought i had figured it out! apparently i have some major work to do so i don't look like i'm tromping around!

  4. Katy says:

    Belle, I have a question for you.

    As you know, the House/Senate buildings have those gorgeous, but slippery, marble hallways. I'm fine walking in heels on a surface that has a grip (i.e. cement), but I always feel like I'm gliding across ice when I'm walking down those halls.

    Any tips?

  5. Belle says:

    Skateboard grip tape. Buy it, cut it t fit the soles of your shoes.

    https://www.warehouseskateboards.com/black-magic-grip-tape-9×33

  6. NMRascal says:

    Great timing on this! Just had to buy my first pair of 5 inch heels so that my 14-year-old sons don't tower over me. Now I can learn to walk NEXT TO my sons in these shoes but not walk LIKE my sons.

  7. Stefanie says:

    Thanks Belle for the tip on fixing slippery soles! I just had a colleague ask how I can walk around comfortably in my 4 inch heels. I told her lots of practice and buying them 1/2 size larger helped a great deal. I also find that allowing enough time to break in shoes before wearing them regularly does wonders for my feet.

  8. L says:

    Skateboard grip tape is the best (yep, I did pageants too)- in a real pinch, you can run outside to rough cement and rough-up the soles of your shoes. It won't help a lot but will improve your situation some. Great post, Belle!

  9. Norwegianette says:

    Definitely trying out the grip tape trick! in 2006 it was my new years resolution to wear heels for an hour every night as I was doing stuff around my apt so that I would get some practice. Worked wonders 😉

  10. Anon_Lawyer says:

    Regarding the grip problem on slippery floors–Any shoe repair store should be able to put bottom grips on your shoe for you. It's a very inexpensive service and also makes the shoes more comfortable and last longer.

  11. Good tips! I like the video too. Lately, I've noticed ease in wearing high heels but difficulty in wearing the flatest of flat shoes (which I wear to commute to and from the office). Going back and forth between flats and pumps is doing a number on my hips/knees/heels. If I didn't care more I would invest in some good orthopedic shoes!

  12. Jen says:

    Nooooo. Women who put their toes down first look like moose! You have to keep a natural toe-heel gait & use that hip swing to bring your leg/foot forward.

    I note that the YouTube video model puts her heels down first on every walk, but especially on the final, finished one. I agree.

  13. Woman Reader says:

    God, the things women waste their time on.

  14. Belle says:

    Thank you for that vote of encouragement. I'm sure you'll find a more fulfilling way to spend your time than leaving comments on a fashion blog that you clearly don't have any need for.

  15. Lizzie says:

    Wow, a really good basic technique video. I live in LA and routinely see women teetering around on ridiculous platform heels and it just looks like their shoes are wearing them, when it should be the other way around.

  16. Amy says:

    Something to be careful of with heels, a girl lived on my floor freshman year of college. She wore heels constantly. We never saw them with out them. Except at night when she was walking to the shower or something in just socks. But she still walked like she was wearing high heels She was always up on the balls of her feet and her heels never touched the floor. As it turns out, she wore heels way too much when she was younger so that her calve muscles shortened and it was painful to walk with her feet flat. She would occasionally wear flats but always sort of looked in pain.

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