How to Walk in High Heels (Without Pain, and Without Falling Over)

how to walk in high heels

How are you supposed to walk in high heels? Can you learn how to walk in high heels? Or is it just something some people can do and others can’t?

It’s no secret that I love my high 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 questions like the ones above – or less polite ones, like, “Do you REALLY wear those shoes all the time?” and “Are you crazy, woman?” (Yes, and probably.)

I’ll be honest: I really struggle to know how to answer these questions. Some pairs of heels are definitely less comfortable than others, but in general, I’ve never found them particularly difficult to walk in. I can’t remember ever “learning” how to walk in high 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 high 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 high heels difficult at first, but figured out how to do it: what was your method?

how to walk in high heels for beginners

HOW TO WALK IN HIGH HEELS | A GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS

01. 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” how to walk in high 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.

02. THE THICKER THE HEEL, THE EASIER IT IS TO WALK ON IT

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 high heels, choose thicker, sturdier heels, which will give you more stability and confidence.

03. PLATFORM SOLES MAKE HIGH HEELS FEEL LOWER

Platform shoes might look crazily high, but they can actually be much easier to walk in than non-platforms, 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!

04. WEDGES FEEL LIKE FLATS, BUT LOOK LIKE HEELS

If you’re really struggling to walk in high heels, wedges are your friends. 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 high heels to walk in, and also probably the easiest, so they make an excellent starting point if you can’t walk in high heels, and want to learn.

05. 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 you’ll find them much easier to wear. There’s no substitute for shoes which fit perfectly, but if you’re having issues with the heels slipping, you can buy heel grips to make them feel a little more secure.

06. NEVER WEAR NEW SHOES WITHOUT BREAKING THEM IN 

This goes for ANY shoes, really (The worst blisters I’ve had have all come from flats!), but if you can’t walk in heels, it could be because you haven’t worn them in properly. A lot of people swear by just wearing them around the house, or while you’re doing the vacuuming or whatever – you might feel a bit like Freddie Mercury in the ‘I Want to Break Free’ video, but it’ll help you get used to walking in heels and, well, there are worse people you could look like.

07. 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…

08. PRACTICE. THEN PRACTISE 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. I know a lot of people who think they can’t walk in high heels because they’ve tried it a couple of times, found it tricky, and given up. Obviously no one is born knowing how to walk in high heels – when you think about it, it’s a really un-natural thing to do, so it makes sense that you might have to train yourself to do it!

how to walk in high heels without falling over

09. 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, and once you know how to walk in high heels, running in them won’t seem like a big deal, 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!

10. RELAX

A lot of women have a tendency to hold themselves very stiffly when they’re learning how to walk 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.

11. ROUGH UP THE SOLES

One of the biggest issues people have when learning how to walk in high heels is slippage: a lot of high heeled shoes have soles which are completely smooth, and don’t offer any grip at all, and that makes them even harder to walk in than would otherwise be the case. (Because it really needs to be even harder, right?) This is particularly true of brand new shoes, and is one of the reasons I’ve talked about breaking shoes in before you wear them: if the soles are slippy, however, wearing them around the house won’t help – they really need to be worn outside for the sole to roughen up enough to make it easier to grip. If you don’t want to wear your new heels outdoors quite yet, you can do it yourself by gently rubbing the soles with sandpaper (yes, really) or using scissors to carefully score the soles: if you’re still worried, you can also buy stick-on soles which will give your shoes more grip.

12. REMEMBER NOT ALL HIGH HEELS ARE CREATED EQUAL

You’d think that if you can walk easily in one pair of heels, you’ll be able to walk easily in them all, but that’s not actually the case. What can look like tiny differences in the design of a shoe can make a huge difference to how it feels to wear it, and how easy it is to balance in it: I have some very high shoes, for instance, which are easier to walk in than shoes that are a bit lower – it’s all down to the design, so just because the first pair of heels you try don’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you should give up: it might just mean you need to shop around a bit and find a pair that’s more suited to your step.

13. DON’T FORCE IT

For my final point (Which should possibly have been my first point, because it’s an important one…), 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, and who’ve specifically asked how to walk in high heels, 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?

27 Comments

  • CiCi Marie says:

    I would add to these great tips and to point 5 generally, half inserts are your best friends for helping heels to fit and not adding in the added challenge of the shoe flopping off your foot, which is the last thing you need if you can’t walk on them properly in the first place…

    • Wendy Wellen says:

      great tips! I would add that while breaking in your heels try body glide on your feet. It’s made for runners and sold in sporting good stores. It will keep the blisters away. Also, if the shoe is too tight or pinches, take a hair dryer and heat up the area that needs stretching and then pull apart or walk around in socks after heating up. Shoes make the outfit!!

  • Rosie says:

    Those sparkly red shoes are gorgeous. I have no need for a pair of shoes like that but I feel like I need them in my life.

    I’m terrible at walking in heels unless they’re wedges or ones with really thick soles. It doesn’t bother me not wearing heels but I have a pair that I love and I’ve hardly worn. I cannot master walking in them at all and I think that puts me off trying because I feel like I’m going to fail miserably and injure myself.

  • Laura says:

    I find when I wear heels I seem to walk really really slowly and also I end up spending most of the night wincing because the balls of my feet hurt, to the point it gets unbearable and all I can think of is going home and taking them off, such a buzzkill… but being 4″11 I always feel underdressed if I wear flats in the evening.

    I’ve started wearing those platform style sandals for nights out, they’re flat enough that my feet aren’t at an unnatural angle, but still give me enough height to look like I’m old enough to actually be in the club! No sore feet AND not looking like bambi when trying to walk, winning.

    (Although I do miss the way my legs look in heels!)

  • Gem says:

    My tip is dance shoes! In real life I tend to stick around 3 inches for work shoes and no higher then 4 inches outside work. Part of that is what looks right to my eye, part because I need to be able to move at work. Dance wise – I can manage 6-7 inches. Again I haven’t tried higher because I think it starts looking odd (again to my eye) around the 9 inch mark. But they are shaped and weighted in a way that makes it easier then street shoes.

  • TinaD says:

    I find that varying heel heights for a week or two before a high-heel event helps enormously to “get back into training” for tall heels when you are out of practice–if I go straight from weeks of flats to stilettos, I’ll have a miserable night. Too, watch out for the platform-heel “stomp”; the shoes weigh more and the soles don’t have as much flex as stilettos, and some women compensate unconsciously with a kind of Frankenstein walk that bends the body forward and swings the leg up and forward from the hipjoint and the knee.

  • Annabelle says:

    Precious tips. To complement Cici Marie’s advice about half-inserts and yours concerning heels grip, I would add that shoes with straps, like Mary-Jane, for instance, are really convenient. I go to work using a scooter and I get a lot of comments about managing to keep my balance and actually propulsing myself on it while wearing high heels. In fact, it is sometimes a bit more difficult with stilettos as they can slip from my smaller left foot while I’m pushing the ground, but with Mary-Jane, even 10cm high, it’s really easy.
    Also, sometimes high heels are uncomfortable not because of the heel itself but because the front isn’t wide enough. If you have already bought them because it is can be tricky to judge the comfort of a shoe in the shop, you just need to get them a little adjusted by a professional.
    And last point, I like the comfort of a little platform, but sometimes the sole gets more rigid and the heel slips outside the stiletto while you’re walking fast: Cinderella’s style… You need humour when you’re wearing heels!

    • Zella says:

      You took the words out of my mouth with the bit about straps! I find this especially true with wedges, since the extra weight can make even well fitting ones move up and down on your foot every time you take a step. T-straps or mary janes are so great if you’re looking for a comfortable, wear them all day kind of heel.

  • Sarah says:

    I got my first pair of proper heels when I was about 14 (formal occasions only, my mum’s a chiropodist and she would have sooner strangled me than let me mess up my feet that young haha) and I got used to them pretty quickly. I never really understood why people found them so difficult, then a couple of years ago I got a ridiculously high pair that were a different style to what I’ve ever worn before and I swear I can’t even stand still in them without feeling like I’m going to topple over! The style definitely makes a difference. For me, heeled boots and wedges are the easiest, and anything with an ankle strap definitely helps.

  • Louise says:

    I find an ankle strap really helps with slippage, also I sometimes find if I go down a size and buy wide fit heels I get a better fit and they stay on my feet a lot better (though this might not apply to everyone!).

  • Marina says:

    I liked your tipes and like to read your posted.
    I want to ask you to write how to choose the right heel shoes? Because there are many beautiful high heel shoes that at first they look (and feel) OK but when you get home and start to wear them you find out they are VERY uncomfortable!
    Are there any tips for that situation?
    Are there something that should or shouldn’t be in good and comfortable high heel shoes?
    Thanks (:

  • Anca says:

    Very good tips! I’m asked this question all the time. I started walking in 1″-2″ heels when I was a teenager and went from there to my usual 3″-5″.

  • Leah says:

    Number 5 is my biggest problem. High arches coupled with feet so narrow that even Clarks shoes were boats on me as a kid. They once put my foot in the size measuring machine ( the one that did it automatically and had me convinced it was going to squish my feet. Got to love the early 90s) and the width of my feet went right off the narrow end of the scale.
    So every pair of shoes has heel grips, and gel pads to go under the balls of my feet, and possibly another set of insoles at the heel, and they still fall off at random intervals. Coupled with hyper mobile joints and ankles that seem to prefer bending the wrong way, I’m like bambi on ice every damn day.
    Doesn’t stop me wearing 4 inch heels, I just amuse people as I do it.

  • Mariana says:

    I would add to 12 to learn about materials: which will soften and loosen up a bit, which will probably not, and other things that you won’t know buy simply trying them on and not paying attention to how the shoes are made.

    I also find that my shoes are always uncomfortable when I move from shoes to boots, or the other way around. There will be blisters from rubbing in places my feet weren’t use to anymore. Nothing I can do…

    And I partly disagree with the wedges/thick heels vs stilettos. I find stilettos are a lot easier to balance on cobblestone! The floor is uneven, each rock is uneven, so the thick heels and wedges just wiggle all over the place, but the stiletto doesn’t! Of course they can get stuck between the rocks, but that’s a different matter (and actually has happened to me a lot more on Munich’s flat concrete streets than in my entire life in cobblestone-covered Portugal).

  • I wear heels since I was 14. I have trouble walking in flats. I put my hip forward and commit to put my weight on the ball of my foot. This way I don’t go heel first.

  • Lu says:

    High heels (and indeed all shoes worn without socks, stocking or tights) go very well with a product called Lanacane. No blisters EVER. It’s not meant for that but by, it works.

  • Liz says:

    I love high heels. I stumbled across these inserts call Air Puffs on Etsy via another blog. They are a bit expensive for inserts and I’ve only had them for a couple of months but they really make a big difference to the comfort factor.

  • Joyce says:

    Nice look , so gorgeous.
    http://www.usineok.com

  • Jessica Lee says:

    The first heels I walked in were boots during elementary school. I had these boots for Marching Band thing. In junior high it was heeled oxford. Then, I’ve had ankle boots with open toes during senior high (I still have them till now 😀 ). I find these types of shoes offer more coverage on my feet and although I was so small I was not scared from slipping or falling over. After that, wearing stilettos is pretty much easy :)

  • Yes to all these tips, especially about wedges and also starting out lower and working your way up. I also put padded inserts into almost every pair of shoes I own — including the flats! I wrote about my journey in heels in a previous blog post, here at https://librarianforlifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/a-walk-in-my-shoes/ :)

  • Porcelina says:

    Mary-janes all the way for me, they’re tied to your feet, so you can run for the train in them and they won’t fall off! But I second your comments about fit – if the shoe pinches, or rubs, or is too loose or too snug then they’re not going to work for you. There is a big difference between comfortable heels and just heels – some of my most comfortable shoes are the highest heel, especially wedges for summer (4 inch heels but can wear them all day to go sightseeing). x

  • Ruth says:

    Your high heel collection is LUSH. I wish I could function in heels. I’m not quite sure what’s wrong with me. I recently bought boots with a wide, 1.5 inch heel. First time wearing them, step out door, twist ankle, fall down stairs.
    Trainers it is then.

  • Amber says:

    I rarely wear heels, love my flats, I just live in converse or creepers (which add a little height anyways) and I love flatforms! I do have a few pairs of heels, I wore some to a charity ball at my uni this year and omg owwww so painful, I hadn’t worn heels in over a year and decided that super high stilletos with a pointy toe were a good idea! I have super skinny ankles as well so have to wear shoes with straps or I just walk out of them haha. I want to start wearing more chunky heels though 😀 xo

  • Filipa says:

    Thank you for your post, great tips =) I don’t think I could do it even if I followed all of the tips though. I live in Lisbon and the ground is pretty much cobble stone everywhere and a lot of hills which doesn’t make for a very stable platform to walk on with heels.

    uniquelyfilipa.blogspot.pt

  • Steff says:

    I have always kind of felt like you “have it” or you don’t when it comes to walking in high heels (I fall into the latter camp). Maybe because I’ve always had wobbly ankles that sprain at the drop of the hat, I just get too scared to contemplate anything that’s not a wedge/bigger than a chunky 3 inch number. I do look at pretty heels and sigh enviously, though! You have much good advice that would work for any who are contemplating it! I agree the heel to toe sensation feels unnatural but when I do wear my small heels it’s definitely the way to go, despite my natural instincts to tiptoe!

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