02 October 2012

Choosing high heels

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with Magda at IMATS, various compliments that I received for the shoes that I was wearing, and subsequent discussions on the Beauty Heaven forums and on Facebook.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I have a large number of pairs of high heels. I just opened a cupboard dominated by shoe boxes, and without opening any boxes, did a quick count of heels that I know are 2" or higher, and came up with 24 pairs.

And how many of those do I like and choose to wear often? Six pairs, all closed toe courts with stiletto heels 4" to 6" high.

The list of favourites includes five pairs of Tony Biancos (TBs) ~ Samaire in black kid, Palais in dark chocolate brown kid and in red suede and Pop Star in nude patent and in orange suede. The one other pair are Siren Marcs in red leather, which are at the bottom of my preference list because they aren't as comfortable for me as the TBs.

I have only one other pair of TBs, which I've never worn because of the colour. They are Samaire in blue suede, which is a colour that has just never suited any outfit I've ever worn. If I could re-colour blue suede to olive green, I'd wear them until they fell apart. I want olive green heels but have never found any, and make do with my well travelled chocolate brown Palais instead.

Ironically, typing this has got me wondering about seeing if I can find someone who can dye those shoes for me, as I don't think that I could bear to do it myself in case I ruined them, but if someone else did it and it didn't turn out well I'd be disappointed in them, not me. :P Also, looking at the colours, I think that the timber heels and platforms would look better with olive than they do with the blue.

So why do I choose to wear the most expensive heels that I own, and leave all the cheap ones languishing in the cupboard?

Well, there is style, of course. I have some shoes that I used to wear a lot that have shorter, thicker heels. I could still wear them, but I've got better so I choose not to. I've also got a couple of pairs of proper Bloch dancing shoes with 2" heels, that I haven't worn since I stopped taking belly dance lessons. They would still be suitable for dancing or perhaps for a period costume around WWII.

I have other shoes that are horrible to wear, and aside from being colours that I don't otherwise have, I really don't know why I've kept them. Perhaps I'm keeping them to protect other people from buying such rubbish from whatever charity I'd donate them to, or perhaps I'm just a hoarder.

The highest heels I've got, the TB Pop Stars, are my absolute favourites to wear. From them, I've learned that a good quality platform is no harder to wear than a non-platform shoe with the same rise from the ball of the foot to the heel, and in fact they are easier to step forward onto the other foot because of the rising curve under the toes.

Thinking about why I find the Pop Stars so wearable, I’ve noticed about they have a non-slip patch in the middle and the sole under the platform is very flat across from side to side, even though it’s curved front to back. Being so flat across makes it much easier to keep the foot properly upright. To tilt a foot sideways deliberately for a photo, I find that I have to consciously take weight off that foot and lift and tilt that shoe on the edge.

If you’re looking at high heels, try to find a pair of TB Pop Stars to try on, or at least look at the design, and look for shoes that have that same flatness across the soles. That flatness makes the shoes far more stable, helping to keep the feet upright and reducing the risk of twisting an ankle (or both).

I've lost count of the number of times I've seen women walking in heels with both heels tilted quite badly, and worried about the loads that this puts on the ankles. I used to think that this was all to do with tilting the whole shoe because the sole wasn't flat enough, but I've got some shoes that got me thinking that it is a different problem entirely.

Regardless of heel height, you’re looking for shoes that are rigid from the heel through to under the ball of your foot. Non-platforms that don’t have the curve up under the front are likely to have a bit of flex under the toes to make it easier to roll your foot forward to step off onto the other foot, but if there is any flex between the ball of the foot and the heel, the heel will tilt sideways whichever way you tend to roll your feet. Many seem to be rigid from the back of the sole up to the heel, but aren't rigid enough between the back edge of the sole and under the ball of the foot, so the whole back half of the shoe twists relative to the ball of the foot!

If you put a shoe on and, while standing with your weight spread over the heel and ball of your foot, you can push your heel sideways and feel the heel of the shoe tilt, the shoes are garbage! I have a pair of Miss Shop brand shoes that are a perfect example of this. They are so unstable that I’m pretty sure that I only ever wore them once!

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