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Pain vs. Beauty: How You Can Dress to Kill in High Heels Without the Added Back Pain

Published December 22, 2017
| Written By SpineNation Editorial Staff  
Tags:  Feet Women

It's Friday night. After a long week, you want to put your hair down and let loose. You return home to get ready for the evening's shenanigans.


You found the perfect little black dress to impress your crush (or potential crush). You pair it with a bold red lipstick. As you apply your Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz in the color of your choice, you finish your eyes off with some liner and mascara. Can't forget to contour and highlight those cheekbones —done and done. As you walk into your closet to put the finishing touches on your attire, you ask yourself, "What shoes should I wear?" as you stare back at your options.

Sneakers are certainly out. You could do a ballerina slipper, but you want to be taller — stand out — and you don't feel those flats will do the job. You want more.

High heels? You contemplate in your head for a few.

  • I want to look cute but I also want to be comfortable enough to stay out all night without taking my shoes off.
  • The little black dress is nothing without the high heels to match.
  • What about my back pain? I really want to enjoy my night without hurting.

Beauty sometimes means pain. Before you make your decision, you kind of already know the answer. So, you change the question mark to an exclamation point and on your way you go. High heels, they win— every time. It's always high heels. It's Friday night after all and you have to bring it. 

Ladies, does this sound familiar? The infamous weekend dilemma: pain versus high heels. Is there another way?

For all of the girls who can't leave home without the perfect high heel, this one's for you.

Size does Matter

Maybe it's been a while since you measured your own foot. You've been the same size for a while, but are you really? You may not realize that our foot size can get larger or smaller over time, particularly in women who were recently pregnant. You want to go to a foot specialist or to your favorite retail store about once a year to have your feet sized.

Picking out the right high heelsCaption: The next time you are adding to your collection (because we can never have enough shoes), ask the employee if you can have your feet measured.

Whatever method you choose, have the sales associate or foot specialist check your width and length too.

Education is Key

It may seem obvious, but another important factor is to know your foot type. Dr. Catherine Moyer, an Easton, Pennsylvania, podiatrist says that seeing a podiatrist is the best way to understand what type of foot you have so you can not only wear shoes that look good but feel just as great.

"If you can’t run out to the podiatrist, there are a couple of neat ways to see if you have a flat foot or a high arch foot," she suggests.

You want to wet your foot and step onto a piece of construction paper. When creating the pattern, you will see how much of your foot is flat or how high of an arch you have. The correlation between your foot type and shoe choice goes hand-in-hand. If you are in pain and you have flat feet, consider orthotic insoles (more on that in a bit).

Opt for Thick Heels

If possible, you want to steer clear of thin heels which can cause instability issues and may contribute to enhanced back pain from the lack of support. We understand that sometimes a stiletto is needed for the little black dress you wore on Friday and you can keep them on just remember to only be on your feet for short periods at a time. Try wedges instead and remember, they are always in season.

Just Say No to Thin Bottoms

It is basically guaranteed that thin soles will create pain. Instead, opt for a thicker sole such as a shoe with a slight platform. A rubbery material absorbs that unwanted pressure, which will even your feet out as you walk and flirt with the cute guy at the bar.

A Break-Up Doesn't Always Have to Be a Bad Thing

As with everything in life, it's all about balance. Take breaks. During your lunch or multiple bathroom breaks, take your shoes off, stretch your ankles. Have a foot party with those toes — shake and wiggle them. You will notice that after putting them back on, you feel refreshed. After taking that break, you may be ready to walk a mile in those shoes, the same ones that you couldn't wait to never wear again just a few days ago.

Continue to Shake and Wiggle

Remember how you took a bathroom break to shake and wiggle your toes for a few? Do that every time you take your shoes off. Stretch the front of your foot and ankles by pointing and flexing both feet. To do so, bend your toes down and pull your toes up (with a strap) to get the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles loosened up. Then turn your foot from side-to-side to complete the stretch.

Convertible Shoes are Not a Thing

"The more coverage you have on the top of your foot, the better," Moyer says. Sometimes high-heeled boots are actually better to wear for long periods at a time while protecting your feet from bruises or further injury. The little black dress is literally screaming for the not-so-little thigh-high boot.

Wearing high heels outdoors.Caption: Consider a shoe with an ankle or wide strap to cover the top.

And, if you’re clumsy and maybe more inclined to fall and get blisters, this style is perfect for you. Like we said, it's screaming your name.

When in Doubt, Insert it Out

Orthotic insoles are major. If you've ever waited for a prescription at the CVS Pharmacy, you may have seen those Dr. Scholl's inserts. Consider buying those or an over-the-counter insert.

Inserts, called metatarsal or ball of the foot pads, are oval-shaped pads and go under the ball of your foot. They prevent your feet from additional soreness. Inserts made of silicone hold your foot more steadily in the shoe. This helps to keep your foot from sliding, which prevents blisters.

Memorize or print out these eight tricks so that on the next TGIF, you can have the knowledge on what shoe to wear without forgoing the fashion statement you need to give the world while feeling less back pain and fully supported.

Updated: March 10, 2019

Information provided within this article is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. Those seeking specific medical advice should consult his or her doctor or surgeon. If you need to consult with a specialist, you may be able find a health care provider in our Specialist Finder. SpineNation does not endorse treatments, procedures, products or physicians.

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