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How to Wear High Heels at Work (Almost) Painlessly

Do you like to wear high heels at work? High heels streamline your profile by adding height and realigning your posture, and their history goes back further than you realize. They were invented in ancient Greece for actors in the theater who needed more "majesty" to set them apart from less significant characters. They were later adopted by the Romans; wearers donned them to demonstrate high status and great power on the stage. Since then, high heels have served as confidence boosters for many women.  Yet, there's a flip side to this. High heels are extremely impractical. Though they signal power ("I can handle any challenge that comes my way") they can also send a powerless, trying-too-hard vibe ("I'm suffering in order to win your approval"). Context matters.

Before you slide into those stilettos and head to work, make an honest assessment of your workplace culture and your own feelings.. Never wear high heeled shoes to work if you feel pressured to wear them, or if they make you feel silly and hobbled. (That's why the fashion gods gave us flats.) Wear them if they make you feel strong, they fit your style, and they make sense within the atmosphere of your specific workplace. Even so, wear them safely. Follow these little known tips to help you rock high heels at work, safely.

Size your heels properly

Too small and your toes will be crushed.  If they're too large, your foot will slip in the shoe as you walk. This can cause blisters and abrasions in your Achilles area and force the muscles in your toes to overcompensate (to keep balance). If you fall between sizes and can't seem to escape one problem or the other, choose shoes with a strap over the top (like Mary Janes) or behind the heel (slingbacks) to secure your feet. Don't like those styles? There are also insoles available to help.

Recognize quality & comfort 

Well-made high heels have thick, sturdy padding on the inside and a curve on the underside that bends toward your arch. Cheaper, flimsier shoes have paper-thin soles and a straight line along the underside. They also tend to have poor adhesion between the heel and the shoe and they may not last very long. Remember that spending money on pricier shoes now can prevent great damage that may occur wearing cheaper shoes instead.

Even so, even fancy designers miss the mark. Don't buy something just because it's expensive and you see a famous designer on the label. Opt for thicker heels (like these). Better yet, seek out a wedge. Try to find shoes with some padding under the toe (such as these). Look for weight placement. You want the point of the stiletto to be under the middle of your heel, not pushed to the back of your heel. This is an example of what you want; here you will see what you should avoid.

Walk with confidence

When you walk in high heels at work, plant the heel first and then the toe. Don't put your whole foot on the ground at once. Keep your eyes up and focus on where you're going — not on your feet. You'll also need to shorten your stride, which can feel unnatural at first. Most importantly, slow down when you walk. In the movies, running in high heels looks glamorous and adventurous. But in real life, the grace of high heels comes from their tendency to slow your roll and add a touch of sang-froid and majesty to your walk. A queen doesn't rush; she gets there when she gets there. The world can wait.

Foot care

It's safe to say wearing high heels at work doesn't actively benefit your feet. So if you wear them to work, take them off as soon as you get home. While at work, sit down as frequently as you can. If you use public transportation to get to and from work, bring a pair of flats to wear as you travel. Returning to the ground can put your foot bones back into their correct orientation and re-lengthen the tense tendons in the backs of your legs.

Don't hold back when it comes to pampering your hard-working feet. Give yourself a foot massage. Stretch your feet and calves. Pay attention to what feels good. If necessary, take an anti-inflammatory (such as Ibuprofen).

For more on how to dress for work and use your wardrobe to launch your career, turn to the tools and resources at MyPerfectResume.   

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