Please note: this week I’ve been totally swamped with work-work-work-work, and since I’m still in a cast and typing the four thousand emails a day that run my business often makes me frustrated and dizzy, I am utterly exhausted. I wrote this article some time ago, and while it doesn’t have anything to do with design per se, it’s all about pretty things (shoes!) and we all know how I feel about that. We will return to your regularly-scheduled installments of relevant posts next week!
There’s something about a pair of heels. They’re instantly classy. They work with everything, they make your legs look great, and they can turn the scrubbiest ensemble into a kick-ass outfit. A beautiful pair of shoes is a magical creature that will transform you into a sophisticated lady-about-town, even when you’re just running out to the grocery store in your pyjamas and bedhead.
But when you live in a climate that changes every hour, and the sidewalks are almost always covered in ice (or snow, or mud, or random bits of gravel, or some combination thereof), wearing heels can be hazardous to your health. As a girl who never wears flats and rarely suffers for it, I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips along the way.
1. Carefully calculate risk.
Using the table below, add the activity (a) to the conditions (c), then multiply by the amount of alcoholic drinks consumed (b is for booze!).
Risk = b(a+c)
Walking: 1pt per km
Dancing: 2pts per half-hour
Attending a wedding, party, or social event that involves standing: 1pt per hour
Kung fu: 50pts
Grassy lawn: 1pt
Areas with decks, grates, or lots of stairs: 5pts
Rocky mountainsides: 30pts
If your risk value is over 20, you can be forgiven for wearing flats. If it’s over 10, perhaps it’s best to go with a practical, heavy-heeled boot. If it’s under ten, a lady can handle it.
2. Avoid hazardous materials.
Suede boots are for cowboys. Have you ever seen it rain in a cowboy movie? In a town where it rains every other day, I can’t understand why anyone would brave wearing suede boots. Satin (and other fabrics) can be tricky. Mud and salt will often cling to them, but they can usually be washed successfully. Stick to darker colours, or only wear on clear days.
Leather is always a safe bet—make sure to protect it. Avoid plastic shoes whenever possible; they’re cheap and lacking in class. Vinyl will often survive more trips through the salt, but it’s horrid and won’t let your feet breathe at all. Patent leather is ideal—you can wear white patent shoes all winter and they’ll always look pristine. Generally speaking, the shinier the shoe, the less likely it is to stain.
3. Length isn’t as important as width.
A kitten heel may seem easier to walk in, but often isn’t. Kitten heels also lack the awesome traits that longer heels offer: making your legs look great, giving you a sexy walk, looking gorgeous.
Instead, look for a heel that’s wider and blockier. You’ll have more stability, and won’t be prone to falling into the cracks of a deck or sinking into the grass.
4. Hide your shame (or just your toes)
Wearing stockings with open-toed shoes is utterly unforgivable. You may be able to get away with a colourful pair of knee socks under a solid black peep-toe pump, but I’ve never tried it. Peep toes are for bare feet and polished toenails.
Stash your open-toed shoes during the snowy season, or be prepared to have very, very cold toes. (I’ll admit to having worn peep toes in the snow on more than one occasion. It was not what I’d call an enjoyable sensation.)
5. Keep your ear to the ground.
Or rather, your eyes. Years of walking barefoot has taught me to instinctively watch my footing everywhere I go. This doesn’t mean staring at the ground all the time, it means keeping an eye on it to see what’s coming up.
Venturing onto an icy sidewalk in a stiletto is like wandering through a minefield, and requires absolute vigilance.
6. Always have something sticky on hand.
I once broke my heel falling down a set of stairs at a party, and had to walk home in my fishnets. It was November. A little shoe goo may have made it a much less painful trip.
Quick tip: if the whole heel’s come off, coat the spikes & the heel itself with glue, then slide together. If the heel’s snapped, glue the two pieces back together, then secure by wrapping with tape—try clear packing tape or black hockey tape. Chewing gum can work if you’re desperate (but not for long).
7. A gentleman is your best accessory.
Any gentleman worth his salt should be more than ready to offer you his arm as you walk. It’s rather like walking with an extra leg: he’ll offer support, stability, and emergency rescues when you hit a patch of ice.
I had a gentleman on hand the night I broke my heel, and he was kind enough to give me a piggyback ride all the way home. Bring one with you whenever you can.
As a final note, if you find heels just too excruciatingly painful, invest in a well-made pair. Cheaply made shoes are going to be terrible to wear. Don’t wear them for extended hikes home—go barefoot or carry tiny fold-up flats in your purse. Peruse the orthopedic section of the drugstore: “heel huggers” prevent your heels from slipping or blistering, and ball-of-foot cushions reduce foot pain.
And never be too shy to kick ’em off to get down on the dance floor.