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How to walk in high heels

Date
Her Highness ... Kate Middleton favours fashionably high heels.

Her Highness ... Kate Middleton favours fashionably high heels.

Hollywood stars and supermodels make walking in high heels look easy. They float along gracefully looking tall and elegant.

But high heels can actually make any flat-footed woman look like royalty if she knows how to walk in them. It's a learned skill and that's why woman worldwide attend courses to find out how to do it right.

"What looks elegant is also healthy," says Edeltraud Breitenberger, a high heel trainer in Munich. She works with women who wish to "emphasise their femininity, feel comfortable walking in high heels and want to avoid hurting themselves".

Breitenberger also teaches men - transvestites who have never worn high heels before, for example - but also men who want to look more elegant when they walk. She promises to teach them how to walk like Richard Gere.

On women's shoes, the base of the high heel should curve gently downwards from the sole so that it is directly under the middle of the heel. If the heel is too far back, it's almost impossible to walk with a rolling motion, and it is bad for posture.

By definition any heel more than 10 centimetres is a high heel and that's more than high enough, said Breitenberger, who warns women against heels higher than 10 centimetres.

"You don't need height to be elegant," says the expert. "In my opinion no woman should walk on heels more than 10 centimetres on a sustained basis."

One rule of thumb is that the smaller the woman's foot, the smaller the heel should be.

Participants have to start learning about high heels at their feet. The course begins with a foot massage and toe training.

"The big toe is the boss of the high heels," says Breitenberger, who is also an adviser to tango dancers. If the toe is strong, it holds the weight.

Carmina is one of Breitenberger's students. The 32-year-old said she enrolled in the course in order to learn how to walk in high heels without hurting herself.

Breitenberger advises women who are already good at walking in high heels not to wear them daily. It's better to alternate wearing different shoes. Orthopedic doctors warn against regularly wearing shoes with more than a three-centimetre heel.

Heels that high and higher change the way a woman walks, said Renee Andrea Fuhrmann, head doctor at a podiatry clinic in Bad Neustadt, Germany. This has been proved in studies that analyse walking and muscle action. "A women who regularly wears high heels - more than three times in a week for the entire day - will have problems."

Ten per cent of Fuhrmann's patients come to her with problems resulting from years of walking in high heels. Many complain about splayed feet, bunions or hammer toes. High heels only make these deformities worse in feet that already are predisposed to them.

High heels can also cause problems in a woman's calves, knees and back. The knee stays slightly bent when a woman walks in high heels and the pressure on the knee cap increases. The wear and tear can even require treatment from a specialist. The back muscles are also strained.

"Wearing high heels over a long period of time can lead to back pain," says Fuhrmann. The Achilles tendon and the calf muscles get shorter when a woman wears high heels over a long period and this causes something called Cinderella syndrome, in which it hurts to walk in shoes that don't have high heels.

"I have many patients who say they can no longer walk in a flat shoe," says Fuhrmann. Therefore, exercises to stretch the Achilles tendon and calf are very important.

A typical patient in the clinic is a 40- to 50-year-old woman who has worn high heels for years. They usually don't want to stop wearing them as heels are the predominant footwear trend for women.

"The high heel trend is currently very pronounced," says Claudia Schultz, a spokeswoman for Germany's shoe manufacturers.

"They again have the desire to dress femininely," she says.

DPA

 

35 comments

  • Please - walking i heels, no matter what technique you are using, is not healthy.

    Celebrities make it look easy because:

    a) they can afford very expensive shoes which can be more sturdy and better made than the stuff you find in outlet shoe stores.

    b) they have worn them so much that they have restructured the way their posture and calf muscles work making it impossible for them to work normally in flat shoes.

    Commenter
    Mynx
    Date and time
    May 21, 2012, 11:27AM
    • Some women will never be able to walk in heels, no matter how hard they try. It's strongly correlated to natural aptitude and surely life is too short to set about learning to do something so relatively unimportant?

      Having said this, there are still far too many women attempting something that clearly should be left to the experts.

      Commenter
      reality bites
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 21, 2012, 11:36AM
      • It actually takes a lot more physical effort to walk properly in heels. The stompers and the shufflers are just being lazy.
        Just as there's a lot of foot action going on in a ski boot, the same applies to a stiletto. And I had several lessons to learn about foot pressure in ski boots.

        Commenter
        GrowaBrain
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        May 21, 2012, 11:22PM
      • Fair call, particularly on the laziness aspect!

        Commenter
        reality bites
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        May 22, 2012, 8:45AM
    • It is only commonsense to vary the height of one's heels - strong healthy feet = independence. You can wear stilettos one day and flats the next day or kick off the gorgeous heels for runners to walk to and from work. This way your feet are not being tortured and your lovely shoes ruined by walking the streets. Keep the heels for the appropriate occasions and look stunning, whilst keeping your feet happy. Good all around, that way.

      Commenter
      highheels
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 21, 2012, 11:53AM
      • 'Orthopedic doctors warn against regularly wearing shoes with more than a three-centimetre heel.'

        Actually Orthopedic Drs recommend against wearing high heels at all but then this self declared 'expert' would be out of business.

        Commenter
        fmc
        Date and time
        May 21, 2012, 11:55AM
        • Wrong - a small heel is good and recommended by foot doctors. It's flat shoes or very high heels they don't like.

          Commenter
          Smokey
          Date and time
          May 21, 2012, 2:00PM
        • @ smokey - I said Orthos recommend against 'high heels' not NO heels. Which they do. A small heel is not a high heel. And with the right inners, flat shoes are fine as long as they are properly balanced. Walk into any shop specialising in orthotics or remedial shoes and see how many high heels there are. Mostly quite flat but with adequate bracing and support. And some of their best customers are women who have worn high heels for too many years.

          Commenter
          fmc
          Date and time
          May 21, 2012, 2:11PM
      • 10 cm is high enough. I agree, and yet it's very difficult to find heels that aren't built for nana's or strippers.

        I would really like a shoe with a solid heel, not one of those filled in ones that look like a brick; I'd like my toes enclosed, no stupid toe platform, and less than 5 inches of heel.

        That'd be really nice thanks. I know they're out there somewhere.

        Commenter
        Professor Bollocks
        Date and time
        May 21, 2012, 12:40PM
        • I share the same dream...

          Commenter
          BekW
          Location
          Port Melbourne
          Date and time
          May 21, 2012, 1:52PM

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