5 Tips For Wearing Heels Over 65, According to Doctors and Style Experts
You can still be a fashion icon without hurting your feet.
After nearly two years of barefoot Zoom meetings, we're tiptoeing back into our professional and going-out wardrobes, shoes included. Footwear style has become more democratic in recent years–even before Covid–giving women far more leeway in choosing appropriate shoes for any occasion. Everything from boots to sneakers has found a place in fancy and corporate dress codes.
But while heels may no longer be de rigueur for looking put-together, they're still the preference of many women when they're looking for height and polish. However, those in their 60s and beyond may feel that they can't comfortably wear the higher-heeled shoes they favored decades ago. Luckily, this is not the case. Keep reading for top-notch advice from style and foot health experts on finding just-right heels that are comfortable and chic, so you can rock those heels over 65.
READ THIS NEXT: If You're Over 65, Don't Wear This Scent, Experts Warn.
Learn the particulars of foot health.
Sarah Roberts, beauty, fashion, and style expert and founder of A Beauty Edit, explains that women over 65 may develop plantar fasciitis, hip pain, and lower back pain from wearing heels. If you suffer from any of these but aren't willing to give up your heels, she says to "make sure that you choose the ones with a soft midsole, with shorter high-heels than you wore before."
Daniel Pledger, podiatrist and founder of ePodiatrists, notes that, in addition, "heels can lead to bunions, hammertoes, and other deformities of the feet." He also says that if you have any existing foot conditions, such as arthritis or diabetes, "it's even more important to be careful when selecting shoes."
However, Pledger says not to pay attention to the general myths "that you should only wear flats after a certain age or that Birkenstocks are the only 'comfortable' shoes." You can still wear a heel "as long as you choose shoes that fit well and offer support."
READ THIS NEXT: If You're Over 65, Never Use This Furniture in Your Home.
Find a supportive heel that fits just right.
Sounds simple, but choosing the right size and making sure the shoes fit properly is of the utmost importance. Some advice on fit is merely common sense. Make sure you try shoes on and walk, sit, and stand in them before purchasing. Try them with the socks or hosiery you're planning to pair them with. And if you order footwear online, make sure you can exchange or return it.
In a Youtube video about finding the perfect heel for your foot, Abby Towfigh, a Santa Monica, California-based podiatrist, notes that support is also key. "You have to consider the fact that shoes do for our feet what our bra does for our breasts."
Regardless of what heel height you're going for, stay away from shoes where the heel itself is all the way at the back end of the shoe. "If your heel is pressed to the back of your shoe, and there's a significant gap between your heel and the ball of your foot, your balance will be significantly reduced," according to Jonny Gilpin of UK footwear retailer Schuh.
A smart tip from Towfigh is to always go shoe shopping after 5:00 p.m. "You want to go when you've been on your feet all day long. You're swollen so you don't have to guess, 'Well, maybe I should get it a little bit looser.'"
Add comfort aids.
Already own a pair of heels that are so pretty yet so painful? Shoe pads and other cushy additions can really help in the comfort department.
If the problem is in the ball of your foot, Towfigh recommends adding "pads that are made out of silicone that is gelatinous and soft." For open-toed heels specifically, she says a trick is to have a shoemaker slip a cushy pad under the sole liner, so it can't be seen. In both cases, she says the pad "will give you more even weight distribution… that way you're not going to be pushing all of your weight to the ball of your foot."
Another solution is heel protectors. Becca Brown, the creator of the shoe and foot care brand Solemates, says they "increase the surface area on the base of the heel so you don't sink into grass or other unsupportive surfaces, and they provide additional traction and stability with the wider surface area." Other products she points to are heel guards, "which ensure you don't step out of your heel," and anti-skid pads that "provide more traction and grip as you walk in high heels."
There is even a comfort aid for bunions, which tend to grow with age on the joint where your big toe meets the rest of your foot. Of course, finding shoes that don't hit and rub this area is vital, but Towfigh says you can also buy silicone pads that slide over the big toe to cushion and protect the bunion-prone bone.
For more beauty advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Try wedges, platforms, and kitten heels.
Margaret Manning, the founder of the blog Sixty and Me, knows women love heels because they elongate the legs, make clothes look good, and even force us to have good posture. But if your stiletto days are over, she offers several alternatives in a Youtube video. A "nice and sturdy" option, she says, is wedges. "You can wear them with dresses, tunics, pants, jeans…whatever you want. A light-colored wedge, like a cream or skin color, gives you that beautiful effect, it elongates the leg."
Manning says kitten heels are nice, but they only work with certain clothing that doesn't overshadow the footwear. "You can't wear a really chunky trench coat or a heavy-looking outfit." Instead, she suggests a little evening dress or tighter ankle pants that don't make the leg look out of proportion to the shoes.
Platforms are another smart choice. Since they're nearly flat on the bottom, they provide height with none of the instability of heels. "Although they may take some getting used to, platforms offer both style and comfort in equal measure," says Caitlyn Parish, founder and CEO of bridesmaids' fashion label Cicinia. "For a chic daytime look, try teaming your platforms with skinny jeans and an oversized shirt, or go for glamour by pairing them with a sequined dress and jacket."
Be sure to give your feet a break
"Always break in new shoes gradually–don't wear them for long periods of time right out of the box. Wear them around the house for an hour or so each day until they start to feel more comfortable," advises Pledger. "Take breaks throughout the day to rest your feet and give them a break from the shoes. And stretch your feet and calves before and after wearing heels to help prevent pain and discomfort."