Wants High Heels for Office But has Long Toes, Narrow Feet and High Heels Hurt

Dear Shoe Lady,

I have narrow feet (size 7.5) and a longer big toe. Also, as I have very thin skin, I need a lot of extra cushioning for the ball of my feet.

I find it virtually impossible to buy comfortable high heeled office pumps. Any suggestion to brands I may try or getting custom made shoes?



Dear Noureen-

You were born with narrow feet, toes of disproportionate length and thin skin so the nerve endings are near the surface and very sensitive.  Mother Nature is trying to tell you something!  Why oh WHY are you trying to find high heel office pumps!?!
Good grief.  The challenges The Shoe Lady must rise to.
First, re-think the high heel part of the shoes you are seeking.  I’m sure you can find a way to look like an executive, leader, office diva without high heels.
But The Shoe Lady is here to help.  I will provide you with some “tips” that may shed light on a solution.
First, fit for your longer big toes.  I generally ask people to measure their feet from heel to toe.  And it works fine unless the toes are shorter or longer than average.  Truth is, shoes are made assuming a standard toe width and the key measure is the length from your heel to the widest part of your foot, the ball of your foot.  You should measure your feet on a Brannock device. This will tell you your shoe size if your longer toes were not an issue.  Why is this important?  If you are buying size 7.5 shoes because of your longer toes, but your heel-to-ball size is really a 6.5, then the shape of the shoe will not accommodate the ball of your foot correctly.  The ball of your foot will hit a narrower part of the shoe and in high heel pumps, this will be painful, even for thicker skinned folks.  Once you know the Brannock size and the full foot size, you will need to learn about shoe last shapes.  You will need a shoe shape that does not have a pronounced inward curve at the arch and outward curve for the ball of the foot.  An extreme example to consider might be a “D’Orsay” style pump.
Second, high heels.  If you are going to insist on high heels, let’s determine how high.  Studies of foot biomechanics suggest that women should not exceed heels of about 2.5 inches if they are going to wear them for most of the day.  But I hear you say you want to wear a 3 inch heel.  Then look for a pump that has a half inch platform sole.  You can have the heel if you raise the front of the shoe too.  What?  You want a 4 inch heel with no platform?  OK.  Here’s the deal.  Wear a reasonable 1-2 inch comfortable heel to work, on the way home, going to get lunch, etc.  Slip into the 4 inch heel while you are at your desk and walking to and from meetings.  Do not stand or walk in them for more than two hours a day.
Third, finding comfort.  There are a couple of options on the market that you may want to try.  Cole-Haan, part of the Nike shoe family, has used Nike’s technology for adding gas filled pillows under the balls of the feet.  You could find such pillows at a big drug store, but these are more permanent.  Look into the Insolia (http://insolia.com/) product to see if this will help.  Some shoe manufacturers incorporate it into their shoes.  But you can buy the inserts and add them to your shoes.
Fourth,  staying healthy.  Too much time in high heels will change your natural walking gait, even when you walk in flats or barefoot.  And it isn’t a good change.  It effects your posture, your ankle movement, your foot flexibility and the calves and tendons in your lower legs.  Of course all of this also effects your hip joints and back.  But I’m going to assume you are under 30 and don’t care about that.  If you do wear high heels a lot, then daily you must stretch out the backs of your legs, the tendons.  You must do foot exercises to keep those 27 bones, and all their related tendons and muscles, in each foot lively and moving.  Pick things up with your toes.  Role your feet over a golf ball.  Note.  If you are over 30, all that nice padding under the balls of your feet has started to slide forward toward your toes, or just disappear.  This means it is “bone on ground” time.  And the higher the heel, the more weight on the ball of your foot!
Fifth, brands to try.  Cole Haan, but they may not carry narrows.  Naturalizer, has comfort features and platforms.  Ros Hommerson, has been off market but is re-launching this Fall and I expect will bring good design and comfort features in narrow sizes.  Other brands that offer great “career wear” styles in your size include Bella Vita, Sofft, Soft Spots, Soft Walk, Trotters.  Try this link to get some options in your size: http://www.designershoes.com/all-products?collections=267&heel=51&p=2&sizewidth=140.
Best to you,
The Shoe Lady
PS:  See these articles:

The Postural and Piomechanical Effects of High Heel Shoes: A Literature Review by Shavonda L. Pannell

by Cary Groner

A Biomechanical Evaluation of Standing in High Heeled Shoes
by Paula D. Henderson and Dr. Stephen J. Plazza

by Gretchen Reynolds

by Colette Bouchez

Long Toes? Short Toes? It Makes a Difference in Picking Shoes

Dear Shoe Lady,
I’m a male, and I have an arch length that is much longer than my foot length. I’ve heard two schools of thought on this:
1. Take the higher of the two measures.2. Split the difference of the two measures.

My foot length corresponds to a size 14.5, but my arch length corresponds to about a 17 (I’m not exactly sure on that, because my arch length is off the chart on the Brannock Device, which tops off at 16. My arch length is 9″). Because of the major difference, would it be better to split the difference or go with the higher number? Thanks 🙂

The Shoe Lady <Shoelady@designershoes.com>
May 15

to Heath

Dear Heath –

So sorry.  But I can not even find an “arch length” reference on Google!  I use a Brannock device and have never heard of anyone measuring the arch length.  I suggest you not worry about arch length, worry about foot length and width.  Then pick your style of footwear, shape, vamp design, etc., based on whether you have a high or flat arch.  Also consider using orthodics for a better fit.
Best of luck.
May 15

to Shoe
 Thanks for the response. 
I had done some more research since I contacted you and pretty much answered my question.
Shoes are actually made for your arch length; Manufacturers simply count on everybody having regular sized toes. The arch length (heel to ball length) doesn’t concern most people (hence why I and almost everyone else hasn’t heard of it), because most people have arch lengths that correspond to their foot lengths (in other words, they have “normal” sized toes). There are some people, however, who have extra long or extra short toes. This makes the arch length and foot length very disproportionate (short toes correspond to a long arch length and long toes correspond to a short arch length).
I have short toes in proportion to the size of my foot, so the length of my foot will fit well into a size 15 shoe, but the break of my foot is much higher up than the break of the shoe. This makes the shoe too tight on the ball and presses the toes together. The widest part of your foot us supposed to match up with the widest part of the shoe. This can cause big problems in the future and could be part of the reason why I have mild bunions on both feet.
On the Brannock Device, the heel-to-ball measurement is on the opposite side of the width bar. The numbers correspond to the shoe size. When I measure the length of my arch on the Brannock Device, it goes off the chart. My arch length corresponds to between sizes 16.5 and 17. This is the size I’m supposed to wear, even though I will have extra room in the toe box.
People with extra long toes have a special problem: If one’s arch length corresponds to a size 11 but their foot length corresponds to a size 13.5, they can’t simply go with a size 11. Their toes would be squished. These people either have to buy a pair of shoes that are too wide for the rest of their foot to accommodate for the ball, or they have to find a shoe that has a extra longer toe box.
Hopefully that made sense lol.

The Shoe Lady <Shoelady@designershoes.com>
12:49 PM (2 minutes ago)

to H
 Dear Heath-

Thank you for the clarification.  And the detailed description.  I’d never heard this referred to as “arch length” before.  But I am painfully familiar with the “ball to heel” length.  You are absolutely right, this is the dimension that shoemanufacturers use.  And they assume an average toe length.  So people with short toes and people with long toes have to take that into consideration when they buy shoes on line.  I tend to suggest that they think of the shape of their foot in relation to the shape of the shoe.  But non-average toe length alone is often the culprit.
Best to you,
The Shoe Lady