Marilyn Monroe knew what she was saying when she suggested, "Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world." Really, any woman who has ever walked a few too many city blocks in the wrong pair of heels, limping and miserable, can confirm that you should't underestimate the power of footwear. Below, our best advice for choosing a shoe that will keep you in seriously stylish stride.
1. Be sure that the shoe fits. There should be no gap between the heel and arch of the foot and the shoe. If a shoe is too long or too wide, your foot will shift as your walk, causing imbalance. If a shoe is too short or too tight, the sustained friction will cause blisters. Ouch.
The perfect fit? Half an inch of space between the end of your longest toe and the very front of the shoe, and one eighth an inch between the back of your heel and the shoe. Also, try to shop for shoes later in the day, when feet generally have swelled to their largest size.
Tip: If you already own a pair that isn't quite snug as it should be, then simply insert shoe gels, like Dr. Scholl's cushions and liners, to fit. The extra padding will also add some comfort.
2. Give your toes some breathing room. You should actually be able to wiggle them while wearing the shoe in question. Pointy toes may be chic, but they're not often comfortable; a rounded toe box is your best bet.
3. Choose a sensible heel height. The higher the heel, the more pressure placed on the sole of the foot. Walking in a high heel can cause muscular imbalances that stress the foot and leg muscles, so you're literally giving yourself a workout every time you strap on those sexy stilettos. But, a shoe that fits incorrectly can be more than merely painful during wear; it can lead to serious injury.
A chunky heel and a moderate front platform help to offset the effects of extreme height, so keep those stilettos to a few inches or less. In fact, when it comes to heels, we're huge fans of an inch and a half to one inch heels, which is kitten height. We think it's a timeless, sophisticated look.
Tip: Totally addicted to the highest of high heels? Remove them as soon as you get home, and go barefoot to give your feet a much needed rest. In fact, you might even store some flats in your purse or glove compartment so you can switch out your shoes ASAP after work or cocktail hour.
4. Consider the shape of the shoe. Boots, pumps, and mary-janes help to hold your foot in proper place as you walk. Mules, d'orsays, and strappy sandals tend to offer the least support. If you have a pair that's a true work of art, meant to be seen more than worn, than we recommend wearing for only short periods of time (think: dinner parties).
5. Invest in quality craftsmanship. Natural materials may up the price, but they are more breathable and flexible. And, be sure to visit a shoe cobbler as necessary to replace soles (we swear by Vibram rubber soles on our most prized designer heels) and worn down heel caps (generally once or twice a year). A little bit of maintenance will go a long way to keeping your shoes looking, and feeling, their best.
A few of our favorite brands? Peter Fox (specializing in exquisite vintage and period-inspired shoes; he actually designs for broadway), Loeffler Randall (a fashion industry favorite), and Osborn (great textiles and an inspiring story).