It's hard to overstate the appeal of ankle strap heels; they look great on most feet types, elongate your legs AND they allow for endless versatility in styling- think anything from the barely there elegance of Stuart Weitzman's Nudist heels to the candy colored floss heel offerings from the likes of The Row and Rejina Pyo, beloved of It girls from Paris to Copenhagen. What's NOT to love is how difficult they can be to keep on, and how painful they can be to wear. Read on to find out why your ankle strap heels hurt, and 3 tweaks you can make to immediately improve your strap heels experience.
Ankle strap heels present two main problems. Firstly- and common to all forms of high heels- your feet tend to slide forward in the shoes.
Besides the natural tilt of your ankle strap heels footbed, the cause of feet sliding forward in heels could be that your feet are cold, or that they are hot (and sweaty). It could be that your shoe has stretched out, or that you're wearing stockings with your heels. Whatever the reason, it can be super frustrating, and very bad for your feet when you start using your toes to claw-grip on to your footbed. That's not even factoring in how it gets painful once the pressure starts building up in your ball of foot, creating that sensation all high heel wearers know as "burning ball of foot pain".
To add insult to injury, the thin straps on your sandal heels that once signaled cool girl insouciance on their Zara pedestal are now alternately digging into tender ankles and skin/ causing your feet to wobble while walking due to their filmsy structure and lack of support.
This problem is compounded by how a pair ankle strap heels that fit well in the comfort of the shoe store can become wobbly and ill fitting once you factor in your gait and pace of walking. Hands up if you've ever bought a pair of seemingly well-fitted ankle strap heels, only to feel those same straps fitting too tight and biting into your skin 20 minutes into walking. Ouch!
Sounds familiar? Don't feel bad though, because it's not just us mortals who suffer these indignities. Here're some celebrities who are NOT having fun in their ankle strap high heels.
We would be grimacing too if we were in Beth Behrs' Guiseppe Zanotti Harmony Sandals, as gorgeous as they may be. The pretty actress from TV serial 2 Broke Girls is tottering in her high heeled shoes; note the little toe that has been pushed out of position on her right (that's gotta hurt!), as well as the left foot's bunched up, claw-like grip on the footbed.
Here's Britney in the same model, except with more bling on her pair of Harmony Triple Strap Sandals. Two toes and counting are dangling outside her right shoe, and she's probably doing her level best (and losing the fight) trying to keep all her left toes contained in the shoe. In Britney's case, the pressure on her forefoot is that much more obvious, considering how her feet appear to be jammed way to the front of her sandals. One can only imagine her needing to walk on and the ensuing awkwardness.
Ever the high heel veteran, Kim Kardashian gamely struts out in perspex block heels while pregnant. Thicker straps and block heels means she's better positioned than poor Beth and Britney in the above examples- but it's still a wobbly walk to the car for her.
So what's happening, and more importantly, what can you do to make sure that the next time you break out your cute ankle strap heels, you're as comfortable as possible?
Well, here's some good news, and some bad news. The good news is that its possible to find a pair of well fitted high heels that hold your foot in place. Most girls have a Holy Grail, or are on never-ending quests to find that perfect pair among thousands of ever-changing designs, sizes and brands. If you have found a brand or a single pair that works for you, you're one of the lucky ones.
For the rest of us, here's more bad news- the search becomes so much harder when its a pair of ankle strap heels- because their design necessarily means a lack good support and structure for your feet. So what's a high heel loving girl to do?
Find The Right Fit
Trick #1 comes into play at the store BEFORE you commit to your heels. Making sure you get the right fit can go a long way towards helping you feel more comfortable in your shoes later on. Use the tips below assess the fit and suitability of your ankle strap heels. Already bought a pair of heels that hurt? Fret not, skip onward to tip #2!
Try on/ buy your shoes towards the end of the day
This is sound advice not just for ankle strap heels, but for all shoes, as your feet expand more towards the later part of the day. Buying a pair of heels in the morning could mean that they'll start to feel uncomfortably tight around noon.
Make room for your toes and heels
Since ankle strap heels are open toe, and the incline of the shoe coupled with gravity naturally pushes your foot to the front, make allowance for this to happen in your new sandal- we suggest there should be no toe overhang whatsoever.
Similarly, make sure your heel is directly lined up above the heel of your shoe, not outside the shoe or too far in. Given the forgiving nature of fit in ankle strap heels, it might be tempting to either size up or down, especially during sales season. We advise against this, as doing so can mean bad support, and a lot of pain!
Watch the Straps
The fit of your sandal heel straps should allow for movement, but not be so loose that the shoe hangs off your feet as you walk. The best way of testing for correct fit here is to walk around the store at your usual pace, and take note of where the straps might be tugging at your feet. Remember not to ignore any pain you feel at this stage, however small, as it will likely get worst once you step out.
For a more in depth guide to choosing the correct fit for your high heels, read our post on How To Make Sure Heels Fit Correctly
Get A Grip
Slipping forward in your strappy shoes is not merely annoying and painful, it could cause you to wobble when you walk and fall flat on your face! The main reasons that cause your bare feet to slide forward in high heel shoes are slippery insoles or sweaty feet.
To stop your feet from slipping in your heels, you could try your hand at creating this super simple DIY insole from a piece of absorbent, sweat-wicking fabric. This provides some grip for your foot.
Alternatively, invest in some shoe bumps- inserts that fit under your toe joints. These nifty little devices stop your feet from sliding forward in your shoes, and provides some much needed grip for your toes.
Pick the shoes bumps made from softer material like the ones pictured above, instead of the harder resin models that could hurt after a while.
Cushion, cushion, cushion
If your ankle straps/ shoe straps rub your heels
Your ankle strap heels may be uncomfortable because they are new and not broken in or made from material that is hard on your skin (like plastic). The straps of your heels can dig into your feet and ankles as you are walking, resulting in painful abrasions that burn with each step. Not fun- and who has time to patiently break in a pair of painful heels that make you bleed each time?
Good inserts are the best kept secret to walking comfortably in your ankle strap heels. These ones are mini versions of heel grips, and made of soft foam that stick to the back of your heel straps, providing a much needed barrier between the tender skin of your foot and the abrasive straps.
If your feet hurt while walking in heels
Elevating our feet in heels pushes our bodies forward and changes the way we balance and walk. While walking in high heels, your heel lands first in the heel-toe movement, impacting your back; and while stationary, you concentrate pressure on the balls of your feet, leading to the familiar burning-ball-of-foot sensation when you're in heels too long.
Good high heel insoles that protect your feet can make a world of difference. Airpufs are high heel inserts cut from material originally invented by NASA. A foam that's been to space and back (literally!), our insoles are ultra impact absorbent, luxuriously soft, and helps relieve high heel pain by dissipating the pressure on your foot with each step. You can read more about them here, or, because we are undoubtedly biased, read our reviews.
We hope that our guide on how to walk in ankle strap heels without pain will help you pick out, and learn to walk in a pair of strappy heels you love! Please share this with your friends if you find it useful, and stay tuned for more high heel guides.