High heels that fit well on narrow feet is a complex shoe fitting problem

May 24, 2017

High heels that fit well on narrow feet is a complex shoe fitting problem

I recently had a letter from a women who had a problem with being unable to find the correct high heel shoes (or ballet flats) that would properly fit her narrow foot, especially at the heel. She had also been unsuccessful in finding the correct shoe inserts to place into her shoes to make them more wearable and comfortable. This is a common problem because many commonly available shoes come only in medium width. There are also issues with some shoe manufacturers who use the same shoe last for womens' and mens' shoes, adjusting only for size and not overall dimensions. The problems with many shoe inserts is that they are made from silicon gel, which is very cheap to manufacture by the process of molding, however it is slippery underfoot especially when it gets damp, does not have much shock absorption capacity, cannot be firmly attached to the inside of a shoe therefore it falls out of a shoe easily, and is often too thick and bulky so it pushes the foot out of the heel area when used there as gel strips or even out of the shoe itself if it is a 3/4 gel insole that goes under the heel of the shoe and has a raised area under the arch.

This is my letter to the women with fitting issues of her narrow feet (my real letter but not her real name) : 

Dear Mariah,  Thank you for your letter. I think my inserts for high heels would help you with the problem of your heels slipping, presumably sideways and falling off or slipping forwards because they are not held in snugly at the heel end of the high heel shoe. 

 I think the inserts for flats, runners and hiking boots would be suitable to help with the problem you have with your ballet flats.  
The high heel inserts I sell are made in two parts, one piece fit at the front of the heel of the foot to keep it in place, and the other part is a ball of foot cushion but with a short raised ridge that fits under the middle three toes to keep the ball of foot from moving forward inside the shoe. The ball of foot cushion piece can be used alone in flats and sports shoes to prevent displacement of the foot in the footwear and also to provide cushioning to the ball of the foot. Some shoes, such as ballet flats, have such thin bottoms it feels like you are walking barefoot on concrete in them.
 I sell the ball of foot cushions separately as inserts for use in thong sandals (where they keep the foot away from the post) and for sports shoes and flats where they keep the foot in place to prevent bumping of the toes into the toebox. All the inserts have a section that fits under the ball of the foot to cushion that part of the foot with a springy cushion that never flattens. 
 The front of heel insert piece (for high heel shoes) keeps the heel in place inside the heel area of the shoe preventing it from moving forwards. The insert has a notch at the edge that presses against the heel of the foot so the heel is kept from slipping sideways. It is made from PORON which is a springy non slip foam. The front of heel piece does not go under the heel so it does not add height or cause instability and because it is not made of gel it does not get slippery when damp.  
In ballet flats the ball of foot piece helps to keep your foot in the correct position in the forefoot area, and if that part of your foot stays where it should be there is no crushed toes and no heel gap either. In ballet flats you should use only the ball of foot piece because it is uncomfortable to have the front of heel piece in a flat shoe where there is not sufficient room for it because the foot is not arched as it is in high heels.  
In high heels the ball of foot piece and the front of heel piece work together to 'clamp' the foot in between them preventing the heel from coming out of position and preventing the front of the foot from sliding forward too. This makes it easier to walk in heels and gait is more normal because there is much less shoe wobble. 
When you wear shoes that have straps these physically help keep your foot inside the shoe. The reason putting in foam and silicone inserts into the heel appears to not work very well is because by adding something into the heel area you are forcing your foot forward and out of there.This can happen in ballet flats or in high heels. 
I think your problem can be helped by having shoe inserts of the type that I designed (which coincidentally were designed for exactly the problem you have). I designed them for narrow feet like mine which tend to have the most difficulty with high heels, especially high heeled sandals where a narrow foot may come right out of the front, or in closed heels the heel end develops gaps.
Some general information about women's feet and shoe construction may help you in future shoe shopping. Women have a narrower heel in relation to the front part of the foot than men. Therefore if shoes for women are constructed the same as mens' shoes, only in a smaller overall size, they will not fit properly as the heel area will be too wide. 
There are some generally excellent shoe manufacturers who construct shoes that fit well on women. Some are Cole Haan, Naturalizer, Nine West, Corso Como and Stuart Weitzman. There are many others too but I know for sure these five brands came up often when women lawyers in New York discussed what made high heels for work comfortable. I also like Lucca Ferri and Franco Sarto which tend to fit narrow.  These brands I named also tend to have good cushioning built into the shoes, however almost all shoes can be customized to fit better with the careful choice of shoe inserts because even the best cushioning that is built into shoes does not do much to prevent the foot from sliding forward inside the shoe. There are some shoe brands that very recently have started to build a cupped shape into the heel end of high heeled shoes, this works the same way as my shoe insert piece that helps hold the heel in place in high heels. 
You should never buy a shoe in a size that is too small for you. If you are between sizes or are not sure which size to choose always go up by a half size, never down. If the shoe is a bit too big it is very easy to correct with inserts, however if it is too tight there is really nothing you can do.  Stretching shoes, except for tiny bits like fitting a bunion, is not recommended.  Stretching a shoe overall distorts the shoe, plus it will never add length to a shoe. 
I hope all this helped. If you have more questions please ask. You could also read some of the blogs on my website for information about fitting of shoes.  Sincerely, Virve

 



1 Response

Amy P,  Chicago
Amy P, Chicago

May 24, 2017

Good information, thanks! I’ve read some of you blogs before and this one also full of good information. I’ll have to be more careful in shoe shopping, I didn’t know that womens shoes can fit so differently between brands.

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