Women who don't fit the 'ideal' model size - and who comprise 67% of all women in the USA - look great wearing outfits that are complemented by wearing high heel shoes. The fashion industry is sadly out of date as the new normal average is size 14+ , and the new normal average shoe size in the US is USA size 9. Many shoe designers and manufacturers in the US are lagging behind the times making shoes as if the most common foot size is a USA.size 8.
Wearing heels elongates the figure and makes the whole outfit appear much more elegant. Tiffany Tucker says in her fashion blog "Fat Shopaholic", that " ...plenty of 'fatshionistas' wear heels and look fabulous doing so". High heels come in many styles and heel heights, and some styles, brands, and heel heights are more suitable and easier to walk in than others for everyone- including plus size women who form the majority of women in the United States.
The major issues that 44 plus size women report as concerns about wearing heels are focused on in their own words (highlighted headline added, comments are edited for clarity) from blog by Tiffany Turner "Fat Shopaholic:
Problem of the instability of high heels: Falling down, becoming afraid to wear heels (due to fears of falling), feeling really unsteady; too much weight on my stomach causes me to fall forwards; wore high heels when I was younger but can't wear them now (due to instability)
Problem of ball of foot pain from heels: Particularly the pressure on the balls of the feet; no remedy is available (for ball of foot pain) even gel inserts don't help; burning pain I get in the balls of my feet; the weight on the balls of my feet just ain't right.
Problem of other type of foot pain from heels: My feet hurt badly; weight bearing down on my toes is unbearable, I have toe pain; the material that goes across the foot is digging in and cutting me up giving me pain on top of my foot; the straps digging into your foot (hurt); my shoes are killer but too cute not to wear (I wear them anyway); It only hurts when I'm walking too much but that's normal; I have pain from the arthritis in my knees, from the weight; super high heels are ...hard on my ankles and arch cause ankle pain
Difficulty in finding right size of heels: tried so many and returned so many, wider shoes or large size shoes are hard to find; some shoe brands fit wider feet better than others.
Acceptance that high heels are uncomfortable; heels will never be comfy no matter how much they cost; there are no comfortable heels; heels are not made for comfort; heels were not made to be comfy on anyone; weight makes it difficult to wear heels comfortably; Maybe I should just accept the fact that I'm old and fat and that my heel-wearing days are over, that makes me sad.
Suggestions on styles: Platform wedge pumps; platform shoes; the platform however was comfortable and I could not only walk but I could strut; the plat form shoe maybe better to walk in for bigger women; buy closed in platform shoes, not open platform ones; go for any style of platform shoes
Go for thick heeled shoes because it offers us more stability, Don't go for the tiny pointed heel; thick heels and wedges are best,
Wedges are stylish and go with any style dress or jeans; wedges are great and you feel a little more stable; wedge heel should be fat not skinny because in some wedges you can roll an ankle so fast
Suggestions on height of heel and shoe size: A blockier, wedge or slightly lower heel is more stable; highest I can usually tolerate is 3.5 inches; pumps kill my feet above 4 inches, .high heel shoes work best with lower heels; go for wider shoes
Suggestions on practicing walking in heels; I can still wear them (high heels) when I finally get accustomed to them; constantly practice at home and build leg muscle; walk in the house where it is smoother as walking outside is more difficult; start with lower heels and with practice you can get back to wearing 5-6 inch heels (platforms)
The platform styles of heels are the most dramatic, yet quite wearable style of women's heels - favoured by women whose careers may be enhanced by looking good on the red carpet from head to toe whatever their figure shape, and whose enjoyment of their 'red carpet evening' is enhanced by being able to walk about freely and comfortably.
The number one choice of shoe at the SAG awards last year was the Jimmy Choo Pearl platform shoe in silver. (It is the shoe in the image accompanying this post.) For a really dramatic shoe choice this one is excellent for adding height, enhancing the look of an outfit and have the feel of really wearing 'killer heels' !
This shoe has a secret. It has a thick platform sole and a 'rocker' bottom that make it much easier to walk in than what it appears it would be. The seeming 4.5" heel is 'cut down to size' to an easier to walk in 3.5" heel. The encircling of the foot at the heel by the back of the shoe, the peep toe style, and the adjustable ankle strap add stability and help keep the foot inside the shoe. Ladies who want to walk about socializing and posing for photos for many hours on the red carpet love these glamourous and sky high heels for these very reasons! If you watch Mariah Carey in concert or in a promotion outing you will notice that she favours platform shoes with peep toes presumably choosing that style for the same reasons. Her sandals also often have ankle straps and platform soles.
I have not talked to any ladies on the red carpet or Maria Carey personally. I am basing my comments on my study of high heels and what makes heels comfortable to stand in or move about in especially if an event is for many hours and there is no place to change into flats. The ladies on the red carpet are not only glamourous, they are also very smart so I am assuming they know their high heel styles, and know what works and what doesn't.
Thick heels & wedge heels
Some other features to look for in high heels for women who are plus size, and don't want to wear the Jimmy Choos style of spikes, are shoe with thicker heels or wedge heels. Thicker heels are more stable for walking on and the shoes feel less "tippy". Alternatively inserts in spike heeled shoes will stabilize the shoes and make walking in them feel much more secure.
Wedge heels are another option where the heels can be quite high, but will feel less tippy due to the larger surface area touching the ground. In thick heels or wedge heels check the wear on the heel surface periodically and replace the heel caps or the outer sole of the shoe. If the edges of the heel caps or shoe sole becomes rounded it will making walking more unstable. Wedge heels that are thicker are more stable than thin wedges.
Rounded toes are best for closed high heels such as pumps. They provide wiggle room for the toes. This is good for all wearers, and even more so for wearers who have a wide foot or are heavy. In closed high heel shoes the foot is pushed forward by gravity and the toes are bent and crushed into the toe box. In narrow toe shoes the bending and crushing is both from the sides and at the front of the foot. Narrow toe shoes should be bought in a size that allows the toes to have room to wiggle even while walking. This usually means that a high heel shoe with a narrow pointed toe should be about a half size bigger than the wearer's regular size.
Ball of foot cushion
All high heels, and especially if the wearer is extra heavy, should have cushioning insoles at the ball of the foot. The ball of the foot gets the most pressure, and the heavier the wearer the greater the pressure. Tiffany Tucker on her blog "Fat Shopaholic" says. " I also do feel like the extra weight I carry on my body does cause my feet to hurt faster in heels verses other shoes". Shoe inserts that are made from energy absorbing or shock absorbing material are best for cushioning the ball of the foot. This polyurethane material is used in sports shoes to cushion shock. In high heel inserts the cushioning should be concentrated at the exact centre of the ball of the foot and taper away towards the edges of the cushioning. Excess cushioning that goes to the edges of the shoe and sticks out at the sides of the foot, or goes under all the toes (not just the middle three) will not make a shoe more comfortable. The excess cushioning in the forefoot area it will just crowd the shoe and make it feel tight at the sides or under the vamp, plus hamper the functioning of the toes for propulsion and balance.
Heel pain & heel gaps
Cushioning should be put at the front of the heel in high heel shoes to keep the heel of the foot up against the back of the shoe. In high heel sandals the heel of the foot should be directly over the heel of the shoe. This will stop a painful heel due to chafing from the foot rubbing up and down. If there are heel gaps this indicates that the foot has moved forward in the shoe. If the foot moves forward in the shoe more of the wearer's weight is shifted to the ball of the foot. Any height added under the heel of the foot will increase the slope of the insole and also put more pressure on the ball of the foot even if the heel is not displaced. It will seem to the wearer as if their high heel got higher when material is added under the heel. If the heel of the foot never gaps there is no need for heel grips to keep the heel in place, as it will naturally stay in place.
The cushioning holding the heel in place at the heel end of the shoe must not extend under the heel for a second reason, that being the problems created due to shifting the centre of gravity. The foot will also be raised out of the shoe increasing instability due to the centre of gravity of the foot moving upwards. The increase in the wobbliness of high heels is sometimes to the point that high heels fall off during normal walking when chunky inserts are put inside high heels that extend from the arch area of the foot to under the heel and raise the foot up out of the shoe! If the chunky inserts are made from gel the problems get worse especially for shoes that are open at the heel such as slingbacks or sandals because the foot slides off sideways leading to falls.
High heel comfort is most affected by two things, even in well designed high heels with adequate cushioning - these are the slope of the ramp, and the amount of structure keeping the foot inside.
The slope of the ramp is directly correlated with the amount of pressure on the ball of the foot. The amount of structure keeping the foot inside the shoe such as straps and sides and back is directly correlated to whether or not the foot protrudes out the sides and front of the shoe, or falls off the heel. Cushioning built into the shoe helps to add comfort, but only if the cushioning is of the type that does not flatten over time in use. There is nothing in high heels to prevent the foot from sliding forward and coming out the front of the shoe or pressing into the toe box.
The role of inserts for ALL high heel shoes -except for high heels worn in outer space ! Why even the most expensive high heels with built in padding need inserts
High heels inserts in two pieces that are customizable to the exact length of the foot and the angle of the toes attachment are best at providing comfort from the effects of gravity, plus stabilize the foot inside the shoe to stay where the shoe designer intended it to be. A foot in a high heel shoe should be touching the heel end of the shoe with no gaps between the foot and the heel of the shoe, and should not be pushed forward into the toe box of the shoe. Forefoot cushioning that is designed to narrow under the toes and has it's thickest cushioning targeted directly to the centre of the ball of the foot - will optimally cushion the foot at it's greatest pressure point without crowding the shoe.Killer Heels Comfort high heel inserts are the only shoe inserts available that have all these features. They are the only improvement made to high heel inserts design in the last 15 years. The inserts were invented and developed by a woman to help her own high heel shoe issues of a foot sliding forward inside high heel footwear. A huge differentiating factor for these inserts is that they are designed to provide optimal comfort and cushioning while taking up minimal space. They are now available to help any women with high heel issues that are due to earth's gravity. (The only women excluded from this group are female astronaut's when they wear high heels in space.)