When it comes to heels, a pair that is comfortable for one woman may be torturous to another, but there is a consensus on certain determining factors.
“Comfort depends largely on the width of the foot and the heel size,” claims fashion editor Ilse Tudor. “There’s a reason many women with wide feet return to their trusted Manolos time and time again. The love affair with beautiful but painfully narrow Louboutins is always short-lived.”
A visual inspection certainly seems to support this claim. This side-by-side comparison of a Manolo and a Louboutin in very similar pointed-toe styles reveals some obvious differences. The Blahnik is wider and more open, while the Louboutin tends to hugs the foot. (Refer to the picture on the right.)
Louboutins are designed to make feet look more delicate, so they wrap around the arches and are ideal for a narrower forefoot, mid foot and hindfoot. The red soles sure look pretty, but they’re only comfortable if you have slender feet like Princess Diana, who was the inspiration for Louboutin's 'Love' court shoes (shown at the right).
If you have wide feet, then Manolo Blahnik is your designer. These shoes support thicker and broader arches much better. The heel and toe boxes are less constricting and do not pinch, and the design in general does not squeeze like Louboutins do. What’s more, the fashion elite have started putting Blahniks back on top of the shoe hierarchy after having been pushed off the spotlight by Christian Louboutin. The 37% of women who said they were ‘willing to bungee-jump off the Golden Gate Bridge to get a lifetime supply of Manolo Blahniks’ back in 2007 probably had it right all along.
The Right Heel Height
Three inches is the new average. These serious heels are enough to flex your calf muscles and alter your posture and gait, making you look more toned overall. But can you stand in them for long periods of time?
“Yes, three inches is manageable for most women,” says Tudor. “Workhorse shoes that you intend to walk in all time should be that high, at most. Anything higher than that should be reserved for special events where you would be sitting most of the night.”
Podiatrists likewise recommend alternating between flats and heels to let feet rest some days of the week. Some women even carry foldable designer flats that fit into most purses to give their feet some TLC in the middle of the day.
Are There Louboutins for Wider Feet?
Unfortunately, no. But don’t worry – there’s a solution.
“Simply order a size up if your feet are wider,” suggests Tudor. “The width goes up as the length goes up, so a woman who usually wears a 7.5 (British 4.5) might be more comfortable in a size 8.5 (British 6) Louboutin.”
Monica Stewart, a self-confessed shoe collector, agrees. “I have wide feet and I love Louboutins but my feet tend to look like sausages squeezed into them,” she says. “So I just a size up. They just look much better on me.”
But won’t bigger shoes hurt your feet?
“Not if you plan ahead,” Stewart replies. “My feet may slide into the extra space in the toe box of a longer pair, so I put some petroleum jelly wherever necessary to prevent abrasion. That’s a small price to pay for walking in those iconic red soles.”
Returning Uncomfortable Designer Shoes
Most department stores like Saks and even Macy’s accept returns on unbearable shoes. Leading online retailers like Net-a-Porter allows you to get a replacement size for a pair that just doesn’t fit right.