Wear Heels in Comfort: Get the Right Heel Height for You

Here’s another side to the article we featured the other day, “What Happens When You Wear Heels All the Time?” – What happens when you DON’T wear high heels and it’s the call of nature?

Contrary to popular belief, wearing high heels can actually be comfortable provided you find the right heel height for your feet. According to Dr. Emma Supple, an NHS podiatrist surgeon:

“At the point where the foot connects to the leg, there is one bone called the talus. Between this and the lower leg bone is a natural recess known as the sinus tarsi, which allows ankle flexibility. The size of the sinus tarsi varies from person to person and it is this that determines how much your ankle can move – and your ideal heel height.”

So how do you determine your heel height? Well, here’s Dr. Emma Supple’s diagram to help you with that:

Heel Graphic of Dr. Emma Supple's Heel Height TestHeel Graphic of Dr. Emma Supple’s Heel Height Test

Dr. Emma’s Guide:

  • “To find your perfect heel height, take off your shoes, sit on a chair and extend one leg straight in front of you.
  • Where would your heel touch the ground? With your leg stretched out in front of you and the knee supported, make an imaginary line from the heel to the ground.
  • If your foot is at a right angle to your outstretched leg and does not dangle, you have a low ankle-joint axis and will be more comfortable in flat shoes than in high heels. Kate Moss is the standard-bearer for flats – they are obviously what suit her feet best.
  • If your foot points down, you need to measure the distance between the top of your big toe and an imaginary line from the bottom of your heel. This is the right heel height for you. Measure it against your favorite shoes – the ones you swear you are most comfortable in, no matter how high or low. I can almost guarantee the heel will match it.”

This is why some women find that 3-inches work for them best while others favor flats. In other words, once you go against your ideal heel height, you will feel the discomfort because your body isn’t following the natural order of things.

Burberry Flats and Donald J Pliner ‘Seana2’ Pump (2 inches) / Rockport ‘Barbarella’ Pump (3 inches) / Elizabeth and James ‘Milo’ Pumps (4.5 inches)

Burberry Flats and Donald J Pliner 'Seana2' Pump (2 inches) / Rockport 'Barbarella' Pump (3 inches) / Elizabeth and James 'Milo' Pumps (4.5 inches)

If you are flat footed and realize that your ideal heel height is also flat, then best look for shoes with good support and see a podiatrist who can prescribe you with an orthotic insole for your feet.

Determining your heel height is also not the end it, allow me to quote Dr. Emma Supple again:

“Heels not only have to be the right height but in the right position: not too far back, but under the centre of the heel so they support your weight properly, following the natural line of your body.

The structure of the heel counter – the part of the shoe that holds your heel – is also very important. If it is too squashy and unsupportive, it will not give enough support, and that can cause heel pain.”

She also mentioned the following which we highly encourage you to take note of:

“The key thing with any shoe, high or flat, is that it should fit properly, not pinch your toes and have a degree of flexibility. The pretty but cheap shoes that you get in some High Street shops are too rigid, so they cannot mould around your feet”

“A heel of up to 4½in is fine; anything more than that is bad for your posture as it makes your bottom jut out and overloads the toes and balls of the feet. These heels can be worn for short periods only, and are made for limos, not for walking.”

Devious ‘Scream’ Pump (6 inches), $50 at Amazon

Devious by Pleaser Women's Scream-12 Pump

Dr. Emma Supple (continued):

“High heels become a bad thing when they are too high, worn for too long, or we walk too far in them. The upshot of this is, inevitably, pain.”

“By their nature, high heels throw all of the body weight on to the ball of the foot and the toes. The length of time a person can wear a heel depends on the individual – a good rule of thumb is not to wear any shoe for more than an hour after your feet start to hurt.”

The formula to finding heels that won’t cripple youThe formula to finding heels that won’t cripple you

So, what’s YOUR ideal heel height?

Credit: Daily Mail / Dr. Emma Supple / Supplefeet Clinic

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  1. Sarah Margolin says:

    translation of my former message, and Maria’s problem: the main thing Maria wants to know is what to do when the joints of your toes hurt. the first thing to do is check the soles of your shoes, what happened for me was that I’d worn them paperthin, they weren’t supporting my feet anymore. as Maria I went to the doctor and got 2 painful shots straight into the joint (actually 4, as it was both feet). the second thing to do is to go buy inserts that support the joints of your toes. or my solution: new shoes. though I did make sure they had a good sole (I found some doc martens womens shoes that were actually cute). good luck to all, and do keep an eye out before you need the shots

  2. Sarah Margolin says:

    @ Maria, tienes q poner algo en el zapato ahi, tuve la misma problema, y era porque habia usado mis zapatos tanto que estaban muy delgados cerca los dedos del pie. por un tiempo usa zapatos con suela gorda, y busca insertos. funciona, creeme

  3. i love my heels too,i feel ultra femminin when i were them,i only were them if i am going on a night out as l like to feel dressed up,i were flats for work as i have a very busy job.i did the teas and seem to have a very high instep as my ideal heel is 4.5 inch,most of my PLAYING OUT shoes have a 6inch heel but also a platform so are around the 4.5inch as advised,i find them very comfy but use the sylicone pads to help with the pressure points on the balls of the foot. this is a very good and interesting page as i was always told heels are never good to wear but now i know its fine to wear them.BRILLIANT,i would have anyway hahaha

  4. maria guzman says:

    me encanta los zapatos alto, que sea plataformas pero mis pies me duelen y en la parte de alfrente (planta del pies ambos ) que me pueden decir porque ya he hido al fisiatra y me han puesto dos injecciones . que respuesta me tienen. gracias

  5. Wendela says:

    Very rough English translation (thank you Google) of Maria’s message: I love the high heels that is platform and I can not use it because it hurts the bottom rather the soles of the feet and the doctor tells me that is swollen and I have placed and two injections and pain is the remedy continues to please be a solution.

  6. maria guzman says:

    me encanta los zapatos altos que sea plataforma y no puedo usarlo porque me duele la parte de abajo mejor dicho la planta de los pies y el doctor me dice que esta inflamado y me a puesto ya dos injecciones y el dolor sigue que remedio hay por favor deben una solucion .

  7. Roselle says:

    Hi Frith,

    Perhaps you’ve just been wearing the wrong types of high heeled shoes. As what Dr. Emma Supple said, aside from your ideal heel height, there are other factors to consider, like heel position, heel counter structure, and more importantly the fit.
    Either that or perhaps your feet are structured more differently, in which case it is best to see a podiatrist first before you try on another pair of heels.
    On another note, as for Dr. Emma Supple’s test, I did try it on myself. And it very much confirmed my ideal heel height which is 3 inches. Good thing it’s at that because I love wearing heels. However, I do avoid anything above 3 inches because once I go above 3 inches I can’t walk properly anymore.

  8. I can’t bear to wear high heels. They cause me unbelievable pain all over my feet. Yet, according to this article, my ideal heel height is 4.5 inches. Luckily, I’m almost 5′ 10″ and love flats, so I’m not tempted to follow your advice.


  1. […] We know you, ladies — you want to know what those high heels are. As it says on the box, they are by Torrid. If the heels look as daunting to you as they did to Brandon, we’ve got some tips on how to make killer heels more comfortable and how to walk in heels in comfort by choosing the right heel height. […]

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