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How to Buy Comfortable Heels, According to a Podiatrist

Make a Zoom date with your BFF to do some online shopping.

Street Style - LFW February 2018
Edward BerthelotGetty Images

I sat down to write this post about "the comfiest heels" at a loss. In my experience, no high heel is comfortable until you break it in. But this column isn't about my opinion, it's about objective information, so I turned to an expert. The first question I posed to Tania Kapila, doctor of podiatric medicine at DeLoor Podiatry Associates, was, "Do comfy heels exist?" The short and depressing answer: no.

"There isn’t an ideal heel out there because they all cause some trauma to your feet," Dr. Kapila says. (Think: corns or calluses, to start.) Before you break out the Band-Aids or foot numbing cream, Kapila shared three quick tips for finding heels that won't completely destroy your feet:

• The best height heel height is between one and two inches. If the shoe is extremely tall, it will cause jamming of the toes and ball of the foot every time you walk.

• Pay attention to the shape of the toe box, whether it's pointy or curved. A pair that's too sharply pointed will squeeze your foot.

•Look for something with a breathable material, like nubuck or suede.

Regardless of the style you're shopping for, there's one more factor that can have a massive impact on whether or not your shoes will be killing you as soon as you step outside the store: when you choose to buy your heels. "Feet tend to change in size throughout the day because they swell. It’s best to buy shoes in the afternoon or later in the day rather than in the morning. Whatever size shoe fits you better during the afternoon is the size you should be buying," said Kapila.

Now that you're armed with all the facts, make a 3 p.m. Zoom date with your bestie to do some online shopping. I selected some winning heel options based on the doctor's recommendations, below, to get y'all started.

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The Eco-Friendly Heel
Other Side Jute Sandal
Dr. Scholl's drschollsshoes.com
$110.00

Dr. Scholl's shoes get cuter and maintain the same level of functionality with each season. This pair is designed with "Insole Technology" for plush cushioning and is lightweight, flexible, and sustainable. The leather is responsibility sourced, shipped in recyclable materials labeled with soy-based inks, and for each shoe purchased, the brand will donate one tree to Trees for the Future to offset carbon emissions.

The Seasonal Ankle Boot
Total Motion Oaklee Bootie
Rockport nordstrom.com
$69.99

One of the brands recommended by Dr. Kapila is Rockport. This little bootie features the brand's "truTECH" construction for a shock-absorbing sole. That means your feet won't feel the impact of walking on concrete like it does when you're in sandals. A 3-inch heel offers a height boost, but won't leave you teetering on your tippy toes.

The Professional Loafer Heel
Incise Tailored Loafer
ECCO nordstrom.com
$169.95

Made in Portugal, this loafer makes a polished statement in your professional wardrobe. It has a removable fluidform insole for long-lasting cushioning and a stiffer exterior to hold its shape. Tone down the shoe's seriousness, if you wish, with a pair of quirky designer socks

The Slip-on-and-Go Weekend Heel
Raffia Wedge Sandal
Prada nordstrom.com
$207.00

For Saturday nights when you know you'll end up hanging out at the bar until 3 a.m., wear a pair of wedge heels instead of stilettos so your feet don't scream bloody murder in the morning. As for that hangover? You might need to take an Advil or two.

The T-Strap Heel
Farylrobin Macarena Heels
Farylrobin Anthropologie anthropologie.com
$140.00

The heel measures 1.25 inches and the shoe itself is made of a soft suede fabric that comes in this poppy pink hue. (You can also order the shoe in black or blue.) Our favorite part are the t-strap vintage-inspired straps. 

The Square-Toe Heel
Zumi Embellished Leather Mules
Gucci net-a-porter.com
$690.00

Gucci lovers will splurge on a pair of Zumi mules that feature the brand's iconic interlocking GG logo and horsebit signatures.  Slight heels offer a comfortable lift from the ground while square toes give a trendier take to the classic design. 

Deep Wedge Sandals
20-03-11 Accessories AM2 B6 tedk
Ash shopbop.com
$157.50

If a sneaker and sandal merged to form one, you'd get this result. This sporty shoe is great for the gals who want to run around without breaking an ankle and don't want to wear suffocating sneakers in the summertime. 

The Bridal Heel
Fetto 65 Leather-Trimmed Pumps
Jimmy Choo mytheresa.com
$626.00

These Jimmy Choo shoes are the epitome of the pretty, comfortable party heel for brides. The heel height is only 2.5 inches, so give these babies a spin on the dance floor to capture everyone's attention.

The Wooden Heel Sandal
Phoebe Slingback Sandal
Toms nordstrom.com
$77.96

This warm-weather sandal has a 2.75-inch heel with a one-inch platform and is outfitted with Toms' signature OrthoLite-cushioned footbed for support and comfort. The muted colored straps make the sandal easy to pair with all your outfits.

The Wedding Guest Heel
Capri Midheel
20-03-04 Accessories PM1 B8 mich
Soludos soludos.com
$129.00

A minimalist heel you can wear with denim shorts or with a wedding guest dress as you watch your friends say their "I dos." You might want to get an extra pair or two as back up because you'll be wearing these heels down to the soles for the rest of spring/summer 2020.

The Day-to-Night Sandal
Elena Sandal
Vagabond Shoemakers nordstrom.com
$99.95

This two-inch-heel transitions easily from day to night. For day: rock with a denim skirt and a billowy top. For night: style it with a black cutout dress like this one from Zara.

The Work Shoe
Linnie Mules
Sam Edelman shopbop.com
$130.00

The next time you're about to wear the same battered black ballet flats to work—stop. Swap them for an of-the-season mule like this backless cognac-colored pair from Sam Edelman. Thanks to the low heel, it won't put too much stress on the ball of your foot or toes, so you can stand comfortably while you nail that presentation.

The Everyday Ballet Flat
Sandara Flat
Naturalizer nordstrom.com
$88.95

Naturalizer, which has been around since 1927, is known for creating, "the shoe with the beautiful fit," so it's no surprise Dr. Kapila mentioned it as one of the brands that should be your new go-to. Your nude ballet flats get a little design upgrade with a stripe of snakeskin print. 

Sandals in Leather
Tod's tods.com
$417.00

This elegant kitten heel mule features pony skin-effect leather, a squared toe, and a leather outsole for all sorts of luxe touches. When your jeans and a tee ensemble needs that pop of print, slip these babies on to make a sophisticated statement.

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