Nothing's worse than struggling to walk in a fabulous (and vertiginous!) pair of pumps. Instead of relegating them to the back of your closet—never to be worn again—implement a new fitness routine designed to strengthen and stretch your stems, as well as minimize the risk of sustaining common stiletto-related injuries (think chronic sciatic nerve pain, foot stress fractures, and hip and knee tendinitis).
Whether you prefer working out at the gym or in the comfort of your home, our friend Terrence Walcott, Training Manager and Training Specialist at DavidBartonGym in New York City, helped us demonstrate eight great moves that'll give you a gorgeous set of gams—and a much more graceful gait.
At-the-Gym Exercise #1: Leg Press
"When this machine is used with a challenging weight, this exercise gives you the most bang for your buck since it works every muscle that is activated when walking in high heels," says Walcott. "That's the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and the gluteus maximus." (Perform four sets of 10 reps.)
At-Home Exercise #2: Floor Calf Raise
"This strength training exercise targets the calves and shins—the muscles responsible for stabilizing the ankles," says Walcott. "Strong ankles are imperative for stiletto-wearers, as are the calves since they're in a fully flexed position when in heels." (Perform three sets of 20 reps.)
At-the-Gym Exercise #3: Seated Calf Raise
"Strengthening the calf in a seated position allows the joints and muscles in the ankle area to generate even more force," says Walcott. "This exercise is great for improving your stance and maintaining better balance." (Perform three sets of 20 reps.)
At-Home Exercise #4: Foam Roller Myofascial Release
"Rolling the sides of the quads and calves on a foam roller is actually better than performing warm up and cool down stretches," explains Walcott. "It increases blood flow to the legs, bringing oxygen and vital nutrients to the muscles that are working the hardest." (Roll for five minutes on each side.)
At-the-Gym Exercise #5: Resisted Standing Hip Abductor
"On this machine you're usually seated and working the outer thighs—however, modifying the position so that your bottom is raised six inches off of the seat directly targets the glutes," says Walcott. "Strong glutes help prevent lower back injuries, as that muscle group is responsible for supporting the pelvis, which is tilted into an awkward position when wearing stilettos." (Perform three sets of 20 reps.)
At-Home Exercise #6: Ankle Alphabet
"Moving your ankles in a dynamic stretch with a full range of motion boosts circulation and loosens the ligaments and tendons that reside in the ankle area," says Walcott. "While seated on the floor with your knees up, elevate one leg in the air and begin writing out the entire alphabet with your foot. Alternate between feet, as well as tracing the alphabet in lowercase and uppercase letters, in cursive and manuscript."
At-the-Gym Exercise #7: Leg Extension
"This machine typically works the entire quadriceps group, but when seated forward a bit, the intention moves away from the knee and closer to the hip," says Walcott. "Strong hip flexors help alleviate the stress that high heels put on the lower back." (Perform three sets of 20 reps.)
At-Home Exercise #8: Arch Rolls
"This myofascial release move is equivalent to receiving a reflexology foot massage," says Walcott. "Rolling a ball underneath the arches helps relieve tension and de-stress the bottom of your feet, which are often irritated for habitual high-heel wearers," says Walcott. (Roll for at least two minutes on each foot.)
"And if you want to de-stress the entire foot, roll on something that's wider and longer, like a can of soup, a rolling pin, or even a bottle of wine," recommends Walcott.
Our model is wearing the following throughout: Michi Motorino Crop Pants, $119; shop.michiny.com worn with Brooks Ravenna 5 Sneakers, $109.99; six02.com, and Nike Legend Tiger Print Capri, $65; six02.com worn with Adidas Pure Boost Sneakers, $119.99; six02.com.
Photo/GIF Credits: Kathryn Friedman