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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) worn with Brooks Ravenna 5 Sneakers, $109.99; six02.com (opens in new tab), and Nike Legend Tiger Print Capri, $65; six02.com (opens in new tab) worn with Adidas Pure Boost Sneakers, $119.99; six02.com (opens in new tab).
So, You Really Want to Walk in These Heels? (opens in new tab)
Heal Your Sore Feet (opens in new tab)
Sexy Stems: Get Lean, Sexy Legs (opens in new tab)
Photo/GIF Credits: Kathryn Friedman
Managing editor. Bona fide beauty addict. Full-time globe-trotter. Part-time DJ. Skinny leather pants lover. Exercise hater. Deep-fried tofu fanatic. Recovering red-lipstick abuser.
The Best Beauty Products in the World: Marie Claire's Prix D'Excellence Awards 2023
The elite in skincare, cosmetics, and haircare, according to our global beauty editors.
By Deena Campbell
Greasy, Weighed-Down Hair? Try Conditioning Before You Shampoo
Everything you know about washing your hair, flipped (literally).
By Gabrielle Ulubay
Meghan Markle's Go-To Jean Jacket Is On Sale at Madewell
Madewell's coveted biannual sale means 25% off everything—and we mean *everything*.
By Brooke Knappenberger
Senator Klobuchar: "Early Detection Saves Lives. It Saved Mine"
Senator and breast cancer survivor Amy Klobuchar is encouraging women not to put off preventative care any longer.
By Senator Amy Klobuchar
How Being a Plus-Size Nude Model Made Me Finally Love My Body
I'm plus size, but after I decided to pose nude for photos, I suddenly felt more body positive.
By Kelly Burch
I'm an Egg Donor. Why Was It So Difficult for Me to Tell People That?
Much like abortion, surrogacy, and IVF, becoming an egg donor was a reproductive choice that felt unfit for society’s standards of womanhood.
By Lauryn Chamberlain
The 20 Best Probiotics to Keep Your Gut in Check
Gut health = wealth.
By Julia Marzovilla
Simone Biles Is Out of the Team Final at the Tokyo Olympics
She withdrew from the event due to a medical issue, according to USA Gymnastics.
By Rachel Epstein
The Truth About Thigh Gaps
We're going to need you to stop right there.
By Kenny Thapoung
3 Women On What It’s Like Living With An “Invisible” Condition
Despite having no outward signs, they can be brutal on the body and the mind. Here’s how each woman deals with having illnesses others often don’t understand.
By Emily Shiffer
The High Price of Living With Chronic Pain
Three women open up about how their conditions impact their bodies—and their wallets.
By Alice Oglethorpe