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A Girl’s Guide to High Heels – Part 2: How to Buy High Heels

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Shoe store

For part two of the Girl’s Guide To High Heels series, today I want to focus on how to buy heels. In case you missed the last article in this series, check out How To Walk In High Heels.

Today’s article will focus on the process of buying a pair of heels – from trying them on in the store, to what to look for in terms of quality, and even which shoes work best for different body types.

Also, if you’ve ever wondered which shoes are worth spending more on and which kinds you should buy cheap, there’s a handy list of splurge-worthy and save-worthy high heel types to help you save money!

Hopefully, this article will help even seasoned high heel wearers learn a thing or two about shopping for every woman’s favorite accessory.

Tips On Shopping For High Heels

Almost as important as which high heels you buy is how you shop for them! Here are some tips to keep in mind when shopping for heels to make sure you end up with the perfect pair for you.

Woman trying on gold high heels

* Have your feet measured so you know your exact size. Sometimes your feet can actually be two different sizes! To get your feet measured, just go to the shoe section of any good department store. Most of them should have tools to measure your foot and find your perfect size.

* Realize that you may be different sizes in different brands. Depending on the cut of a shoe, you could be a 7.5 in one brand and an 8 in another. Similarly, know what size you are in European sizes, because many quality shoe brands use those. For a handy conversion chart, click here.

* Try on shoes at the end of the day. Believe it or not, your feet can change sizes throughout the day, and they swell a little bit by the end of the day. Try shoes on after walking around and you’ll get a picture of your true size.

* Walk around in the shoes before you buy them. Okay, a no brainer, but worth mentioning. You should do some laps around the shoe area in the shoes before you even think about buying! And remember to shop at stores that have good return policies – every shoe is going to be comfortable at first, but maybe not after an hour! Buy shoes somewhere with a decent return policy so you can wear them for a while and see they stay comfy before committing.

Quality High Heels: What To Look For

All heels are not created equal – in fact, there are huge differences in quality from one brand of shoe to the next. Learn how to spot high quality shoes and you can invest in heels that will last you forever!

Anatomy of a high heel
Shoes by Christian Louboutin, available at Saks Fifth Avenue

* Note how the sole is attached to the shoe. If the sole is stitched on, make sure the stitches are even and look secure. If it’s glued on, check to make sure that there is no space around the edges where the sole could start to peel off. You want a sole that’s seamless and isn’t going anywhere.

* Look for shoes with a layer of rubber on the heel – this will help prevent slippage and make it easier to walk in the shoes. Some heels don’t have rubber or any kind of grip, and these shoes will be difficult to walk in and possibly even dangerous!

* Pay attention to the lining. In high-quality shoes, the insole lining is usually made of leather, not a synthetic material, and goes all the way around the inside of the shoe. If the shoe only has lining on the bottom but not the sides, it won’t be as comfortable. Similarly, natural materials like leather absorb moisture and allow your foot to breathe – synthetics like vinyl won’t absorb moisture and will be much less comfortable.

* Material matters. Leather is the most popular material for high heels, but if you love animals and don’t want to contribute to cruelty, there are fabulous vegan options out there as well (try Natalie Portman’s shoe line or Stella McCartney!). Either way, make sure that you buy shoes that aren’t made out of synthetic fibers like nylon or plastic. These will be extremely uncomfortable after a few wears, and won’t last nearly as long as leather or good quality vegan shoes.

The Best Heels For Your Body

Red high heels

Let me just say that I don’t think you should have to dress to minimize any part of your body. This site isn’t a Trinny & Susannah book! That said, if you are self conscious about something, by all means dress to minimize it if it makes you feel better.

Here are some tips on which heels work the best with different body types.

* If you have large ankles, don’t buy anything with an ankle strap as it will make your ankles look wider and draw attention. Go for a pump or slingback instead. This will draw attention away from your ankles and make your legs look longer.

* If your legs are short, avoid t-strap shoes because they shorten your legs and can make your feet look wider than normal. Similarly, ankle strap shoes aren’t the most flattering. Go for open toed shoes or nude high heels – they make your legs look long and lean.

* If you want your legs to look longer, pointy-toed shoes will give you the illusion of extra height. A warning, though: pointy-toed shoes may be uncomfortable if you have wide feet, so if that’s the case, save ‘em for the special occasions only! No point in being miserable all night just to look good.

* If you have wide feet, round-toed shoes have a cute vintage look, and can be the most comfortable option for those of us with wider feet. As a bonus, they can make your feet look smaller too.

It’s worth spending more on..

Classic pumps and basics. A great quality pair of basic black heels can be worn with anything and will last forever. Similarly, a pair of nude high heels will never steer you wrong. Both of these styles can be worn for years and will still be “in fashion.”

Shoes for work, interviews, and internships. When your professional reputation is at stake, you want to look your best. This means investing in quality shoes for work, or for when you go on interviews. For tips on what shoes to wear to work, see: what to wear to a job interview.

Don’t spend a lot on..

Espadrilles. There’s really no difference in quality between the brands when it comes to espadrilles – linen is linen, and rope is rope. Cheap ones are just as good as expensive Christian Louboutins in this case!

Trendy shoes. If they’re going to be out of style in two months, dropping more than $100 is a waste of your money. Also, if these are shoes you’re mostly going to be wearing to frat parties or get togethers where they’re likely to have beer spilled on them, definitely go for cheap shoes!

Your Thoughts?

Now that you’ve read my tips for high heel shopping, do you have any tips of your own to add? How do you tell a quality shoe from a cheap one? Do you believe in investing in quality high heels, or would you rather have lots of cheaper pairs? I want to hear what you all think, so leave a comment!

Also, be sure to check back for the next part in this series, where I’ll show you where to shop for the best heels.

*Photos by khtoo, iirraa, and striatic.

Posted on on November 19, 2008 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , ,

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45 Responses to “A Girl’s Guide to High Heels – Part 2: How to Buy High Heels”

  1. 1
    November 19th, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    Wow, great post!

    I love that you’ve pointed out that QUALITY MATTERS. I just bought a pair of cheap not-so-great shoes. It’s been three weeks now and the sole is already starting to peel off a bit.

    Oh and also, a great tip for making some heels less painful is to put insoles in them (Dr. Scholls makes some inexpensive ones). In the summer I’ve actually seen girls walking on the sidewalk barefoot, heels in hand, because of uncomfortable shoes.

    I have weird feet so I must try on shoes before purchasing them. I can’t understand how people buy shoes online… I try on the same shoe in two or three sizes before making the purchase!

  2. 2
    November 19th, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    It might sound really strange but sometimes I wear new shoes around the house before I wear them out, just to break them in a little. It makes them comfier when you wear them outside for the first time.

    Also, platformed shoes are good if you want higher heels but less pain. If you’re like me and need a little more height, haha.

  3. 3
    November 19th, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Great Post, and very quick as well!!!! I will also add that to distinguish between cheap and leather is that my feet don’t hurt as much when i buy leather insole shoes. Oh and also if you have thick ankles, avoid kitten heels!! although the heel may be low, on thick ankles it makes it look ‘dangerous’ and look shorter. Also, an added bonus would be finding shoes that have a ‘soft cushiony’ feel. Also, try finding a stable heel if possible.

  4. 4
    November 19th, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Oh and i definitely agree with spending a bit more on boots. I’ve got these boots, which i payed for $125, and since i got wide feet, they are the most comfy boots i’ve ever worn.

  5. 5
    November 19th, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Hey,

    Go for shoes made in Brazil. Well, it might be partial of me, as I am a Brazilian, but we are one of the biggest exporters of leather/meat in the world. So they tend to be better in quality than the Chinese shoes and lower in price than Italian ones. When I moved to the U.S. ( I got married to an American), I was perplexed by the shoes’ quality/price here. To much people buying to much crap for too many of their hard earned dollars!. But I digress, if you don’t know where to buy Brazilian shoes, Nine West makes a great deal of their shoes in my homeland, and there is this brand called Schutz that has amazing ones ( you can find them on clearance at 6pm.com). Those are some of the brands I remember now. If you want I can try and find more.

  6. 6
    November 21st, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Hightheels make me crazy!!!! I live in Germany and buy my shoes in Spain or italia. German Highheels hurt my feet, I think latin women do wear more highheels than germans, it´s maybe the reason why the shoes are better there!

  7. 7
    November 21st, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Semi-unrelated:

    I am completely floored by those boots by Crocs! They’re actually making attractive shoes now! :o

  8. 8
    November 22nd, 2008 at 4:10 am

    not related:
    HEY ! love this post! but i have a request..don’t know if I can ask for eet, but exams are coming up, and i really don’t know what to wear =S I never want to spend my time to dress up on exam days but at the same time i don’t want to look too ugly! any suggestions? or can you post a post on this topic? All my friends are struggling with the same thing too! thanks so much

  9. 9
    November 22nd, 2008 at 4:13 am

    note- i also have to keep myself warm because now itz winter…
    if possible, can you tell us how to dress up for exams in summer and winter? ;D i don’t know if others are interested in this topic, but this is one thing that i struggle the most :S

  10. 10
    November 22nd, 2008 at 7:41 am

    omg michelle! I HAVE THE SAME PROB!
    in fact i’ve asked brianna abt this alredi ;p hopefully we get to see the post soon (:

    and i really want a pair of high heels now! do H&M or ZARA have good ones?

  11. 11
    November 23rd, 2008 at 2:32 am

    Hey Michelle, Good idea regarding post for dressing up for summer and winter!!

  12. 12
    November 24th, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    The best shoes are made in Italy, they are cut the best so as not to hurt, cut, or pinch your feet anywhere! Also, leather from italy is the best quality, they are more expensive but they are worth it because they won’t kill your feet!

  13. 13
    November 24th, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Michelle – Look for a post on that later this week! I’m working on it right now :)

  14. 14
    November 29th, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    i love knee high boots , 4-4.5 inches thin heel and round toe. every days at week. when a butyfull its wearing them.

  15. 15
    December 8th, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I love to wear high heels, but I have small feet (size 4) and it is hard to find cute, heels that fit right and don’t look like they were made for little kids. It’s great having small feet sometimes so I can get the cheaper prices, but when I’m looking for dress shoes or heels, it is almost impossible to find grown up looking styles that fit correctly. Are there any stores, designers, or web sites geared toward people with small feet?

  16. 16
    December 22nd, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Julie- check out Stuart Weitzman- generally offers mature, sexy shoes in tiny sizes.

  17. 17
    January 12th, 2009 at 2:44 am

    how do you tell that the shoes are stable,
    i bought a pair of high heels at PAyless, and they suck, the body is not really stable, it keeps twisting while i’m walking,

    i bought an other pair at macy’s in luck and i can tell the different, it’s really stable, the only reason why i cant really walk in them long because they are 4inches high, and they are non angle trap high heels

  18. 18
    January 7th, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Hello, saw your blog about high heels. And that several of your subscribers have a small foot size. I have a vintage store on Ebay and have several pairs of small size shoes. The store is: http://www.stores.ebay.com/motif-vintage. Would you happen to know of any site, other than ebay where I can locate women who are interested in vintage shoes and wear a US 4, 5 or 6? Thanks

  19. 19
    January 10th, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Hi,
    There is an online store Cinderella Of Boston, that sells shoes size 2 to 5 1/2. They even accept a fax outline of your feet to help you get the right size.

  20. 20
    January 18th, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Hey everyone! Check out the ”Carrie” shoe in leather at Guess. It is a bit pricier then most shoes… but I always go back to them! I have a dozen cheap plastic heels I’ve bought at Aldo and other places… and they tear my feet apart with blisters all the time! Don’t be fooled by the cheap prices and pretty colours. Aldo does have some beautiful shoes from Italy and Brazil. But do not buy the plastic ones! Every time I go out, and it comes time to decide what shoes to wear, I go for the Guess ones or other leather ones with some give because I know after a few hours I won’t be crawling home like I do when I wear the plastic ones. They take a few wears to break in, but they are amazing! Good-luck my fellow Shoe-aholics!

  21. 21
    January 18th, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Might I add, they look really hot as well :)

  22. 22
    January 28th, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    I see a lot of celebrities wearing high heels that look a size too big… what’s up with that ?? what is the benefit ?

  23. 23
    February 2nd, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    I agree with the posters who have said that those peeptoes can only really be used for partying/going out, and definitely not at the workplace. Although, I guess that really depends on what type of job you have!

    A couple weeks ago, I purchased some black leather pumps by Nine West at TJ Maxx for $30. They are the same as these shoes ( http://piperlime.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=4016&vid=0&pid=621413&scid=621413002 ). They’re platforms, and the heels are relatively high, but I think they’re cute enough to wear out, and tame enough to wear to interviews and work (although I’m not 100% confident about this… they might be too high?). What do you all think?

  24. 24
    February 2nd, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    ^oops, I posted that in the wrong post, please disregard!

  25. 25
    March 12th, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    1 love your shoes
    not only do i love them i want them

  26. 26
    April 16th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    What about tips for us girls with skinny ankles ? or big feet ? What heel would best suport a weak ankle?

  27. 27
    May 28th, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    thanks a lot!!! i have a question about a specific pair of heels. they fit nicely but i don’t know if the material is good for long term use. it’s a pair of steve madden trinities in a really cool color but they are suede. is suede OK???

  28. 28
    July 10th, 2010 at 11:21 am

    My feet are too wide for like any shoes! help!

  29. 29
    July 12th, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    I agree with you totally. I love to wear heels its just I have fat feet so I have to go for the most expensive sometimes.

  30. 30
    December 1st, 2010 at 1:10 am

    I’m having a hard time figuring out the width of shoes, do you know anything about this? I wanna be able to get into some real nice heels I got but they definitely are not working out as they are too narrow. I havent had this problem before but I think its because they were bought from the US and I’m in the UK. I tried using http://www.ukshoesizeconversion.com but I’m not too sure if I’m missing something as to how to use it. I know my shoe SIZE but I do not know my width, any ideas?

  31. 31
    April 16th, 2011 at 5:46 am

    i am 20 and have not owned a single pair of high heels. i am kind of tall so i feel kind of awkward to wear them. i am the youngest among all my sisters and the tallest so i kind of don’t do high heels for the fear of looking like a giant. but now i really want to get a pair

  32. 32
    July 26th, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    i think these are very good tips for begginers and as well as the profetionals THANKS 4 SHARING YOUR TIPS :D!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. 33
    September 8th, 2011 at 5:13 am

    This is generally a good overview. What I really want to know (that was not addressed here) is if brands like “Wild Diva” or “Bakers” or other generic brands of heels are bad for your feet compared to expensive brands like Michael Kors or Jessica Simpson or Steve Madden/Madden Girl. You talked about quality and how to distinguish long lasting pairs from one time occasional heels, but say for instance I buy a pair of Steve Maddens insole lining is not leather. If I have a pair of generic heels like Wild Diva (that can be bought anywhere) and those have leather insoles does that mean the latter are better than the former?

  34. 34
    November 2nd, 2011 at 1:52 am

    Hi,
    Great article, I stumbled across it while looking for a place to buy some really comfy heels on my upcoming trip to Miami (I’m from Toronto)

    The tip about the heel with a grip is definitely something I learned the hard way. It is so cumbersome and difficult to walk in shoes with no grip! Especially on a thin stiletto heel, you actually have to concentrate on how you are walking instead of breezing around effortlessly.

    I also think the width of the heel itself is important to consider, some people are not comfortable walking in thin heels especially since some thinner heels can be more wobbly and unstable.

    When you walk around in the shoes making sure they are not rubbing or squeezing any area of your foot it is important because even if it doesn’t seem to be a big deal at first, in half an hour your feet will be sore! Some strappy shoes can rub your toes the wrong way, some peep toe heels can also squeeze around your toes if you don’t find the right pair and some sling back straps can slide, become misplaces and rub the back of your heel raw. The inside material of the shoe is key! Any rough edges or hard material can be very painful. I have actually had a pair of what seemed like comfy heels in the store make my feet bleed! ….the price women pay for being fashionable lol

    I find that if you want to buy very high heels, the most comfortable ones are platforms because they allow your foot to be level instead of on an awkward downward slant.

    Enough cushioning on the inside of the shoe is very important, but you can also add an insole to make them more comfortable.

    I used to have the MOST comfortable pair of heels but after years of wearing them the heel broke. They were 3-4 inch platforms open back with a thicker heel and one leather strap over the toes. I could walk forever in those Aldo shoes but since then my quest to find comfy shoes have fallen flat.

    If anyone knows any great but affordable places to get some stylish high platform pumps in Miami please let me know.

  35. 35
    December 13th, 2011 at 3:11 am

    i were 6 inch heels i just idoor them as wel as ugg boots

  36. 36
    December 19th, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Hi im 16 and short i wear a size 3 to 4 depending on the shoe. Everywhere i look for shoes they look like kids shoes especially the heels. Either that or they are in the UK or extremely expensive. Please help me find some heels i can wear and afford!!!

  37. 37
    February 16th, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Hi yes iam 5’1 and I wear a size 5 1/2 in heels but I have trouble finding something that actually fits me because I have a high arch. Can u please help me. :))

  38. 38
    April 14th, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Very useful information !

  39. 39
    June 19th, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    What if i get a cheap imitation of what’s trending, should i still get them?

  40. 40
    October 26th, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Shoes are extremely hit or miss. I am a huge fan of payless. The problem with a store like that is they can either wind up being incredibly comfortable, or horribly uncomfortable. My favorite patent black heels are from there that I wear at work almost every day were about $20 from there.
    Also, the more you wear shoes, typically the more comfortable they become. Unfortunately sometimes after we have the experience of wearing painful shoes we are less likely to wear them again/often!!

  41. 41
    October 26th, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    DSW seems to be a great place for value. However, there seems to be some quality issues lately with straps breaking, beads falling off, etc. They are pretty good about taking them back though.

  42. 42
    December 2nd, 2012 at 9:05 am

    hello I wonder if the arch (or inner arch) must touch the insole lining or if it is normal not to touch and see the open space between the foot and shoe. thank you

  43. 43
    April 21st, 2013 at 2:27 am

    Very helpful!!
    Thanks,
    Jeanie

  44. 44
    August 30th, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I wear a 9.5 in tennis shoes. I had a pair of high heeled boots once that were a 7.5. I would like another party but am not sure of what size I wear. Help

  45. 45
    October 14th, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    I just bought cole haan high heels and they’re amazing. They also repair their shoes: http://www.colehaan.com/restoration-services.html
    I also check out bloomindales for sales and 6pm.com and zappos.com.
    I also heard that stitching rather then gluing the sole is better?

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