The problem with some of the most comfortable heels on the market is they tend to look comfortable—and downright orthopedic. Wearing stylish sky-high stilettos often comes at a price, though, (think blisters and back pain). But thanks to modern cushioning and softer materials, there are smart alternatives to wobbly, pencil-thin heels. Our top pick overall, Cole Haan Grand Ambition Pump, proves the point with a chic silhouette and anatomically contoured footbed that cradles your foot.
To find the most comfortable heels that don’t sacrifice style, we tapped the expertise of Forbes Vetted senior fashion editor, Kari Molvar, who has written extensively about footwear and rigorously tested everything from sandals to sneakers firsthand, and we also consulted with New York City podiatrist Dr. Krista Ammirati Archer. Here, 11 of the most comfortable heels that we highly recommend, and for more options, we also have guides to the best ballet flats and women’s loafers.
What To Look For In The Most Comfortable Heels
Although the style and look depend on personal preference, certain factors provide a variety of comfort levels. Height and incline, as well as fit and materials, all play a role in how your feet feel at the end of the day. New York City podiatrist Dr. Krista Ammirati Archer, ABMSP, points out that “balance, stability and foot positioning combine for the most comfort.” Here’s what else to keep in mind:
When it comes to heels, the higher the back, the more pressure it places on the ball or front of your feet and toes. A platform in the front can help lower the incline, which alleviates the pressure on the ball while still giving you plenty of height. Block heels and kitten heels are great options for lower heel heights.
When it comes to your comfort, the materials are just as important as the heel height and design of your shoe. Dr. Archer recommends investing in soft leather without any seams in the forefoot toe box. Genuine leather is easier to break in than other materials, which means it softens over time and conforms to the shape of your foot, ultimately resulting in a comfortable fit. “In general,” she says, “leather, cotton mesh or canvas allow the best circulation.”
One of the main culprits of an uncomfortable shoe is a poor fit. “Shoe sizes vary depending on the designer,” Dr. Archer says, adding that, “sometimes they’re very different.” She recommends getting your feet measured regularly, as your size can change over time. “Most women’s shoe size changes after having kids, and with the progression of deformities like bunions or hammertoes.” She notes that a proper foot measurement includes both your length and width sizes.
What Is The Most Comfortable Heel Type?
Dr. Archer says in order of comfort, she would recommend starting with a wedge or a platform, then a block heel, a kitten heel, and then a stiletto. However, you always have options. If you love a certain heel without any cushioning, use a sole insert.
How Do You Select Higher Heels That Are Also Comfortable?
Oftentimes, the primary benefit of heels is the boost in height it gives you. So if you’re in the market for higher heels but you’re also looking to feel comfortable, consider shopping for a platform with a lower incline. Another option, according to Dr. Archer, is “wedge styles, which have a thick sole under forefoot, because they can reduce the slope from heel to toe, thereby increasing the level of comfort.”
What Other Design Features Make A Heel More Comfortable?
Aside from the heel high, material and incline, there are other design features that can make a shoe fit better and feel more comfortable. Dr. Archer says, “wide-size options are always great to ensure that you are not putting pressure on the nerves between the toes.” She also recommends heels with straps to provide ankle support and those with a wide or square-shaped toe box rather than a point to allow your feet room to spread out.