Solvitur Ambulando

Manolo says, one of the Manolo’s many internet friends has asked the Manolo the question.

Dear Manolo,

How do you walk gracefully in a pair of beautiful high heels? I’ve never learned to walk in them because I always thought I was too tall until I started reading your column. But when I try to walk in them or even stand up in them, I resemble an ungainly water buffalo, and it is very hard to stay upright. Please help!

Thank you,

Kim

How does one get to the Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

But in seriousness, the Manolo cannot enough recomend simply putting the shoes on the feets and striding out into the world, and doing this over and over again until the walking in the heels becomes the second nature.

However, if more guidance is needed, you may perhaps try walking like the native American scout, smoothly, heel-to-the-toe, while swinging the arms for balance and keeping the toes pointed to the front.

Start with the chunky heeled shoes for the balance and then move to the stilletos once you have mastered the basic stride.

Soon, with the practice you will be able to walk confidently in shoes like these beautiful open-toed pumps from the Giuseppe Zanoti.
I6208 from Giuseppe Zanotti    Manolo Likes!  Click!

15 Responses to “Solvitur Ambulando”

  1. Earth Girl October 26, 2006 at 6:51 pm #

    If you are past toddlerhood, something is definitely wrong with the shoe when you have to practice walking!

  2. Jan October 26, 2006 at 7:05 pm #

    Oh, I must completely disagree with the Earth Girl. The elegant lady must practice, practice, practice more things than merely walking the shoes of the height. I think the Manolo has given the most perfect advice. I would only add that it pays to watch the other ladies as they walk to see what they do with their arms, body and head that makes them look less like the buffalo of the water. I have heard the sage advice that one should imagine a string is attached to the top of one’s head, pulling upward so that the body is tall and graceful.

  3. Earth Girl October 26, 2006 at 7:12 pm #

    Jan, I agree that all women (men too) should practice walking with grace, which is best learned in adolescence. The string image is for posture. Kim did not have trouble walking until she decided to change footwear.

  4. Dani October 26, 2006 at 9:54 pm #

    I agree it takes practice. I saw a terrific group of high-school age ladies in a choir last year, and when they tromped off the stage, it was indeed hard on the ears, and (very slightly) marred their otherwise polished image. My daughter got her first pair of kitten heels and we are already working on heel-toe, heel-toe.

  5. Dora Long October 26, 2006 at 10:06 pm #

    Ah, the learning how to proceed with grace into the world of womanly footwear- it does indeed take the practice. The mother of the Dora did make use of the books on the head, and the image of the string… and the practice. While the Dora may have cursed her at the time, she is now most grateful that the Mamma took the time. As with the daughter of the Dani, we start with the kitten heel and work up. The beloved daughter of the Dora is in the same stage – we work at it, as it seems other young ladies these days are not taught these things! The horror, the poor posture!

    Head up, shoulders back and heel toe dear girl-

  6. Lindsey October 26, 2006 at 10:34 pm #

    Indeed, it is practice that makes perfect. Or at least prevents people from pointing and staring. I’ve been wearing 3 and 4 inch heels for all of my 40s, and the fact that I’m a man in a corporate job hasn’t kept me from enjoying the footwear I prefer. One just has to do what one does with confidence. And practice certainly helps.

  7. beloml October 27, 2006 at 9:53 am #

    If she has to practice walking, there’s something wrong. Pick a shoe that fits!

  8. dillene October 27, 2006 at 9:54 am #

    I wish I could wear high heels, but I find them excruciatingly painful. In my job, I can walk up to 3 miles a day (I’ve tracked it before), and the last time I made the mistake of wearing heels to work I was tempted to saw my feet off at the ankles by lunchtime.

  9. Sally October 27, 2006 at 10:10 am #

    Yes I have to say that what dillene has mentioned can be a real issue. You have to wear the right shoes for the right occasions, and I can see that for some long distance walking wouldn’t be confortible in heels. I guess it’s horses for courses. I don’t think I could do 3 miles in a day in heels.

  10. Kathy October 27, 2006 at 11:43 am #

    Practice does make perfect, and I agree with all that’s been said here, but as one who is much like Kim in having to learn how to walk in these things later in life, I have one thing to add that makes a real difference: use your hips. When I started wearing heels on a regular basis a few years ago, I would walk as I would when I was wearing flats—meaning that even though I would walk heel to toe, I was still balancing myself out as if I were flat-footed, which, of course, meant I was tottering on most occasions. This didn’t do much for my confidence in terms of staying upright and not tripping, even if I did love what the heels did for my derriere’s appearance. Once I realized that adding even the slightest swing of the hips helped my balance tremendously, I no longer fear and dread the heels. This does not necessarily mean that one needs to emulate Marilyn Monroe on the train platform in “Some Like It Hot,” but it does help to swing those hips at least a little bit.

    Of course, I’m sure other women figured this out long before I did, but I thought it was worth mentioning. ;)

  11. Kim October 27, 2006 at 3:22 pm #

    Thank you all for the advice and to the Manolo for posting my question! I think the “hip tip” might help, as balance is my main problem. It’s nice to know that this is something that can be taught and learned.

  12. AskMom October 28, 2006 at 2:42 am #

    When Mom was a lobbyist in Washington she would walk many, many miles every day in her heels. If they truly fit, that is not a problem. Nor is the number of hours on your feet, nor even running, as the Eastern European ladies prove in their races in heels. Fit, it is all about the fit. Good shoes that fit right help you walk like a queen, run like the wind and dance all night. And men will adore you if you can move quickly and gracefully in heels. Try it, you will love it.

  13. RosieKate October 29, 2006 at 3:34 pm #

    I’m coming out of lurking not to give advice on how to walk in heels but to say that isn’t it heartwarming that the Manolo, in all his wiseness and super fantastic-ness, has inspired a tall girl to go forth in heels? As a tall girl myself (5’10″) who used to shrink away (ha!) from anything but a kitten heel, it was a wonderful day when I realized that heels are indeed a very good thing. You can do it Kim! Walk tall!

  14. Hunt October 30, 2006 at 12:12 pm #

    I can’t help but comment here, Zeno, Augustine or the Tortoise notwithstanding. The beauty of the shoes The Manolo has posted with this article impels me to write.

    The following comments are specific to heels greater than 2.5 inches.

    Walking properly and gracefully does take practice. So practice.

    Obtain a shoe that fits correctly.

    Once those two items are accomplished, there are a few other items that I perform on my new shoes before I actually wear them in the public and real world. Or in private. (You know what I mean.)

    First, when I try them on, I am generally on carpet. Carpet may not be the flooring on which I plan to wear the shoes.

    Based on where I expect to wear them, I have the following things done to them. It doesn’t matter if they are $100 pair of heels or a $500 pair, taking care of my shoes is important. Everything I wear above them depends upon them.

    I go to my cobbler. In your area this may be a little shoe hospital, bootmaker, etc. Go someplace that smells like bootblack and has folks behind the counter who have dingy hands.

    I have seldom bought a pair of shoes with “real” heels on them. (Call me provincial.) They have a piece of plastic. (Although I have bought shoes that had the
    plastic heel in place and the ‘extra heels’ in the box WERE rubber.)

    I have the plastic heels replaced with a rubber heel. Replace this heel often if you are walking on concrete or other abrasive flooring. It only costs a few bucks
    to put on the rubber heel (may be a synthetic rubber, but has ‘give’ versus the plastic heel that is hard and wears away easily).

    Then, depending on where I expect to be wearing the heels I have a half-sole put on, either leather or a ribbed neoprene.

    Particularly if you plan to ambulate across tile, polished granite or any very slick surface, you will want the ribbed neoprene half-sole. The leather looks better at the Opera, the neoprene works well in city life. Full soles are fine, too, if you can afford
    them.

    I also have the shoe doctor put a ‘nail’ in the toe. This is a small brass tack with broken ridges or impressions. The purpose of this nail is to hold the half-sole in place firmly and to give the foot a ‘gripping’ point beyond the ball of the foot. It allows your toes to work and protects the toe of your shoe.

    Between the rubber heel and the brass nail, the shoe will ‘grip’ the surface and the foot will flex while walking correctly.

    Alrighty. That’s the outside of the shoe.

    On the inside:

    In heels over 3 inches, you will be standing primarily on the ball of your foot. This causes extreme and high-point pressure on the joints between the metatarsals (particularly the first, second and third) and the phalanges. This pressure can extend to the medial and intermediate cuneiform, as well. This makes your whole foot uncomfortable.

    To relieve this, I use a gel pad for the front half of the shoe (a “forefoot pad”). Additionally, for my stilettos, I prefer a specific type of pad, which is a forefoot pad with metatarsal “dome”. The “dome” can be made of gel. This may be difficult to find (I’m sorry, I don’t have a brand name). The “dome” is like a small ‘roll’ or cushion that fits under the toes and against the front of the ball of the foot.

    This device aids in redistributing the impact of walking and standing across the ball of the foot. This type of pad will significantly lower the pressure feeling or numbness that some experience after several hours of wearing “high” heels.

    Keep your feet, legs and back in good shape. Do exercise your lower back, your calves and your feet (tiptoe stances up and down and toe flex motions).

    Watch your weight.

    Have pedicures regularly to remove dead skin and nails which can cause problems with shoe fit and with walking.

    Take care of your shoes. If you are not willing to polish and condition them, take them to a shoe hospital. The prices are usually reasonable.

    I apologize for the wordiness here. I could blather on for another twenty paragraphs or so, but I think this gets to the gist of the topic of ‘walking in heels’. Some may disagree with my findings and that’s fine. I had to learn this as adult and I wish I knew more.

    These procedures work for me and may work for you. Worth a try if you are new to heels or never found them comfortable.

    Think how great you’ll look in ‘em!

  15. Medici November 3, 2006 at 3:00 am #

    Congratulations, Kim, on celebrating your beautiful self and attempting something new. Really, we don’t always get the right (whatever) the first time we practice, but I know you’ll soon be donning those art pieces designed by the Maestro Blahnik, and the birkenstockers and cloggers will growl with jealousy as you pass by in the silk and leather confections that encase your divine feet!