How to Find Comfortable Shoes

Relief at last! Foolproof tips on picking comfortable pumps, flats, and sandals.

  • Ashley Tate

Tips for Finding a Comfortable Pump

  • Hold the shoe at the heel and toe areas. The sole should be flexible and bend at the front of the arch but have a stiff bottom through the arch.
  • Choose a pump with a high heel that is directly underneath the center of your heel. If it is too far forward or at the back of the shoe, you'll have balance problems.
  • Look for false fronts. "A pointy-toe shoe with an area that is much longer than your toes has a false front. It keeps your toes from being squished," says Suzanne Levine, a podiatric surgeon in New York City.
  • Make sure the toe area is wide enough through the ball of your foot.
  • Note that a wedge shoe distributes your weight more evenly and offers support all the way through the foot. Be aware, however, that the limited sole flexibility of a wedge increases the risk of rolling your ankle over the side.
  • Test a shoe for cushioning by pressing a finger into the ball area. It should have a little give or a slightly padded feel.
  • Avoid synthetics. Wear shoes with leather, suede, or fabric uppers. These materials breathe, which lessens the chance of blistering.
 

Tips for Finding a Comfortable Flat

  • Look for sturdy construction. "Try to push in the area around the heel," says Meghan Cleary, author of The Perfect Fit: What Your Shoes Say About You (Chronicle Books, $13, amazon.com). "If the heel collapses enough to touch the insole, the shoe is not supportive."
  • Hold each end of a shoe and try to twist it. If the shoe bends too much, it won't be supportive.
  • Look for flats with a little bit of a heel if you have high arches. Heels provide relief from foot pain.
  • Buy shoes with leather or rubber soles for optimum shock absorption.
  • Wear only shoes that have leather or suede insoles. Breathable and pliable, they help prevent chafing and blistering, and they mold to the feet.
  • Search for round-toe flats. They follow the shape of the foot and allow the toes to move.
  • Avoid slippage and cuts on your heel by finding a shoe with a back that fits snugly and holds your foot securely.
 

Tips for Finding a Blister-Proof Sandal

  • Avoid wobbly shoes. Examine a shoe's quality by looking at how it sits on a table. A well-built shoe will be balanced and look stable when standing on its own.
  • Find stack heels that have a broad heel tap (base), which allows for better shock absorption. You will also be steadier on your feet.
  • "Stay away from backless shoes, such as thongs and slides, because they cause pain in the balls of the feet," says Suzanne Levine. Instead, look for a sandal with straps that hit just below the ankle (not encircling it). These will help stabilize the foot and hold it securely.
  • Wear only sandals that have leather or suede-lined straps to prevent chafing.
  • Make sure the toe-box area is wide enough for the broadest part of your foot.
  • Look for platform shoes that give the illusion of a higher heel without the feel of it.
  • Examine the insides of straps for seams and other construction details that might dig into feet.