As Marilyn Monroe once famously said, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” But first, the girl must conquer the shoes (and we’re pretty certain Marilyn didn’t mean anything as easy as ballet flats). Try one—or all—of these easy tips, and you’ll find yourself a step or two closer to high-heel mastery.

By Rebecca Daly
Updated January 27, 2016
Jens Mortensen
Jens Mortensen


Yes, that gorgeous pair on sale that's only a half-size too big is tempting, but even a seemingly tiny discrepancy is going to affect your ambulatory ability. Too small and you’ll wince in pain with each step, too big and your foot will slip and slide in the shoe, forcing you move in awkward, unnatural ways. Pick heels that fit snuggly but comfortably (they shouldn’t move around on your feet at all, but they also shouldn’t pinch), and have an arch that lines up with your foot’s for maximum support.


You need not have a pair pumps made just for you to achieve a customized fit. There is an easier solution, and it’s much cheaper than going bespoke. After testing out new shoes once or twice, make note of any trouble spots. Is your heel slipping? Is a strap cutting into your little toe? Maybe a single-sole style (as opposed to more padded platforms) doesn’t provide enough cushioning? There are a slew of insole options that will make a surprisingly big difference for just a few dollars.


If you don’t wear a heel above one inch on the regular, the actual mechanics of taking steps can feel a little confusing, but the truth is there’s nothing to it. Resist the urge to walk in a “special” way or to want to put your whole foot down at once. Take steps as normal, landing on your heel first (we promise that even the slimmest of spikes will support you) and rocking forward onto the ball of your feet, exactly the way you would in flats or when barefoot. This eases the amount of shock the front of your foot has to absorb, and it also creates a natural, comfortable-in-heels gait.


A potential pitfall is turning your footwear into a full-body issue. Heels shift your balance forward, and it’s natural to try to correct by leaning back—but this looks strange and creates even weirder posture. Until you feel comfortable in them, heels will slow you down, in which case it’s tempting to lean forward to try to speed up. If you feel your balance shifting above your waist, engage your core to straighten to a normal posture. Practice makes perfect—your first few ventures will feel a little odd, but everything will become second nature in time. Still having trouble? Try one of these easy exercises to build your balance, and you’ll be stepping out in stilettos in no time.