I love a classy pair of high heels! But, one of the most unexpected and troubling things I’ve found about aging is that wearing stylish shoes is no longer as easy as it once was. This post that outlines 5 ways to keep wearing high heeled shoes comfortably after 40 should keep you wearing your stylish shoes for years to come. It seems that 40 plus years of age, a lifetime of wearing high heels and perhaps a little bit of arthritis has taken a toll. I now struggle with sore feet, occasional plantar fasciitis and modest bunions that make wearing heels – and even some flats – painful and difficult.
Honestly, it makes me feel ancient just to write the paragraph above. When I was a younger woman, I thought that older women simply got less fashionable with time, or perhaps they just gave up trying. But as it turns out, that’s probably not why. Millions of women just like us face these challenges. But, there are solutions.
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Don’t give up, ladies! You are not doomed to a life of ugly, matronly shoes! Below I outline steps for improving the health of your feet and even recommend some shoe brands that I’ve found to help keep you in the fashionable shoe game for many years to come.
Strengthen Your Feet
The fact is our muscles and bones deteriorate as we get older. This is even more accelerated if regular exercise is not part of our lifestyles. And, our feet are no exception. The tendons and ligaments in our feet also grow tighter and weaker with age. This can cause changes in the arches of your feet, which may eventually make your feet longer or wider.
I was surprised to realize in my late 40s that one of my feet had grown a half size larger than the other. It’s no wonder I had trouble finding shoes that felt right!
A quick Google search will produce many articles about specific exercises that will strengthen your feet. But my two favorite ways are actually more holistic than methods that focus only on the feet. Rather, they are ways that help the entire body stay strong and flexible including the feet.
First, ladies, get up and walk. It’s no secret that exercise is great for keeping you young and healthy. Walking is low impact and appropriate for all ages. It gives your feet a great workout and can be accomplished almost anywhere for free. Don’t like sweating? No, problem! Take a walk in the mall while perusing your favorite stores. Or, if you’re a person who enjoys the outdoors take walks on walking trails, in your neighborhood or in the park. It’s OK if you haven’t exercised much in the past, just put on some good supportive shoes and take a walk every day.
Second, do yoga. There are many forms of yoga to choose from and most forms emphasize strength, balance and flexibility in the entire body. If you’re new to yoga and are over 40, consider a beginner’s class in Hatha Yoga. Lately, I’ve noticed an abundance of Gentle Yoga classes, which are usually based on Hatha Yoga and emphasize stretching and flexibility. Yoga poses give your feet a great workout. For example, Downward Facing Dog (also called Adho Mukha Svanasana), stretches your hips, hamstrings, calves, ankles and feet.
I like recommending yoga for strengthening your feet because muscles and tendons do not operate in isolation. Yoga poses focus on entire areas, rather than one or two isolated muscles.
Another thing that happens to your feet as they get older is that the skin on your feet can change. Many people have less cushioning on the pads of their feet and experience dry skin. Problems with your toes and joints, such as hammertoe and bunions, can cause blisters, callouses or corns to form. These are both painful and somewhat unattractive, making us embarrassed to show our feet.
While exercising our feet can help, as I discuss above. It’s also important to pamper your feet! If possible, head to the nail salon every once in a while for a pedicure to remove excess skin, soften callouses and keep your feet and toes looking and feeling as beautiful as the rest of you. I also like to keep a pumice stone in the shower and use it while bathing a couple of times per week. You’ll be amazed what a difference this small inexpensive step makes in keeping your feet soft and young.
Another way to pamper your feet is through massage. Foot spas are prevalent these days, and they don’t tend to be expensive. For about $25, a professional will massage your feet for an hour, leaving them feeling absolutely wonderful!
A tennis ball also makes a great self-massage tool. Simply keep a tennis ball handy. Whenever your feet are feeling sore, put the tennis ball on the floor and roll it around under your foot (this heavenly tip also works great on your neck, shoulders and back!).
Wear Corrective Shoes When Style Doesn’t Matter
OK, I know, many of the shoes that are designed to comfort and protect sore feet are not always terribly stylish. But, here’s an interesting work around. Wear corrective shoes, such as those advertised to be ergonomically correct, when style doesn’t matter as much.
I have a pair of flip flops from Vionic Shoes. While Vionic does actually make some cute shoes, this particular pair is not! I’ve had this pair of black and gray utilitarian beauties for around ten years. But, Good Lord are they comfortable!
After a long day in business shoes, there is nothing more comfortable than realigning my feet in my favorite ergonomically correct flip flops. Psssst… Vionic makes slippers as well.
Don’t be Afraid of Bunion Surgery
The first thing we all do when we notice a problem is Google it. This is both a blessing and a curse of the Internet. So when I started noticing a bony protrusion on the big knuckle of my right foot, of course I looked it up. Turns out it was a bunion. Blessedly it was only a second cousin to some of the truly painful looking bunions I saw in my searching. But, it was a bunion nonetheless and it made wearing shoes quite painful. So, I had it corrected. And, guess what? It wasn’t that bad. A couple of visits to the Podiatrist, followed by a brief outpatient surgery, followed by about one week of recovery time. I did have to wear my foot in a special surgical boot for about four weeks following. But, this was nothing more than a minor inconvenience. And, bye bye bunion
Find Shoes Made for Your Conditions
I’ve spent a lot of words writing about things you can do to help your feet. You should do all of them. And finally, you should buy great-looking stylish shoes! Nothing says “old lady” like unstylish shoes. So, let’s not go there.
Consider the following kinds of shoes, that allow more support and comfort for your feet:
Wedges provide more support for your feet than traditional heels. In addition, wedges tend to have a small platform, which makes your the slope of your foot more gradual in the shoe.
Traditional pumps tend to provide little room for your toes to spread out. Peep toe shoes allow a little more room and are often more comfortable.
Again, open toe sandals allow your feet to spread out, just make sure that the straps are supportive for your feet and ankles.
Look for shoes with a deeper toe box. This provides more room for your toes and the leather of the shoe will not cut across the top of your hallux metatarsal phalangeal (MTP) joint (the joint connecting the big toe).
I’ve already mentioned Vionic Shoes. Their marketing materials promote special “three-zone comfort and ultimate arch support” and I can attest that every pair I’ve tried have been comfortable and worked well for me.
I recently found another brand called Sole Bliss. Reportedly worn by Camilla Parker Bowles and other members of the British Royal Family, Sole Bliss shoes are designed with style in mind for individuals with bunions and wide feet. I tried a pair. They are pricey but worth it.
Calla, Rockport and Dr. Scholl’s also make some very nice stylish ladies shoes. All of these brands are designed for optimal comfort.
Do you have a great stylish shoe brand that would helpful to our readers? If so, post it in the comments below!