Stiletto Training

Keep Your Shoes On

Despite being incredibly busy, I have tried to find some balance in life by religiously attending salsa classes, I started with two left feet to become someone who can follow quite a technical routine. Being a heel wearer, I’ve begrudgingly had to accept flats (for some time at least), and had to relearn how to use my muscles. Over time my dance shoes have become more adventurous and I’m comfortable with a reasonably high heel, in the process I’ve learnt so much too!


Putting my feet up at salsa classes, wearing my Bloch dance shoes.

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Heel thyself

There is no denying that a night out in heels will more taxing on the muscles, it takes a lot more effort to reach the same end goals compared to flat shoes, yes it’s great as it means more calories burnt! That does come at a bit of a price though, I’m sure we have all felt that burn in our calves and thighs after a night out or a day shopping in our favourite shoes, unexpectedly the world of sports science has the answers.

What do these possibly have to do with each other? Keep reading to find out!
Image left used with permission © Rupert Sanderson 2016, image right used under Creative Commons License Credit:Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

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Muscle Memory

The old saying goes it’s just like riding a bike, and this idiom is very true for many things we take for granted in our every day lives. It defines the concept that it’s practically impossible to unlearn actions that are programmed into our muscles, for example walking, cycling or swimming. The way heels alter your body does mean your muscles work differently, I’ve talked about how ankles work harder, and you have to strut changing the way your hips and pelvic floor move, all of this will eventually be pulled together into one sleek walk just like a well trained orchestra.

Many of you will have come across the dilemma when going on a night out, you want to go out in those killer heels, yet know that your heels are too unsteady to dance in. One solution is to slip them off and dance barefoot, but not all places like you doing that, besides who wants to go barefoot on a sticky wet dancefloor. You’re probably wondering how all the top ballroom dancers make it look so easy, its actually just an extension of learning how to walk.


I do wish I could dance as good as them, I probably need to train more. Some of the turns in particular are hard to excecute in flat shoes.
Image used under Creative Commons License by Ailura

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It’s All In The Mind

Do you ever wonder why we wear heels, despite the pain it causes some of us? It seems a obvious solution to simply avoid wearing them, however the raison d’etre behind our choice stems from our more evolved social part of our mind (Freud calls this the super-ego) wanting to conform to social or peer pressure to wear what is expected. As adults these norms are set out by the media, social or otherwise.

Some people seem to live in heels, they never suffer pain and it’s as if its perfectly normal to wear them all the time. It comes from starting the right way, building positively with the right frame of mind. Through good experiences, all of a sudden hurdles seem lower and bridges easier to cross, you will be more likely to succeed. That’s a great ideal, but many of people already have strong negative impressions of heels. The more primitive (Freudian id) part of our mind is the instinctive part, it seeks pleasure and avoids suffering. As such the id strongly remembers negative experiences and will try to avoid such situations again. This puts the id and super-ego in conflict, with the stronger determining the choice of footwear.

Essentially your id and super-ego are your consciences which are managed by the ego. The balance of requirements between the id and ego will determine your endurance of heels. The goal is to maximise the super-ego side and minimise the id
Translated from Original Image by Rainer Zenz

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Ankle Excercises

Following from my previous post, about strutting which was all about ensuring the impact from each step is spread evenly through your joints, your ankles are the crucial first part of this. Our ankles have evolved to have great freedom of movement, it helped us to run and climb when we were hunter gatherers. In modern society we have the luxury of considering aesthetics, and we can enjoy the beauty of heels, however some as I mentioned it’s something to get used over time.If you don’t regularly wear heels, your ankles will be floppy like our hunter gatherer ancestors, doing excercises to strengthen your ankle muscles will allow you to feel more relaxed and in turn more comfortable in heels. So you’ll feel fresh all day and night in heels, instead of being in agony after 1 hour, 6 minutes, and 48 seconds.

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Walk This Way/Talk This Way

I’ve been inspired by the the Run-D.M.C. lyrics, where an experienced lady shows a boy what women want. In the same way that Run-D.M.C. claim theres a special swagger for the boys, there is good reason that models have that typical runway strut, it’s not just pretentiousness. There is a really important function of the “model’s” walk, it’s to correctly spread the impact from each step through your body, it will help protect your joints from wear and breakages, and strengthen and tone muscles However if you try to walk in the same way as with flats, you’ll only end up fighting your heels and potentially causing yourself harm.

Essentially your heels are purposefully throwing you off balance, as a result you have to walk in a special way to retain balance by transferring the force of each step vertically up. Higher heels in particular take no prisoners, in the same way martial artists are trained to always be in the zone, because if you lapse for a moment you’ll get hurt, and the same applies for walking in heels, fall out of the zone and your shoes will punish you.


Couple of clear demonstrations of good technique. Heel first landing of the foot. Knees straight to transfer force up the body, spreading out the impact of each step. Hips swing forward to allow for straight leg, heel-toe movement.

Images used with permission, Left: ©Usien, Right: © Jason Hargrove

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Where to train

There is a place where I visit with a new pair of heels, its the perfect location to break in a new pair of shoes, it also has all the facilities you might need if your shoes tire you out or need adjustments. This place has all the equipment you might need get used to a pair of unfamiliar shoes.

Where I hear you ask where can I find somewhere with perfectly flat and hard surfaces, is dry, heated in winter, air conditioned in summer, always something near to lean on, has a cobbler, with somewhere to sit down and great transport connections? Well, drumroll please…

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Running Before You Walk

Following on from my intro to learning to walk, I shall be going into a little more detail. Platforms and wedges complicate things, so for simplicity I shall ignore them here, and deal only with single sole shoes designs.

From left to right How best to progress in height

When you’re tense you will fatigue faster, that is the cause of discomfort and pain. Crucial to being comfortable in heels is being relaxed and at ease, to become one with your shoes. If you haven’t been in heels for a while, or wearing a height much more than you’re used to, you’ve probably felt that pressure in your calves, that’s one big cause of tension.
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Just like in the bedroom…

…the saying of ‘if it hurts, you ain’t doing it right’ is absolutely true. I believe that there is [at least] one pair of heels out their for each and every person, if you suffer in heels then at least one thing isn’t right. It’s time to fix it and be forever comfy in your stilettos.

Being full of idioms today, it’s important to learn to walk before you run. By that I mean it’s important to recognize that slipping into your dream pair of 12cm Loubs is likely to end in disaster. It doesn’t mean you’ll never achieve that, but instead use your dream shoes as a goal to work towards, the prize being able to strut out in style.

My Sergio Rossi 12cm sculpted wedge heels, I’m getting more comfortable with 11cm and getting closer

Keep coming back over the next few month and I’ll share as much advice and experience as I can, you’ll be walking like a model soon.