When I visited my friend, a French actress, in Paris a few years ago, she imparted some of the best wisdom I’ve ever received. No, it wasn’t another secret reason why French women don’t get fat: it was how to properly walk in stiletto heels and not look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame while doing it.
Based on my friend’s advice and my own trials and errors (a lot of errors!), I’ve learned that walking in heels takes a lot of practice and patience. But if you’re willing to commit, you can be prancing like a Parisian in no time.
Here is a comprehensive guide to mastering your stride:
Step 1: Pick the right pair
It might seem obvious, but choosing the right shoe is half the battle. This means that you should only buy pairs that are both stylish and comfortable: trust me, if they give you blisters they will be banished to the back of your closet forever. (I have about ten pairs hiding in the corner right now.)
Therefore, it’s always a good idea to take a little stroll around the store before purchasing. Make sure there are no tight spots around the heel bone and toe line, and that the size of the heel truly is thick enough to support your weight when you walk.
Luckily, if you are new to wearing heels (or are just plain afraid of them) now is a great time to try them out. Although the platform stilettos this season look intimidating, they are surprisingly user-friendly. The slight platform under the toe not only creates the illusion that the heels are taller than they actually are, but it also serves as a shock absorber for the ball of your foot. And as any guy can tell you, it’s imperative to protect your balls.
Step 2: Confidence
So you’ve found a fab pair of shoes, now what? As with any other article of clothing, you have to wear the heels; they should not wear you. You can have the hottest pair of shoes off the runway, but if you don’t think you can pull them off, you won’t. Simple as that.
Step 3: Posture
This should apply at all times, but how you hold yourself is key. Posture is crucial for walking in heels because without it, you will a) risk toppling over face first into the gutter, b) look like the aforementioned Hunchback of Notre Dame and c) completely ruin all chances of looking remotely sexy in that pair of pumps you just blew your paycheck on.
To acquire the right posture, roll your shoulders back and down; this will open up your chest area and help to elongate your neck. Next, imagine a cord is running up your spine and through the top of your skull, and that it is gently pulling you up toward the ceiling. (Don’t force this. You should imagine that your head is floating just above the rest of your body.) Then lift your chin so that your eye gaze is straight ahead (not down!), tuck your butt under just a tad like they told you to in ballet class, and voilá. You have taken the first step toward proper posture.
Step 4: Mentality
You should walk in your heels as if you are walking in a pair of Converse sneakers: heel to toe, in full strides. A lot of women toddle around on the balls of their feet because they think increased surface area will reduce the risk of falling. But trust me on this one: just because the heels are slim doesn’t mean they’ll break. You must let your heels hit the pavement first, it not only helps you to maintain your balance, but also takes some of the burden off the balls of your feet.
Step 5: Momentum
Now that you’re walking heel to toe, you have to put some weight behind it. I see a lot of ladies lifting up from the knee as they walk in heels, and it looks like they’re trying to stomp cockroaches or get gum off their shoes, neither of which is the least bit attractive.
Instead, you should lead from the hip, and your calf and foot should swing out as if from a hinge in your knee. This allows you to smoothly transfer the weight from the heel to the toe as you walk, and helps to create momentum as you move forward. Make sure your ankles and knees are not rigid, so that you can properly absorb the impact of each step.
Once you feel comfortable doing this, you can add a little thrust of the hip like the pros do (watch a runway show or Beyoncé for tips). Just don’t thrust too hard, or you’ll throw out your hip.
Step 6: Ease
Last but not least, try to relax. The higher your heels are, the more trepidation you’ll have when walking, so make sure your shoulders and neck don’t cramp up to compensate. Loosen your arms as you walk, let your hips sway a bit, and let a little bounce into your step.
If learning to walk properly in heels sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. But you know what? It’s worth it. It’s nice to be able to look at a four-inch pair of stilettos and know that, with practice, you can work them like Karlie Kloss.
Larkin Clark is an actress and writer based in New York. To read more or contact Larkin, visit larkinclark.com.