December 20, 2008

Ninety percent of American women wear shoes that are too small, and eighty percent of them say that their feet are painful. Women often buy exceedingly small shoes hoping that these shoes will make their feet look smaller and prettier. Actually, the opposite is true. The squeezed feet swell, and the small shoes stretch and wrinkle badly. Women do not wear comfortable high heel shoes because they are impulse buyers and because they do not know that it is possible to make comfortable high heel shoes.

If comfort matters to you, wear custom made high heel shoes rather than ready made high heel shoes. Even if the length and width of the ready made shoes are correct, these shoes are not comfortable because:

You have to devote some time and effort to the making of comfortable high heel shoes. Find a shoemaker who makes shoes for Olympic ice skaters. He has all the skills required in the making of the comfortable high heel shoes. If his labor is too expensive, forget about the custom made shoes. Buy either high heel boots or the so called "Oxford high heel shoes." Both kinds of shoes hold the front part of the foot with their tall uppers, so the custom made insert is not needed. A ready-made gel insert will suffice.

The shoemaker will first make casts of your feet with a resin putty mixed with sand. (Plaster of Paris can be used for flat shoe casts, but its viscosity is too low for high heel shoes.) Next he will make mock-ups of your new shoes. Try them on and curve shanks more by placing very thick layer of adhesive paper tape on the shanks. Pour about 50 cubic centimeters of silicone rubber mixed with 20% of hardener into each mock-up, coat your feet with a very thin layer of vaseline, and walk in the mock-ups for about 10 minutes. The rubber will set after it has filled the voids between your feet and the mock-ups, thus providing information needed to make the lasts. The lasts are usually made of wood and have the same shape as your feet except that they are more curved at the shanks and usually have pointed toe ends. Finally, he will make new shoes on the lasts. The new shoes must have custom made inserts perfectly matching the shape of your feet.

If the shoemaker claims that the casts are not needed because he can find all the information by measuring your feet, he is a cobbler pretending to have the skills of a shoemaker.

Oxford high heel shoe

Oxford high heel shoe

Ready made high
heel shoes are inferior to good, custom made shoes

Ready made high heel shoes are inferior to good, custom made shoes.

Cheap custom made shoes

Cheap custom made shoes

Advanced custom made shoes

These advanced custom made shoes have rubber inserts made from casts, shanks made of synthetic resin reinforced with very stiff carbon fibers, and stainless steel heels.


The custom made inserts are necessary if the uppers are not tall enough to prevent forward sliding of the feet, and squeezing the toes. The inserts also improve comfort by spreading your weight over the entire surface of the ball of your foot and your toes.

Cheap custom
made high heel insert for the right shoe

Cheap custom made high heel insert for the right shoe
(Standard orthotic inserts are more flat.)

Most people walk on the outer edges of their
feet. To keep the heels in the vertical position,
the heels are tilted outside.

Most people walk on the outer edges
of their feet. To keep the heels
in the vertical position, the heels
are tilted outside.


The best shanks are made of epoxy resin reinforced with very stiff carbon fibers. (Glass fibers are almost as good.) These shanks are much stronger than the ordinary steel-reinforced shanks, and they do not deform permanently under heavy loads.

bad shank

This shoe has nearly straight shank
which does not match the arch
of the human foot. The shoe is
unstable (wobbly) due to the bad fit.

good shank

This shoe has very curved
shank. It is much more stable
than the shoe having
nearly straight shank.


Heels covered with leather are vulnerable to scuffing. The best heels are made of bare stainless steel because stainless steel is very strong and scuff resistant. The steel heels will not break when you run in the high heel shoes. Nearly all ready made stiletto heels are flimsy. Women who wear them sway like condemned multi-story buildings. No matter what the shoe is made of, the bottom of its sole (outersole) must be made of rubber to improve traction and to keep water away.

The stainless steel heels can be made by any craftsman who has a lathe. A cheap lathe can make any conical shape. If you want more fancy shape, for example, the hyperboloid shown in the following picture, you need either a numerical lathe, or a very skilled craftsmen.

Cross section of stainless steel heel

Cross section of stainless steel heel (threads are on the left side of the picture)


Plastic caps must be worn on the steel heels to prevent damage to parquets. Before your stainless steel heels are made, go to a local hardware store and buy the smallest, round, plastic caps for furniture legs. Take the caps to the turner who is going to make the heels and tell him that you will wear the caps on the heels. The caps are several times cheaper than standard (Supadance, Topdream, International, Diamant) heel protectors (also known as heel covers and heel guards), and you can replace them with new ones in a matter of seconds with pliers -- no cobbler is needed. The caps are black, but you can paint the caps and the steel heel with nail polish of any color.

Round plastic caps

These round plastic caps are made in France to protect furniture legs, but they can also protect steel heels. They have inner diameter of one centimeter. Retail price of one piece is about 15 cents. Wholesale (min. 50 pieces) price of one piece is about 8 cents.

The best, most durable material for the caps is ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE). It is also known as ultra high density polyethylene (UHDPE), high modulus polyethylene (HMPE) and high performance polyethylene (HPPE).

The maximum practicable height of the heels is the maximum height that does not force you have to bend your knees. If you always wear the highest heels your ankles will tolerate, they may gradually adjust to the very high heels. Some young women can wear such shoes without any training. Other young women need a few months to adjust their ankles to the vertical position. Ankles of older women may need a few years to adjust. Ankles of men adjust very slowly or not at all. On the other hand, men's feet are more sturdy, so they do not wobble and are less prone to injury. The so called feet trainers (, are a waste of time and money. You can get the same results simply by walking in very high heel shoes.

Platform shoes, meaning shoes having the soles thicker than about one inch, can permanently damage your ankles when you loose balance.

The upper (the part of a shoe or a boot above the sole) is vulnerable to scuffing and difficult to repair. Bison and Water Buffalo leathers are the most scuff resistant. Deerskin leathers are the least scuff resistant. Suede shoes and multi-colored shoes are very difficult to maintain. The easiest way to prevent damage to the uppers is to make relatively thick soles (1/2 inch or 1 cm) and thereby keep the uppers above the hard objects that can damage them.

Soles made of elastomers (natural or synthetic rubbers) do not absorb water and are more durable and more comfortable than leather soles. EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam is the best material for midsoles because it is durable, lightweight, and soft.

Some ready made shoes are made entirely of metal alloys or elastomers. Well-made metal shoes can last longer than any other shoes, but the technology necessary to make custom metal or elastomeric shoes is too expensive.

Removable ankle straps are easier to buckle up than fixed ones.

People who have flat feet or heel spurs (painful growths of bone on the underside, front of the heel bone) have to wear either good quality, custom made high heel shoes, or good quality, custom made orthotic inserts. If you have heel spurs and you jog, the high heel shoes are more comfortable than the orthotic inserts.

You can safely wear high heel shoes while driving a car, unless they are extremely high heel, fetish shoes. If you can push the brake pedal all the way to the floor, you can wear the high heel shoes.

Walking downstairs in high heel shoes is dangerous no matter how careful you are. If you have to do it, do it very slowly and hold the handrail.

If you wear shoes while you sleep, you may damage your feet because the shoes impede blood circulation in your feet no matter how comfortable they are.

If a tight shoe scuffs your foot, and the foot does not bleed, coat the scuffed skin with cyanoacrylic glue (also known as crazy glue or instant glue) rather than adhesive bandage. The adhesive bandage is so thick that it scuffs the skin, but the glue layer is thin, very strong, and non-toxic.

Women like pointed toe shoes. Men hate them no matter who wears them.

Shoe angle

Shoe angle


There is no generally accepted method of comparing the height of the high heel shoes because their shapes and sizes vary. The best measure of the height of the high heel shoe is the angle between the front (top, anterior) surface of the foot and the horizontal line. The bigger the angle, the higher the shoe. The best method of measuring the angle is illustrated in the picture:

  1. Take a profile picture of the person wearing the high heel shoes.
  2. Draw line AB at the most steep, front part of the foot below the ankle.
  3. Measure the angle between the horizontal line and the AB line. This angle (equal 103 degrees), which I call the shoe angle is the true measure of the heel height. The bigger the shoe angle, the higher the heel.

Ninety degree shoe angle corresponds with the maximum reasonable heel height for outdoor shoes and with the heel height (no platform, measured at the back of the shoe) equal 60% of your foot length. For example, if your feet are 22 centimeters long, the ninety degree shoe angle corresponds with the heel height of 13.2 centimeters. If the shoes have thick platforms, add platform thickness to the heel height. Internet shoe shops do not provide precise heel height data because the heel height varies with shoe size.


The easiest way to compare our ability to walk in high heel shoes is to measure the maximum shoe angle when the line connecting the most rear (posterior) point on our feet (point C) with the most rear (posterior) point on our calves (point D) is vertical. (If the line CD is not vertical, rotate the picture until the line is vertical.) The maximum shoe angle is the property of our feet, so it should be called the foot angle. If my foot angle is greater than your foot angle, it means that I can walk in higher heels than you.

shoe angle = less than 10 degrees shoe angle = 10 degrees to 60 degrees shoe angle = 60 degrees to 75 degrees shoe angle = 75 degrees to 85 degrees shoe angle = 85 degrees to 95 degrees shoe angle = more than 95 degrees


shoe angle = 67 degrees
heel height = 4 inches

shoe angle = 80 degrees
heel height = 5 inches

shoe angle = 88 degrees
heel height = 6 inches

shoe angle = 102 degrees
heel height = 7 inches

straight knees

Some women can wear...


...high heel shoes.

bent knees

Others can not.

centered feet

Now you know why some women wear pointed toe shoes.

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