My feet have been bothering me for practically my entire life. It started back in high school, when sprinting at track practice made the big toe joint on my left foot ache so badly that I had to ice it every night when I got home. A doctor told me I'd developed bunions on both feet thanks to collapsed arches, and recommended I stay away from high heels and other shoes that pinch my toes.
Honestly, I've never minded sticking to flats. Most heels hurt my feet so badly that I can barely walk, and I teeter around like a little girl playing dress-up in her mom's closet. I rarely wear anything on my feet other than flat booties, Birkenstocks, and sneakers. And usually, I can get away with those three choices — but when I have to dress up for a wedding, a job interview, or a big presentation at work, I always feel more confident in high heels. So, over the years I have invested a ton of time, energy, and money into finding the most comfortable heels. Taking full advantage of Zappos's one-day free shipping and returns policy, I have ordered dozens of pairs from brands that fall in every price range.
Sadly, I now have a high-heels graveyard in my closet — a pile of shoes that felt comfortable enough to keep, but quickly proved unwearable once I stepped foot out of my house. But I also have a small collection of comfortable high heels that I can actually wear, and they're all from the same two brands: Naturalizer and Clarks. You might know these two brands for their orthopedic-looking grandma shoes, but they also offer chic styles that elicit compliments everywhere I go. And I really can wear these shoes all day without having to touch the pair of emergency flip-flops stored in my bag.
What's so great about these two shoe brands? They both offer a few of the same key features:
Soft, supple leather uppers: When I slip on heels from Clarks and Naturalizer, the leather construction molds to my feet, bending and fle as I walk. Most heels — even the expensive ones — are made from stiff leather, fabric, or synthetic material that digs into my toes and the backs of my heels.
Nonslip outsoles: I have never understood why so many dress shoes have slippery soles. It's like they want you to fall over! Not so with Clarks and Naturalizer. Every pair I own has a rubberized sole that grips any surface, even when wet.
Sensible heel heights: This one's obvious, right? You just aren't going to be comfortable if your heel's higher than about 2.5 inches. Clarks and Naturalizer rarely go higher than that, and when they do, they balance it out by putting a small platform under the ball of the foot.
Here are a few of my favorite pairs.