stiletto heels emergency preparedness womens clothing shoes high heels

How to Keep Your High Heels from Killing You…Literally!

♦ READING TIME: 5 min, 36 sec

Forget about democrat vs. republican.

Forget about paleo vs. vegan.

The REAL divisive topic—the one that will have people at each other’s throats—is this: the woman’s high-heeled shoe.

One camp says they are absolutely required for a woman to be considered well-dressed. Appropriate. Grown-up. The other camp? Well, they think heels are a symbol of all that is unholy and unhealthy in a patriarchal society.

If you’ve been reading my material for any length of time, you can guess which camp I’m in. 🙂

But look, I get it. Due to societal conditioning, almost everyone considers high heels sexy. When I get dressed up for dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant, you can bet I’m slipping on footwear that elongates my leg and makes my palazzo pants drape like a Renaissance artist’s dream. I love my driving moccasins and Converse court shoes, but in our world, nothing says “elegance” like a beautifully sculpted heel.

And yet, there’s one crucial thing we’re forgetting about high heels. An issue that far transcends patriarchal concerns and aesthetic sentiments in matters of importance. In this blog entry, I’ll be addressing the topic of high heels from an angle you may not have considered: the angle of emergency preparedness.

Imagine this…


Uh oh! It’s THE BIG ONE!

It’s an average Tuesday at the office. You’re sitting in the weekly 10am budget meeting, surreptitiously texting your friend across the table and wishing you’d remembered to reheat your cup of coffee before settling in for 60 minutes of spreadsheet torture. You shift in your seat, recross your legs underneath your stylish pencil skirt, and idly bounce your 3-inch “practical” work pump on the edge of your toes.

 Suddenly…EARTHQUAKE! And not just a little bump-and-shudder, either. No, this is a big one. The whole team dives under the conference table and holds on as the shaking intensifies. Chunks of the ceiling rain down overhead, binders are jostled from the shelves lining the room, and streams of coffee dribble off the table edge as cups are overturned. Then…silence. The shaking stops. You crawl from under the table, coughing from the dust. Your knees are already scraped from the bare skin of your exposed leg crunching against the debris on the floor. Everyone gets unsteadily to their feet. “Is everyone okay?” Numb nods all around. Wordlessly as a group, you move toward the door. A file cabinet has fallen across the entrance, forcing everyone to scramble over it. Your stylish pumps slip and slide across the metal surface. You want to take them off, but the windows of the conference room have shattered, leaving sharp glass fragments all over the floor.

 You lurch perilously down the hall, stumbling over every chunk of debris, every fallen object. At one point, your left pump catches on an unseen binder clip and you pitch sideways, your ½-inch heel tip easily destabilized by the small piece of plastic. You twist your ankle and are forced to be half-carried by a coworker toward the building stairwell.

 Ten stories later, and you are on the ground, limping toward your building’s emergency muster area. You were lucky that your good-Samaritan coworker was strong enough to get you down the stairwell; with your bum ankle, it would have been seriously slow going otherwise, and you might not have made it out before the earthquake aftershocks began. Rumor has it that half the office staff is still stuck in the building, and judging by the number of people in the muster area, that rumor looks to be true.

You see what I mean? Sure, heels look sexy. And in some workplaces, they’re considered de rigueur for women. But if the unforeseen occurs—or hell, if you just need to hoof it from one meeting locale to another at a fast clip—they are downright impractical, if not full-on foolish. In summary:

  • you can’t run in them,
  • the pointy bit of the heels gives you mere inches of contact with the ground for traction, and
  • they’re disturbingly prone to slippage.

So what’s a gal to do? How can you retain a “professional” appearance or look hot on Date Night while not risking life and ankle in case of an emergency?

This is a topic I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years, and I’ve come up with several solutions germane to different scenarios. Take a look and see which ones you can leverage for your own situation:

Wear flats

loafers practical footwear

Cute yet functional lace-up loafers FTW!

This is an obvious one, and this season, it’s pretty easy to do. The spring shoe collections are lousy with ballet flats, t-strap sandals, and what I can only describe as “fashion sneakers.” Whenever we have a magic time in Shoe History like this, I stock up. Look for styles that are classic (e.g., no super-pointy or square toes) so that you can wear them for a few years…until the next time shoe designers experience a moment of sanity. 🙂

Carry foldable flats in your bag

foldable ballet flats Tieks

Foldable ballet flats are da bomb! Image via

Why, oh why, did it take shoe designers so long to come up with this concept?? I first became aware of the Magical Folding Shoe in 2008 with the founding of the Tieks brand, and I have been a convert ever since. I LOVE them for travel, and for day-to-day they tuck neatly into a work tote. Having flats on hand means you can wear your cute heels when you’re trying to present a certain appearance, but if you need to walk any distance, boom! Out come the stealth flats!

Stash walking shoes in your car & office

Black tennis shoes crosstrainers

These shoes WERE made for walking…unlike your high heels.

This is one of the first things you should do when putting together gear for general emergency preparedness: toss a pair of comfortable walking shoes (and socks) into your car, as well as your office. If there is a serious emergency (car breakdown in the middle of nowhere, catastrophic disaster that makes driving impossible), you’ll be glad you have footwear that lets you walk the miles needed to get to safety.

If you must wear heels, make them practical 90{5b94df0808d5051ae4460ba229ec68b809d99f898aebd4fa5019c7ba642362c2} of the time

Lace-up womens suede boots Aquatalia waterproof functional footwear

My beloved, sorta-practical Aquatalia boots

Okay, if you’ve scored a table at The French Laundry for your anniversary dinner, chances are, you’re going to want to wear a delicate strappy heel (see Tips 2 & 3 above for this situation), but for most daily situations, you have the option of choosing a heel that not only looks “fashionable,” but is also somewhat practical.

Take, for instance, the pair of boots shown here. These are a pair of waterproof Aquatalia suede boots that I found this winter, and they are a DREAM! They have a subtle lug sole that provides excellent traction; they lace up, so they hug my foot; and they feature a padded insole, so they are freakishly comfortable for walking. Keep your eye out for gems like this whenever you peruse your favorite local shoe source.

* * * * *

So are high heels the devil? In my opinion, yes. In fact, from an emergency preparedness standpoint, heels are a disaster unto themselves. And don’t even get me started on the physiological issues of strapping spikes to ones feet!

But I am a woman with some degree of vanity who has been indoctrinated by society since toddlerhood regarding what is aesthetically pleasing. And because I have absorbed this aesthetic sense, I acknowledge heels as an evil with which I choose to—at least occasionally—deal. Perhaps someday my good sense will transcend my vanity, but until that time, I have struck the balance described in this article.

And it IS possible to find a shoe that is cute, comfortable, and useful. You just have to look at shoe shopping like a treasure hunt. From this point forward, I task you with this goal: try to keep 90{5b94df0808d5051ae4460ba229ec68b809d99f898aebd4fa5019c7ba642362c2} of your footwear purchases in this category. And as for the other 10{5b94df0808d5051ae4460ba229ec68b809d99f898aebd4fa5019c7ba642362c2}? As long as you keep back-up flats on hand, I’m happy. 🙂


Want to learn more about how women can prepare themselves for emergencies?
Download my free “Emergency Preparedness for Women” guide

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