While most women are not likely to opt for traveling in heels, sometimes it can really pull together an airport look — and if you’re traveling for business, heels might be a necessity. There’s no question that it’s pointless to try to hobble through security in toe-crunching stilettos, but it is possible to pull off a heeled shoe while balancing comfort and style.
We recently spoke with Joan Oloff, podiatrist and luxury footwear designer, who set out to create orthopedic shoes made of Italian leather that wed comfort with style. Joan grew up working in her father’s shoe store in Brooklyn, and eventually went on to become a podiatrist, with a specialization in treating women who suffer foot damage from wearing high-heeled shoes.
Below, Joan shares how to get optimal comfort while wearing heels on the go, as well as general travel foot care, from the biggest mistakes travelers make, to how to avoid blisters and soreness, to taking that extra bit of time to prevent damage.
Traveling in heels: Is it really that bad?
"For the heel wearer, traveling in heels can be done comfortably, as long as women make smart choices regarding which heels they choose. Kitten or mid-heel shoes would make more sense than a five-inch stiletto. One of the advantages of traveling in these [types of heels] is that they are easily removed when proceeding through airport security. Choose shoes that you will be comfortable in not only while on the plane, but anticipate walking in them for a while before and after arriving."
Find the right shoe material.
"It's very important to choose footwear made with the softest leathers. Never travel in shoes made with synthetic materials. Feet will swell when flying. Soft leathers will expand to accommodate this, while synthetic materials will cause pressure points, particularly around the toes and the back of the heel. Even the linings of the shoes should be made of leathers. Synthetic linings will cause the foot to perspire and may cause blisters."
Take care of your feet before vacation.
"I recommend cutting your toenails prior to leaving on a vacation. Cutting the nails straight across helps to prevent ingrown toenails. If you were planning on going for a pedicure, I would recommend doing this one week, rather than one day before leaving. I see many patients who develop ingrown toenails soon after having a pedicure. It is safest to tell the nail technician to cut the nails straight across, rounding out the corners, rather than digging in at the sides of the nails.
Also, make sure the shoes you are traveling in fit you well. If they are a little tight before your trip, they will become very tight when flying."
Check in with your doctor.
"See your podiatrist prior to traveling if you have any ongoing or new problems with your feet. Simple treatments before you travel can help you enjoy a pain-free vacation. It’s worth taking the time to do this."
Keep moving to avoid soreness.
"Once on the plane, it's good to move your feet. My feet get cold on airplanes, so I switch to compression socks once onboard. These not only help to keep my feet warm, but also help to prevent blood clots in my legs. With all of the flying I do, this is important. I also recommend a simple exercise know as foot or ankle pumps. This is simply moving your foot up and down. Do this for 1-2 minutes hourly. This helps to control the swelling that happens while flying."
Don't make these mistakes.
"Probably the biggest mistake I see people making is to remain in a seated position throughout the trip. Remember Newton’s 1st Law of Motion! A body in motion stays in motion. It is important to do those foot pumps while seated, as well as getting up to walk the aisles on the plane, or take rest stops and walk around during a long car trip."
Joan's favorite travel heel:
"I tend to grab my 50 mm heels. Again, they feel great and I will never feel slowed down when in a hurry."
Take care for bunions and blisters.
"The best way to avoid blisters is to avoid friction. Make sure you can wiggle your toes inside the toe box without any irritation before you fly in those shoes. Use a good moisturizing foot or body lotion.
[When caring for bunions], it first comes down to the choice in footwear. Soft leathers are a much better choice than synthetics, or even stiffer leathers."
Take the time to address problems.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take the time to address any little foot problems before you leave. Try on the heels the in the evening before you travel, rather than in the morning. Your foot will be larger at the end of the day.
Every woman has her own experience and comfort level with footwear. Always listen to what your feet are telling you. I do not want women to feel the need to travel with two pairs of shoes. If this is the case, they are the wrong heels. Never sacrifice your feet for fashion. The good news is that we now live in a time where fashion can coexist with function."