[Welcome to another edition of East Coast Guest Posts. This week while I'm eyeball deep in work, some local bloggers will be talking about what I'm calling The 902 Style Files. I have to admit that I love shoes. While I'm not one of those women whose collection could rival that of Imelda Marcus, I do have my share of fancy footwear. Here we have a woman who's serious about shoes and we can all take a few lessons from her expertise. Did you just tune out because you're a guy? Well, focus, mister because it's imperative that you go to point #7).]

By Sarah Semark

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Photo credit: Porcelaingirl° {josie-grossie} from Flickr

There’s something about a pair of heels. They’re instantly classy. They work with everything, they make your legs look great, and they can turn the scrubbiest ensemble into a kick-ass outfit. A beautiful pair of shoes is a magical creature that will transform you into a sophisticated lady-about-town, even when you’re just running out to the grocery store in your pyjamas and bedhead.

But when you live in a climate that changes every hour, and the sidewalks are almost always covered in ice (or snow, or rain, or some combination thereof), wearing heels can be hazardous to your health. As a girl who never wears flats and rarely suffers for it, I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips along the way.

1. Calculated risk.

Using the table below, add the activity (a) to the conditions (c), then multiply by the amount of alcoholic drinks consumed (b is for booze).
Risk = b(a+c)

Activities
Walking: 1pt per km
Dancing: 2pts per half-hour
Attending a wedding, party, or social event: 1pt per hour
Kung fu: 50pts

Conditions
Ice: 10pts
Snow: 2pts
Grassy lawn: 1pt
Areas with decks, grates, or lots of stairs: 5pts
Rocky mountainsides: 30pts

If your risk value is over 20, you can be forgiven for wearing flats. If it’s over 10, perhaps it’s best to go with a practical, heavy-heeled boot. If it’s under ten, a lady can handle it.

2. Avoid hazardous materials.

Suede boots are for cowboys. Have you ever seen it rain in a cowboy movie? In a town where it rains every other day, I can’t understand why anyone would brave wearing suede boots.

Satin can be tricky. Mud and salt will cling to it, but can usually be washed successfully. Stick to darker colours.

Leather is good so long as you protect it. Vinyl will often survive more trips through the salt.

Patent is ideal–you can wear white patent shoes all winter and they’ll always look pristine. Generally speaking, the shinier the shoe, the less likely it is to stain.

3. Length isn’t as important as width.

A kitten heel may seem easier to walk in, but often isn’t. Kitten heels also lack the awesome traits that longer heels offer: making your legs look great, giving you a sexy walk, looking gorgeous.

Instead, look for a heel that’s wider and blockier. You’ll have more stability, and won’t be prone to falling into the cracks of a deck or sinking into the grass.

4. Put your toes away.

Wearing stockings with open-toed shoes is utterly unforgivable. You may be able to get away with a colourful pair of knee socks under a solid black peep-toe pump, but I’ve never tried it.

Stash your open-toed shoes during the snowy season, or be prepared to have very, very cold toes.

5. Keep your ear to the ground.

Or rather, your eyes. Years of walking barefoot has taught me to instinctively watch my footing everywhere I go. This doesn’t mean staring at the ground all the time, it means keeping an eye on it to see what’s coming up.

Venturing onto an icy sidewalk in a stiletto is like wandering through a minefield, and requires absolute vigilance.

6. Always have something sticky on hand.

I once broke my heel falling down a set of stairs at a party, and had to walk home in my fishnets. It was November. A little shoe goo may have made it a much less painful trip.

Quick tip: if the whole heel’s come off, coat the spikes & the heel itself with glue, then slide together. If the heel’s snapped, glue the two pieces back together, then secure by wrapping with tape–try clear packing tape or black hockey tape. Chewing gum can work if you’re desperate.

7. A gentleman is your best accessory.

Any gentleman worth his salt should be more than ready to offer you his arm as you walk. It’s rather like walking with an extra leg: he’ll offer support, stability, and emergency rescues when you hit a patch of ice.

I had a gentleman on hand the night I broke my heel, and he was kind enough to give me a piggyback ride all the way home. Bring one with you whenever you can.

As a final note, if you find heels just too excruciatingly painful, invest in a well-made pair. (Naturalizer tends to be comfortable and often has more stylish varieties.) Peruse the orthopedic section of the drugstore: “heel huggers” prevent your heels from slipping or blistering, and ball-of-foot cushions reduce foot pain.

And never be too shy to kick ‘em off to get down on the dance floor.

Sarah can often be found wandering about in impractical footwear. In the winter, she wears stilettos, and in the summer, she goes barefoot. She makes pretty things for a living and one day hopes to make enough money to afford a pair of Louboutins. You can find her work at Triggers & Sparks.