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Well-Heeled Fashion Week Crowd Gives Advice For Life in Stilettos

By Serena Solomon | February 10, 2012 7:12am
Part-time designer, Tiffany Renee, sometimes takes painkillers so she can wear stilettos for hours at a time.
Part-time designer, Tiffany Renee, sometimes takes painkillers so she can wear stilettos for hours at a time.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

LINCOLN CENTER — Popping painkillers, strutting on treadmills and even stiletto workouts are strategies used by woman preparing to wear their heels with panache at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

For so many ladies, towering heels are essential attire at the show — but wearing them well takes some work.  

Some stiletto-clad women had advice on how to walk the walk when you are a few inches off the ground.

“Walking on the treadmill - that is how I practice,” said Maddi Dawson, 19, a fashion blogger and student at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “I am committed to my high heels.”

Putting her money where her mouth is, the Chelsea resident was perched upon a pair of Jeffrey Campbell shoes with a gravity defying 6 1/2 inch heel.

“Unless you are drinking, it is really hard to fall over,” said Dawson, who was attending the first day of Fashion Week. “I did once, but I was drinking.”

One of Tiffany Renee’s strategies is to pop a few painkillers at the beginning of the day to stop the hurt caused by wearing sky-high shoes for hours.

Maddie Dawson, fashion blogger and FIT student, puts her heels through a test run on the treadmill.
Maddie Dawson, fashion blogger and FIT student, puts her heels through a test run on the treadmill.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

“Today I will probably take it twice,” said Renee of the Excedrin she was carrying in her bag.

On a Thursday morning at Fashion Week the part-time designer predicted she will spend at least ten hours in her bright pink stilettos.

Renee also theorized that the high arch in her feet gave her a natural ability to wear heels well. 

Athanaelle Paul, a 28-year-old stylist, agrees that some women are gifted in their strutting abilities, but practice makes perfect for others.

“I feel you can train for it,” said Paul. The self-confessed tomboy grew up never imagining herself as a “heels girl.”

“I am actually uncomfortable in flats," she said. "That’s how much I wear high heels." 

One woman who is making a living out of teaching women how to strut in heels is Nicole Damaris. The 29-year-old invented a workout class four years ago that is done entirely in heels, after growing tired of watching women bumble about in stilettos.

“”The class focuses on balance, core strength and posture,” said Damaris, from the studios of her Chelsea-based company NDG Fit. “It allows for a woman to walk properly in her shoes.”

The class enlists yoga, kickboxing, squatting and a minimum three-inch heel to develop the core strength of clients.

With heels as the focus, at least three to four models attend classes each week, according to Damaris, and there is always a spike in attendance leading up to New York’s biannual Fashion Week.

“Their whole thing is about being graceful while walking,” she said. For those clients, Damaris concentrates more on balance than the weight-loss benefits of the class.

But Dr. Ryan Minara, a podiatrist, only recommends women wear high heels in unavoidable situations.

“Essentially, it uses the plantarflexion muscle [which runs from the calve to the toe] of the foot to try and stabilize the toes against the ground,” he said.

Minara sees at least a dozen women each week for high heel related issues where he works at the Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine on the Upper East Side

“It can increase the likelihood of certain foot deformities such as hammer toes, bunions and neuromas,” he said.

Minara recommended using orthotics designed for high heels, practice, ensuring the shoes fit well and seeking medical advice sooner rather than later.

For Natalie Dean, a 27-year-old attending Fashion Week in flamingo colored Sam Edelman platform stilettos, leaving them at home was not an option.

“Platforms are your friend,” she said, claiming their design with a heightened podium below the toes allows for heels to be astronomical in height without making the shoe too steep for walking.

Dean’s other advice was to keep moving to prevent prolonged pressure on just one part of the feet.  

“You need to keep shifting your weight,” she said.

However, her sister Ricki Dean, who was also attending Fashion Week, simply said wearing flat shoes was her best advice when it came heels.

“I only wear heels when it is absolutely necessary,” she said.

“And at Fashion Week, it is absolutely necessary."