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How My Stylish Shoes Nearly Ruined My Public Speaking Presentation

06/03/2015 12:21 EDT | Updated 06/03/2016 05:59 EDT
BSIP SA / Alamy

A few months ago, I was hired to give a full-day training program to a group of executives on how to master their public speaking skills. So I did what any other business professional would do: I targeted my materials to the group. I planned out each and every moment, piece of content, and exercise for the day. And then, I chose my shoes. Black Mary Janes, stable 3-inch heels. Stylish, professional, yet comfortable enough to stand in for the greater part of an 8-hour day.

Or so I thought.

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Fast forward to the day of the training. At 9:00 a.m., we start with a bang. Great content, enticing visuals, the connection is being established. Excellent.

At 9:45, we're moving right along and everything is going exactly as planned. But wait...what's that weird sensation creeping into my feet?

At 10:30, we reach our first break, and I practically crawl to the washroom, where I haul myself up onto the counter (right next to the sink), my feet absolutely throbbing, and pray for a miracle so that I can stand up for the next 10 minutes, no less the rest of the day.

"Is it time to go home yet?"

So in this case, "stylish," "professional" and "comfortable" did NOT live in the same world. But did any of that even matter anymore? Not much did at that point, because the only thing that was going through my mind was "my feet hurt and now I have to put my shoes back on and stand in front of this audience in a very professional way while pretending that little needles aren't sticking into my feet and blisters aren't forming and what the heck am I going to do and is it time to go home yet?"

Not necessarily the mindset you need to really ace the day.

Ultimately, I survived. My feet either got numb or I had reached my upper threshold of pain and just got used to it.

Thank goodness for small miracles.

Consulting the Sisterhood of the High-Heeled Shoes.

When the day was over, I hobbled home, and was very concerned. Surely I wasn't the only woman in the speaking industry who had ever experienced this. I asked my [female] training colleagues what they've done in situations like this, and here were some of the answers that I got:

  • "Sometimes I just take my shoes off, but that'll only be a few hours into the program, once the audience and I have already connected, and they don't seem to mind." (Not for me)
  • "I always wear flat shoes." (Blech)
  • "Oh, THESE? They're SOOO comfortable. I'm SOOO lucky to have found them." (Liars!)

One thing was for sure. No matter how many people I spoke to about this, no one has ever rushed into a washroom, sat up on a counter-top, and prayed for a miracle.

So honestly, what's a girl to do? Are we really supposed to wear only flat shoes? Because come on, if you want to wear a dress or skirt, it's gotta be heels. Am I right ladies?

Four Ways to Take Care of Our Busy, Heel-Loving Feet:

I shared this situation with a shoe-loving colleague who has mastered the art of running in heels (in airports, not marathons). She shared four suggestions on how to take care of your feet while wrapping them in beautiful shoes:

  1. Make sure you wear your actual shoe size. Apparently lots of women squeeze into shoes that are a size smaller.
  2. Always have supportive straps up to your ankle and/or a covered shoe with a peep toe for very high heels. The more support that your foot has, the more comfortable it is. And slip-on high heels are never a good idea (who knew?)
  3. Remember that feet swell after hours of standing and wearing heels. Also take into account of water retention during certain times of the month, so buy your shoes accordingly.
  4. Get the Dr. Scholl's (or other brand) grips to put at the bottom of your shoes to prevent slipping, and the gel inserts to give your feet comfort.

The Next Full-Day Training: My Do-or-Die Do-Over

I gave another full day training program a few weeks ago, and tried a different tactic. Flat, comfy shoes during the set-up, at lunch, and at the end of the day. My most awesome heels during the training. Complete with supportive straps. And gel inserts.

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How did it go, you may ask?

I wish I could say that my feet were bathed in a soft glow of warmth and comfort for the full day.

They were not.

To be fair, I got a solid three hours of comfort out of these babies before the pain started to kick in. By then, we had reached lunch (a.k.a. sit down time!). That, combined with some group work in the afternoon that allowed me a little more sitting time, made it not nearly as painful as the experienced a few years earlier. There was no shifting from side-to-side. No needles sticking into my feet. And no sitting on random washroom counter-tops. Success!

The Search Continues....

Next month I'll be speaking at a conference, and will need to spend one hour on stage, and the rest of the day on and off my feet. I've got my eye on the Holy Grail of shoes....a shiny, cranberry-coloured, 4-inch, platform pair of awesomeness that I'd LOVE to wear. Although to date, those beautiful shoes have only afforded me about 30 minutes before the needles find their way to my all-too-tender feet. My wardrobe team (otherwise known as "me") is still taking this issue under consideration.

Until then, the search continues for the "perfect" pair of shoes. The practical ones that allow me to be stylish, professional and comfortable at the same time. The beautiful ones that all those *other* women say, "Oh, THESE? They're SOOOO comfortable! I'm SOOO lucky to have found them!"

In short, the miraculous ones.

Got any leads?

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