Riding in heels FAIL

Well, it had to happen one day: I finally found a pair of heeled shoes that I can’t ride my bike in. It’s more like a style of heel, actually, since I have one other pair of black booties that don’t work on a bike for the exact same reason. Here are the culprits.

It might surprise you to know that what doesn’t work on these shoes is not necessarily the high heel: it’s the thick platform sole that angles up at the front (you can see the angle from both the front and the side in the second pic). That angle makes for a smaller contact point on the pedal—and even if you do manage to get the ball of your foot in just the right spot, it also makes it much easier for your foot to slip off. On the one occasion I did ride in these shoes, I definitely had to concentrate on keeping my feet on the pedals — and starting and stopping was a lot less convenient.

I know our female readers and fellow bloggers have mixed opinions on riding in heels. So ladies out there: do you do it? if not, why not, and if so, what type of shoe do you feel most comfortable riding in? I prefer heels with rubber soles myself; this pair of Jessica Simpson pumps I wore on my birthday bike ride last year are some of my favorites for cycling.

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48 thoughts on “Riding in heels FAIL

  1. Lady Vélo says:

    I’ve yet to try cycling in proper heels… I’m more of a flat-shoe girl on most days! I think it would be a challenge for me with the heels that I do own, but will give it a go one day!

    I have a few pairs of Vivienne Westwood rubber/jelly shoes that I want to try cycling in soon, just to see if they do grip as well as I hope!

  2. Matthew says:

    Just put some SPD clips on those ;-)

  3. They do look pretty slippery. I don’t ride in heels, mainly because I don’t really wear heels in general. I just prefer a nice pair of ballet slippers or brogues!

    • Lynn says:

      A moderate heeled shoe and toe clips make an awesome combination for me. Most heeled shoes have nice stiff soles that are good for cycling, and toe clips keep them from sliding around.

      • Oooh, Lynn, don’t the toe clips scuff up the tops of the shoes? I have a habit of bringing my left pedal up as I’m waiting for the light to change, which I do by hooking my toe underneath and swinging it up. I’ve found that’s leaving marks on some of my shoes.

        My pedals are clip-in on one side for when I do longer recreational rides, flat platform on the other side so I don’t have to change shoes to ride in regular clothes.

        • April says:

          I personally have plastic toe clips–they were only five dollars! They definitely don’t harm my shoes.

        • Lynn says:

          I put my left foot down at stops, and keep my right foot on the pedal. With either toe clips or clipless pedals, I just pull my right foot up to bring the pedal into position. Since the pedal is attached to my foot, I don’t have to hook it up and risk scuffing the shoe.

          Also, I have leathers on my toe clips to protect the toes of my shoes. I keep scraping the leathers on the street (low bottom bracket) so when they fall off I’ll probably replace them with electrical tape.

          The only downfall to toe clips and nice shoes is that if the shoe uppers aren’t smooth, it can get caught on the clip, so it’s good to slide out of the clip long before you need to stop.

  4. I definitely ride in shoes of all kinds. One of my favorite pairs is a set of black patent leather pumps with 2-1/2″ heels (I’m wearing them in a pic on a blog post about riding in fancy office wear–http://bit.ly/cOg8gh).

    They work well because they have criss-cross straps over the insteps so they stay on the foot nicely. That’s one of the issues I find in addition to whether the material on the sole has a grippy quality, and the ball of the foot contact area you identify as a problem with these. I’ve had a couple of pairs of pumps that slip off the foot too easily, which can be startling as you start to take off at a light.

    I’ve had people ask about the heels as an issue. I tell them my foot actually makes contact with the ground sooner at a stop light when I take my foot off the pedal.

    Yay for riding in real clothes! That’s one of the keys to getting more women to ride.


  5. Kate says:

    I ride in heels all the time! Heeled pumps, wedge sandals, tall boots… I definitely agree that a rubber sole makes it much easier – my Fluevog Malibrans and my assorted “quiet sole” Naturalizers fit the bill especially well. People always act as though cycling in dresses and heels is some big accomplishment, and never believe me when I tell them it’s no different at all! ;-)

  6. neighbourtease says:

    I used to ride in heels more before my son started walking. Now I have to wear lower heels when off the bike because my guy is super fast. My favorite shoes to ride in are flat over the knee boots paired with a minidress and tights. It’s kind of mommy drinks as a look but it works well for cycling.

    I find flexibility to be more important than heel height since I pedal more with the ball of my foot and the instep thing doesn’t really make a difference. I can see how it would on those shoes above, though.

  7. Those are nice looking shoes.

    Well, my opinion is basically “do whatever you feel safe and comfortable doing” – I have no stance on whether others “should” cycle in high heels.

    My personal comfort level however, precludes me from wearing most heels on the bike. I tend to pedal with the part of the ball of my feet that is closer to the arch, and most high heel shoes I own start sloping upward in that exact spot. So when I try to push the pedal, my foot inevitably slips and the pedal ends up jammed in that crevice between the heel and the platform. Not good!

    • Trisha says:

      Yes, that’s the problem with these, since the ball of the foot area is so small! Other heels it’s not a big deal, but these I do end up jammed between the heel and the platform. Ah well, plenty of other heels to wear!

  8. Carrie says:

    oooh, those are gorgeous! You could get a shoemaker/cobbler to glue a small, very thin rubber piece (sorry, forget the name for it now) just under the platform, on the bottom – it +++helps omit slipping on tile floors, and really helps your shoe stick to the pedals! Costs about $5 for both shoes, and doesn’t affect the way you walk or the way the shoes feel. I’ve had it done to all my shoes after wiping out at a local bar while wearing slippery soles!

  9. Elisa M says:

    I try to wear heels when I can, but the big hill by my house means that I have to bear down on the pedals, or stand up, more and it hurts more in heels that have thinner soles on them and when my weight is already pushed down onto my toes. Not sure if that makes sense, but I know it hurts a bit more.
    Plus, I am nearly 6ft tall, so I don’t wear heels that often to begin with. Thank goodness flats are hip again!
    Those shoes are FIERCE!

    • Trisha says:

      So true we have opposite issues. :) I love these but wonder if I had bigger feet if the small surface area at the ball of the foot would be as much of a problem. And we short girls are the ones who need heels! Thin sole is not a problem with these, but I understand what you mean about that — I have that problem with some pairs of flats I have.

  10. Linda M says:

    Those are super cute shoes.

  11. SM says:

    Trisha, I haven’t gone out riding in high heels yet, but I did have to bring my Pashley in for some adjustments today during lunch and had to test ride in my heels (with snowflakes coming down) and it wasn’t so bad.

    P.S. Those photos of you from last year are absolutely stunning.

  12. Jen F says:

    @Carrie-Yes! It’s called vibram, I think. It would help a lot with the slipping.
    The curved part might be trouble if you had to stand up on the pedals to get over a steeper hill.
    I ride in almost all of my shoes, unless they’re super special and I am afraid of scratching them.
    Platforms are hard if your seat is not quick-release because it makes the seat too low. I don’t think I have any with such a curve to the sole.

  13. Coreen says:

    I don’t wear heels on or off the bike as I’m already taller than most of the folks around me. I wonder, though, if a Copenhagen grip would help you in this case. Basically, all you do is put a thick elastic band or two around the pedals, and voila, instant rubber between your shoes & pedals.

  14. E A says:

    Not a heels person, but i have cycled in cute flats! Most days, though, I prefer my cycling shoes or just comfy sneakers. Also a + for Sketchers.

  15. April says:

    I’ve ridden in heels twice lately. As long as I don’t mind pedaling farther back on my feet than usual (closer to my arch instead of the balls of my feet) I’m fine!

    Less-slippery ones are easier, though.

    I think biking in heels is easier than walking or standing in them!

  16. Kelly says:

    I cycle in heels *all* the time – as April says, it’s so much easier than walking in them! In very high heels I do find my pedalling is less efficient – something about having to pedal further forward on my foot than normal makes it feel like I’m wasting a lot of movement/energy – but for sort of mid-range heels I don’t honestly notice any difference.
    Platforms are indeed tricky. I have a pair of Dansko clogs that I find a little difficult to cycle in just because the soles are so thick that it makes a significant difference to the total length of my leg on the downstroke.
    I have to say that the pair of shoes I find most difficult to cycle in is my cowboy boots! You’d think that a shoe made for stirrups would translate fairly well to a bicycle, but the soles are quite slippery, and the sole just in front of the heel bit are curved in such a way that my foot always slips off.

  17. Mandy says:

    I wear and ride in heels frequently because I have short legs so flats make me look unacceptably hobbit-like. My experience is also that it’s so much more about the surface and angle than the height; as an example, I have a pair of perfectly flat Keds that prohibit pedaling because of the suede-like sole near the ball of the foot. Haven’t had a chance to try platforms yet, though…

    • Trisha says:

      So true. That’s the main problem with these. And I too wear heels most of the time because of my short legs…glad I can ride in most of them more easily!

  18. ridon says:

    i don’t wear heels off bike, wish i could rock some like yours! i’ve tried flat mary janes, but if the fit’s not perfect, i’ve had the shoe come off! this usualy happens during lift-off. also dansko clogs don’t work well, can’t really feel the pedal and they’re kinda jiggly in the heel. my go to shoe is a flexible running mesh shoe and ankle boots for rain.

  19. Ann says:

    This is a great post about the benefits of cycling in a skirt in London.

  20. Ann says:

    This is a great post about the benefits of cycling in a skirt in London. http://www.londoncyclist.co.uk/cycling-london/the-mary-poppins-effect/

  21. Dottie says:

    You are so much more skilled than I when it comes to both walking and cycling in heels. :) I usually throw my heels in my basket or leave them in my office. But all my high heels have worked so far with my new rubber-grip pedals on Oma. Now I just need to get them on the other bikes.

  22. Hmm, I never really think much about whether the heels will work or not. I just get dressed and ride.

    I’m a high heel kind of gal, feel funny in flat shoes…unless you’re talking about flip flops and I do love riding in cowboy boots…LOL

    I’m going to start paying close attention and report back…Cheers!

  23. hee hee. I couldn’t even WALK in those shoes…..you are my hero Dottie!

  24. oops, I mean TRISHA! But you are my hero too.

    and I still couldn’t walk in those shoes.

  25. Karen says:

    Good to know. I’ve been picturing that exact style shoe as part of my summer uniform. I might stick to ballet flats again.

  26. KateB says:

    I have never done it, but these comments are encouraging me to try! I think I’ll start slow with a pair of Aerosoles boots that have a 1″ heel that I bought recently. They are sold as “riding boots” so it seems appropriate.

  27. I also think riding in heels are easier than walking in them. Thank goodness I am usually on my bike when I wear them because it saves me from long painful walks from far flung parking spaces. I find platform or any kind of thick soles impossible to ride in. Not only is it more difficult in fitting my feet in the power strips that I use for clips, but it also messes with my pedal to seat distance and it hurts my knees. So, heels yes.
    Platforms no.

  28. […] Riding in Heels FAIL: The failure isn’t what you’d think with these 4″ platforms reviewed by Let’s Go Ride a Bike. […]

  29. Fiedlerin says:

    I can’t ride in Sofft heels. The sole is too hard, I am fine until I put a little pressure on it.
    I have a pair of aerosoles from the “roughish looking rubber sole” trend. They are hands down the best cycling heels for me. I think I will have all my heels resoled with rubber because of that.

  30. Ennio says:

    Very nice. I’d like to see pics of you riding your bike wearing your heels

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