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Pumps 101: A Primer For Shoes


Shoe Kuel Category Expert: Lisa Loyet Schmitz

Head to the library or the internet to find the origin or definition of a “pump”. You’ll be bombarded with all sorts of information.

The most commonly agreed-upon definition of a pump is “a shoe that has a closed toe and heel but exposes the entire top of the foot starting at the toe box.”

Pumps start at the almost flat heel and move up to stilettos soaring at heights of 3” or higher. Pictured below are the silhouettes of basic pump styles. These examples are all made by Walking Cradles but are representative of pumps that are made by many other shoe manufacturers.

“The heel shape can also change the overall look of the shoe.”

Variety Of Shoe Shapes:

While the topline of a pump is a constant, the other aspects of this style shoe vary greatly. Toe boxes also have a variety of shapes: round, almond, pointed, square. All of these change the overall look of a shoe. The heel shape can also change the overall look of the shoe. As can see from the picture above, the same heel height on a pump can look completely different, depending on the shape of the heel.

In 2020, most of our pumps gathered dust in our closets. During this time, many of us became quite accustomed to wearing our sneakers or cozy slippers, as we were stationed in at-home offices. But transitioning from your favorite furry slide slipper or trusty tennis shoe doesn’t need to conjure up fears of foot pain. With a few tips on pump styles, you can head back to your office looking chic and feeling real comfort. And wear a pair of fresh new pumps! That’s right. We said it- PUMPS.

“But the good news is that pumps aren’t determined by heel height..”

Myths With Our Pumps:

First off, let us dispel the myth that heels and or pumps aren’t comfortable. They absolutely can be. Especially when designed with comfort features like Walking Cradles signature Tiny Pillows® within the footbeds. Other brands have developed comfortable pumps and career shoes, as well. But the most important things you need to consider is proper fit and comfort for your personal preference. Not all pumps are created equal. And the price is definitely not the indicator for comfort! In fact, one of my most uncomfortable pairs of pumps are probably the ones that cost the most! I’ve definitely learned a lot since the time I dropped several hundred dollars on something. Because I bought them merely for how beautiful they looked on the shoe store shelf!

I’ll bet you’re thinking now, “Why would I want to wear pumps all day long?!” We’ve done our research when it comes to the ideal heel height. Podiatrists recommend wearing heels no higher than 2 ¼” for all-day wear. For some, this is still too high. But the good news is that pumps aren’t determined by heel height. I have always had the best luck by varying the heel heights of the shoes I wear each day!

Mid-Height Heels:

The pump pictured above, aptly named Joy is a round-toe pump with a 2” heel. This is a great style if you want a bit of a heel, but don’t want your feet and back to suffer from a style that is too high for daily wear. A 1” heel is a very popular height among those of you who are in jobs where you are on your feet all day. These mid-height heels are better options than high heels and even flats.

A heel over 2 ½” has the likelihood of causing a painful knot of the back of the heel, and this has actually been called a “pump bump.” Super high heels force the feet into a position that puts stress on the ball of the foot, creating pressure that inflames the bones or nerves that surround them and can lead to painful hairline fractures.

Extra Heel Height:

A ½” platform as seen here in the 3” heel pump Payton, helps reduce the pitch of the foot, allowing it to be that of a 2 ½” heel. So, for those of us who do love the extra heel height, a platform is a better option. Super high heels that put the foot at a completely unnatural pitch can cause problems such as hammertoes and bunions because they push too much bodyweight toward the toes and squeeze and displace them.

Flats can also cause problems. The most important thing to look for in a flat pump is some arch support – which many do not have. Walking in unsupportive flats increases the risk for heel problems such as plantar fasciitis. This condition causes intense heel pain. In addition, wearing completely flat shoes can also lead to knee, hip, and back problems. A small heel of even 1/4” will still give you the look of a chic flat, but with this little bit of heel elevation, your chance for these pesky aches and pains diminishes greatly.

Flat Pump:

The Bronwyn is an almost flat pump, with a heel of only ¼”. While almost flat, this very slight elevation is so much better for your feet and back.

The most important factors when selecting any shoe are fit and comfort. Heel shape and height, along with toe shape, is a completely personal choice, but if you’re looking for pumps that you’re not kicking off the first chance you get, you need to invest in a pair that includes comfort features that allow you to keep your shoes on comfortably – all day long!

Remember, nothing ruins a great outfit more than a grimace on your face because your feet are killing you!

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About the Author:

Lisa Schmitz is the Creative Director for Walking Cradles shoes – a women’s shoe company whose mission is to hit the perfect combo of fit, comfort and style for a wide range of women’s shoe sizes. Working in this women driven company, Lisa is able to combine her years of experience with marketing, advertising, graphic design and shoe modeling. Working closely with the shoe designer, Jamie Wells, Lisa is involved in many aspects of the research, development, fit-testing and marketing of the shoes. Lisa is honored to have been selected as a shoe-expert with Kuel Life and to have Walking Cradles shoes available for purchase in the Kuel Shop.