Talk to anyone who has been to South by Southwest (SxSW), and they’re sure to have plenty of tips for you. Bring a lot of business cards. Don’t hang out with anyone you know. Carry an extra phone battery, battery extender, or battery charger with you. If you’re carting around your laptop, bring an extension cord, or better yet a power strip (you’ll be everyone’s new best friend, I promise). And specifically for the ladies, leave the heels at home.
These are all excellent tips. All except the very last one…
That’s right ladies, I’m recommending you bring your heels. Bring them. Wear them. Rock them proud.
Everyone tells you to wear sneakers because you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Miles and miles and miles of walking. And everyone is right. It’s incredibly important to wear comfortable shoes when you’re doing that much walking. But the advice about wearing sneakers is based on the assumption that heels aren’t comfortable. This advice is also, most likely, coming from men. Most men love a women in a pair of sexy heels, so they can’t possibly be telling you to leave your heels at home cause they don’t want you to look sexy. They’re telling you because they want to save you the pain of walking in heels.
Last year was my first year at SxSW. Despite my strong preference for heels, I took heed of the sneaker advice and packed whatever shoes had the flatest soles. I packed comfy sneakers, comfy boots, and a pair of comfy ballet flats I bought just for the occasion. I also back one pair of high heel boots in hopes that maybe, just maybe, I’d get to wear them. I wore my comfy sneakers. I wore my comfy boots. I wore my comfy ballet flats. My feet hurt every single day. On the last night, after conferencing all day in sneakers, I went back to the hotel and put on my high heel boots before heading for the parties. I walked miles that night, and my feet were never happier.
The men telling you and me to leave our heels at home don’t wear heels, and they don’t realize that for a woman who rocks heels on a daily basis, wearing sneakers isn’t necessarily any more comfortable than wearing heels. So my advice is to bring your most comfortable flat shoes and your most comfortable heels. Rock them each on different days or at different times of the day. Doing so will change the balance and pressure points on your feet, preventing you from repetitively abusing the same sore spots.
At the end of each night, when you finally stumble into your hotel room, you’re feet will hurt. Just as do the feet of every guy that told you to wear sneakers. Your feet (and their feet) don’t hurt because your shoes weren’t comfortable. Your feet hurt because you’ve been walking miles and miles and miles.