The high-heel workout: can you walk your way to gorgeous legs?

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You’ve known the power of high heels from the moment you slipped on your first pair. There’s no denying they instantly take off a few pounds while making your legs look impossibly long, sleek and Gisele Bundchen-esque. And, of course, they ratchet up the sexiness factor of every item of clothing in your closet. But there’s another benefit you may not have considered.

Walking in heels trains your legs to produce muscle, especially in the calves and thighs,” says David Kirsch, a celebrity trainer and the owner of Manhattan’s Madison Square Club. Consider this: When you’re in heels, you are doing what amounts to a full day’s worth of calf raises. We’re talking about adding definition, not bulk, so don’t fret if your legs are already “sturdy.” Check out any stiletto-lover’s calves–they are bound to be sexily sculpted, even without time spent at the gym.

Play it safe

As with any good thing, it’s easy to go overboard. Wearing too-high heels for too long can result in lower-back pain, sore knees and heel damage. “Don’t walk more than two miles at a time in high heels, and try to keep them around two to three inches,” suggests Suzanne Levine, M.D., a New York podiatrist who caters to the fashion set (she’s also the proud owner of more than 300 pairs of Manolo Blahniks; Jimmy Choos and Pradas). There are a few steps you can take to minimize highheel discomfort: Make sure your shoes fit–nine out of 10 women buy shoes that are too small for them, Levine says. Always try on the next size up, just to be certain. Also, vary your heel height during the day by keeping a pair of flats at work or in your bag.

Work it

Try these exercises from Levine to stretch and strengthen your feet and to help stave off high-heel pain:

* Sitting in a chair, use your toes to trace out the letters of the alphabet with each foot.

* Roll a golf ball under the ball of each foot for two minutes.

* Place a small towel on the floor. Curl your toes and use them to pull the towel toward you.

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