Unfortunately many of the most elegant dress shoe designs are 3-inch heeled monstrosities. For some reason, shoe designers seem to think that the only people interested in 1 to 2-inch heels are octogenarians. At least when I go shoe shopping, most low-heeled shoes look like something from my grandmother’
The good news is that heels can be shortened, but the modification must be done carefully. Changing heel height alters the balance of the shoe and can make a shoe un-wearable. If you lower the heel too much, the toe of the shoe will point upward. Imagine a shoe with a toe that points several inches up into the air. Now imagine putting weight on that shoe. At best, the shoe would be extremely uncomfortable. At worst, the shank would snap in two.
Here’s an easy way of judging how much height you can take off a heel without distorting the shoe’s fit. Place your high heeled shoe or boot on the end of a table so that the heel hangs off. Be sure to keep the shoe level. Slowly lower the heel until the back end of the ball of the foot rests on the table. Whatever part of the heel hangs below table-level is expendable.
It is rarely possible to shorten a heel by more than an inch (and even this amount of reduction is too much in some cases). Luckily, lowering a heel even by as subtle an amount as a ¼-inch can take a lot pressure of your forefoot.
I recommend performing the table test at home before you even consider taking your heels to a cobbler. If it seems like the shoes can be lowered, make sure to bring them to a reputable place. The cobbler’s estimate of how much the shoes can be lowered should roughly match the results of the table test.
When looking for a beautiful dress shoe, there is no reason to choose between high heels and flats. A moderate heel (anything from one to one and half inches) can actually be beneficial to the long-term health of your feet and knees.