The ADA requires the gaps on deck boards on the boardwalk to be no wider than ½ an inch. Yet, the tip of a stiletto heel is less than ¼ wide. This is a useful lesson for people who are planning to build a home deck. Can you wear heels on a deck?
It is safe to wear heels on deck boards if the gaps between the boards are an 1/8 inch or narrower. Anything over an 1/8 inch spacing will require you to walk with extra caution unless your heels are thick and blunt.
Table of Contents
Can You Wear Heels On Wood Decking Boards
You can wear heels on wood decking boards however whether you are going to be safe and comfortable is a different question.
The safest decking for high heels has gaps no bigger than an 1/8 inch across. This is narrower than the narrowest stiletto heel so there’s minimal chance of shoes getting stuck and causing ankle injuries.
In many states, local building codes limit deck boards to a minimum 1/8 inch spacing. You can’t go any narrower than this or you risk drainage problems when it rains.
In very arid climates, there’s a risk of fire if too much dry debris is able to lodge in the gaps between the boards. So, you’ve got to find a happy medium: not too wide, not too narrow for the safest walking surface.
I’d like to stress that, even if local building codes won’t let you go any narrower, 1/8 inch spacing is the safest choice for heels. An 1/8 inch is too narrow for fingers as well.
Is It Safe To Wear Heels On An Outdoor Deck
It depends on the type of outdoor deck and how much caution you’re willing to take while wearing your heels. Even decks with wide gaps can be safe if you step carefully but it’s not much fun to be staring at the ground.
The safest decking gap for heels is under a ¼ inch. Many outdoor decks use 1/8 inch spacing to provide a secure surface for walking and prevent flammable debris from lodging between the spaces.
If you’re planning to build a deck of your own and high heels are an important detail, use 1/8 inch spacing.
Do Heels Damage Wood Decking Boards
We’ve discussed the dangers of heels getting stuck in outdoor decking but what about the damage heels can do to a deck. Can you wear pointy high heels on decking boards without causing damage?
Unfortunately, all wood decking boards sustain a degree of damage eventually. No matter what type of decking you use, scuffs and marks will appear at some point.
It’s just the nature of outdoor materials. They’re designed to be rugged and can tolerate intense wear and tear, but they’re not made to stay pristine.
Wearing high heels on decking boards will leave scuffs and scratches eventually but so will wearing other types of shoes.
If you’re concerned about this, the best type of outdoor decking material to use is an anti-scratch composite. Composite boards consist of a blend of wood and shredded plastic.
They also contain preservatives and ultraviolet inhibitors to slow down sun-related aging.
Can You Wear Heels On Composite Decking Boards
Like all outdoor decking materials, composite boards will eventually show wear and tear, but it takes significantly longer than with standard wood decking.
It means high heels cause less damage and the marks they do leave take longer to show up.
Crucially, composite decking boards are safer for high heels as well. Composites don’t have a grain in the same way solid wooden planks do so they don’t split or warp when exposed to outdoor climates.
This means, in states without a minimum spacing regulation, composite boards may be installed with a gap even narrower than an 1/8 inch.
With standard wood decking, sufficient room is needed for the wood to swell and contract in damp and/or hot conditions.
If the gaps between outdoor deck boards aren’t wide enough, there’s a risk the wood will crack outwards from the grain.
This is much less likely with a composite as these materials absorb less water, dry faster and don’t have a natural grain so there are no weak points.
The narrower the gap you can get away with, the safer the deck boards will be for walking in high heels.
Do Heels Damage Composite Decking Boards
Eventually, there will be minor scuffs, scratches and possibly even some dents in composite decking if you walk in high heels. But this isn’t really a weakness of the material.
Outdoor decking, like all outdoor building materials, is simply no match for the weather. Over time, sun bleaching will develop and surface pressures from walking around in all types of shoes will begin to leave small blemishes.
It’s inevitable, I’m afraid. The good news is composite decking is significantly more resistant to wear and tear than standard wood decking boards. So, it’s going to take much longer for blemishes to develop.
However, it’s worth noting that serious scuffs and scratches in composite can’t be sanded out like they can on wood. In time, light scratches from pointy heels blend in really nicely on composite until you can barely see them.
But very deep scratches and scrapes from heels, animal claws and furniture legs can look very prominent. On the upside, composite wood doesn’t splinter so there’s no risk to sensitive soles if you choose to walk barefoot.
Dangers of Wearing Heels On Deck Boards
To sum up, it’s completely safe to wear high heels on deck boards if the gaps between the boards are an 1/8 inch or narrower.
The pointiest stiletto heels are wider than this and shouldn’t get caught in the gaps while you’re walking across the surface. If the gaps are any wider than this, it depends on the type of shoe.
All shoes are different, and some have much chunkier heels than others. Ease of walking will depend on whether your heels are wider than the gaps between the boards.
If they’re not, it’s safer to go barefoot or wear flat shoes. If you have no other option, step carefully in heels to avoid getting stuck and rolling an ankle.
In my opinion, the dangers associated with walking on deck boards in heels shouldn’t put you off building one. Though it’s still important to be aware of what can happen, so you have the incentive to construct a safe, sturdy space.
Here are some things you might want to consider:
- If the gaps between the deck boards are wider than the point on the heels, there’s a danger of getting stuck if you don’t step carefully. While rare, the most serious consequence of this is a severely sprained or broken ankle.
- Very pointy heels can leave scuffs and scratches on the surface of wood decking. In some cases, they might leave a dent/depression in softwoods. Composites are more wear-resistant (light scratches) than standard wood decking, but heavy scratches can’t be sanded out.
Best Type of Heel To Walk On Deck Boards
If you have concerns about the safety of walking on deck boards in heels, you can always reduce your risk of getting stuck by opting for blunt, thick heels. Any shoe with a ‘blocky’ square heel, as opposed to a sharp pointy one, is going to be much easier to walk on. Even if the spaces between the deck boards are wider than an 1/8 inch, a super chunky block, flare, French or Cuban heel should have no problem whatsoever.
It really depends on the type of deck and the width of the spaces between the boards. If in doubt, go chunkier. Leave those dagger-sharp stilettos in your wardrobe. Or build a comfy composite deck, with no splinters, and kick your heels off at the door.
Helpful Tips To Know About Wearing High Heels On Decking
Say you’re heading off to a garden party but you’re unsure what shoes to wear or what the surfaces will be like.
Here are some tips to help you pick a safe pair of heels:
- If you have no idea what the walking surface will be like (grass, wood deck, concrete, etc), ditch the stilettos heels. Opt for flat shoes or a high heel with a flat, square bottom.
- If it’s too late and your pointy heels are about to meet a wood deck with a lot of holes and wide gaps, pay close attention to where you’re stepping. Step decisively over the gaps to avoid a rolled ankle.
- If you know the deck is made from composite wood, just remove your shoes and go barefoot without the risk of getting splinters.
- If it’s your outdoor deck being stepped on and you’re concerned about damage, one option is to lay down cheap area rugs and have all your guests go barefoot. Of course, this will only work if it’s totally dry outdoors.
- Extraneous decking outside of yours or a friend’s home is an entirely different story. Unless you know exactly what the walking surface will be like, it’s hard to plan and choose the safest shoes. Square, flat bottomed high heels are by far the best option if safety is your number one priority.
You can keep yourself safe on any type of wood deck, in any type of heel, by stepping with caution. That’s not a lot of fun at a garden party or other outdoor event though.
If in doubt, always opt for flat bottomed heels or go barefoot if the surface allows.
If you’re building your own wood deck and plan to host guests in heels, consider using a composite material and/or installing the deck boards with the narrowest gap possible (an 1/8 inch or narrower).