A good high-heel shoe is barely a shoe at all. It is a precarious perch for walking, with little more than a curving insole below the foot, a band or two of leather or fabric around the toes, and perhaps a thin strap behind the heel. If the high heel is also a mule, then the foot is even less secured, reducing the shoe to a mere ornament at the bottom of the leg—the dot, if you will, below an emphatic fashion exclamation mark.

Though usually tapered and sleek, high heels can range from wide and chunky to narrow and sharp. Regardless of their shape, though, most are utilitarian in design, a supporting player to the leather, snakeskin, or satin uppers that are, after all, the first things to catch the eye.

Some designers lavish the heels of their shoes with attention anyway. Todd Oldham has covered some of his wide, gold-leaf heels with gaudy costume jewels. Stuart Weitzman prefers rhinestones. And Roger Vivier, who many credit with inventing the modern stiletto heel, has created high heels that resemble pyramids, snails, and rose branches with protruding thorns.

The stiletto is the most notorious type of high heel, so named for its spiky, lethal-looking shape. Stilettos typically come to a point of less than half an inch in diameter, creating a staggering 1,500 pounds-per-square inch of pressure on the ground when worn by even a 100-pound woman. That compares rather unfavorably to the 75 psi created by the footfalls of a 6,000-pound elephant.

Regardless of their shape, high heels are prized and praised for a multitude of reasons. For designers like Manolo Blahnik whose background includes architecture, high heels are the closest they get to sculpture. For women, high heels force flattering definition in their leg and butt muscles, and there is even evidence that high heels have a positive affect on the pelvis.

The cost for all this toning is often unbearable foot pain, crippling knee problems, and a general inability to be fleet-footed, which is why many women view high-heel shoes—from no-nonsense pumps to slinky sandals—with disdain and even contempt. The marabou mule is the most frequent object of their ire. Named for the dyed stork feathers that create “poofs” of color on the shoe’s vamp, the marabou is the classic, Hollywood-sex-kitten bedroom wear, suggesting, say their critics, subservience rather than style.

Still, the high heel has many more fans than foes. In addition to Vivier, Blahnik, and others, some of the most famous high heels (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) have been created by designers such as André Perugia, Salvatore Ferragamo, Terry de Havilland, Vivienne Westwood, Maud Frizon, Karl Lagerfeld, Bernard Figueroa, Christian Louboutin, and Jimmy Choo. Even fashion houses as established as Chanel and Dior have also made sure that they have high heels for their well-heeled customers, be they professional women in power suits or aspiring pop stars.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Shoes

All About Shoes

From Canada's Bata Shoe Museum comes a visually impressive exhibit focusing on the history of the shoe from traditi… [read review or visit site]

MyVintageVogue

MyVintageVogue

The history of 20th-century women’s fashion largely played out in the pages of magazines such as “Harper’s Ba… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

Virtual Shoe Museum

Virtual Shoe Museum

This virtual museum from Shoe Icons Publishing showcases over 800 pairs of shoes and related reference information.… [read review or visit site]

1960s Fashion and Textiles

1960s Fashion and Textiles

Put on your go-go boots and check out this wavy, groovy tribute to 1960s fashion and textiles, courtesy of the Vict… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Fashion Guild

Vintage Fashion Guild

The VFG is a non-profit international educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of vinta… [read review or visit site]

Fashion-Era

Fashion-Era

Bursting at the seams with content, this site contains hundreds of pages of fashion and costume history, including … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Christian Louboutin Nwob Black Satin Ankle Strap Heel Sandal Shoe Sz 38 8Chanel Heels Blue And Black Eu 40 Uk 7 Us 10 Excellent Con!Aquazzura Sexy Thing Cutout Sandal HeelChanel 2017 Beige White Two Tone Slingbacks Shoes Heels 37Christian Louboutin Size 38 Lady Peep Toe 150 Patent Calf Nude Authentic HeelsChristian Louboutin Very Prive Swarovski Strass Ab Heels Sz37!~ Nib Saint Laurent Ysl Babies Metallic Glimmery Buckled Booties / Heels ~ 38Louis Vuitton Elsa High Heel Black Leather Boots 37 7 Dolce&gabbana D&g Taormina Lace Slipper Flat Heel Shoe Black Nero Bnib 37.5Christian Louboutin So Kate Glitter Floral Worn Twice 120mm Heel Size 37Valentino Rockstud Heels 39 - Enchanted Wonderland Edition. $1200!! Worn Once~ Aquazzura Black Leather Cut Out Peep Toe Sandals / Heels (hot Stuff!) 37.5Jimmy Choo Romy Nude Heel 36Christian Louboutin Daffodile Black Size 40 6.3 Inches HeelMartiniano High Glove Heels White Size 39 Shoe Maryam Nassir Zadeh La GarconneStuart Weitzman Nudist Heels Glitter Nib Metallic Silver Gold Wedding Bridal 9Christian Louboutin Spiked Peep Toe Heels Size 37.5Christian Louboutin 3 Fibbia 120 Black/silver Peep-toe Heels~ Christian Louboutin Patent Leather Leopard Print T-strap Peeptoe Heels ~ 39Tory Burch Nib T-strap Ivory And Camel T-strap Spectator Heels, Size 10 $425Chanel Patent Cc Strappy Sandals Heels 38.5 Black Gold 166813Christian Louboutin Fifi Black Patent Slingback 85mm Heels Size 35 (5)Dior Black Leather Shoes Lace-up Ties Horn Heel Ankle Booties Italy 37 Rtl. $795Christian Louboutin "decollete 100 Jazz Calf" High Heels - 39Christian Louboutin Taupe Patent Leather Strappy Sandals Heels - Sz 39 1/2 - EucStuart Weitzman Nudist Moonglo Satin Silver Women's Fashion Heels Sandals 9 MChristian Louboutin High Heels In Gorgeous Chocolate Patent LeatherSaint Laurent Yst Black Leather Rock Stud Cap Toe High Heel Booties 38.5 $995Zara Leather Platform Wooden Heel Brown Sandals 8Tory Burch Black Patent Leather Stacked Wedge Heel Size 8 C4932*Paul Stuart Grenson Masterpiece England 11.5 D Vibram Sole Heel Stuart's ChoiceJimmy Choo Women's Patent Leather Heels, Size 37.5 (7 Us)Chanel Cap Toe Beige & Black Leather Two Tone Heels Size 35Miu Miu Blue Suede Ankle Boots 65mm Heel With Fringe And Chain Ornament Size 40Womens Hermes Slingback Kitten Heels Size7.5/eur 8Christian Louboutin White Strappy Slide Sandals Cage Heels Size 39.5 Summer! Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche $795 Gold Leather Platform Slingback HeelsBalenciaga Glove Heels Sz 38 Olive BlackGiuseppe Zanotti Design 7555 Womens Red Satin Embellished Heels Sandals 8.5 BhfoAuthentic Chanel High HeelsAlexander Wang Black Leather Rose Gold Cut Out Heel Ankle Boots Size 38 8Golden Goose Green Leather Chunky Heel Mid Calf Boots Size 40 10 Ll19llChristian Louboutin Black Pointy Toe Heels 39.5Christian Louboutin No Prive Patent Leather Slingback Heels 37Alexander Mcqueen Woman's Sandals Heels Size 38 Or 7.5 Grey LeatherLouboutin Patent Nude Cork Heels 38Christian Louboutin Ostri Sling 100 Suede Slingback Heels Size 37.5 Black/goldManolo Blahnik Pink & White Stripes Satin Casual Low Heel Mules Sz 37.5m$326 Cydwoq Vintage 'skate' Heels Shoes 36 1/2/6 Black Usa Handmade Button BackNib Men's Carolina Boots Ca8028 8" Brown Waterproof Low Heel Logger Wp,eh, 13eeZara Leather Burgundy Wide Leg Red Maroon Wine Knee High Heel Boots 38 Uk 5Christian Louboutin Kitten Heels 4Laurence Dacade * Suede Studded Block Heel Sandals * Size 40Valentino Red Leather "rose" Kitten Heel, Size 10 (40) *worn Once*Chanel Black Leather Silver Metal Logo Round Toe Wedge Heels Size 35 5Dolce And Gabbana Stiletto Bootie Heels. Sz 40/41 S/m/lNos Salvatore Ferragamo Black Leather Gold Metal Clasp Classic Heels Women 10 CNib! Free People Bed Stu $125 Soto Leather Tan-rustic Heel-zip Sandals, 9!Stuart Weitzman Poco Black Suede Pointed Toe Kitten Heel Size 8.5n Rh11145~ Manolo Blahnik Black Leather Thong Sandals / Heels (forever Classic!) 37