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”)

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]

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]

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    

Chanel Black Leather Studded Wooden Heel Mules Size 39.5Christian Louboutin Maggie Heels Shoes Size 38Tom Ford Over The Knee High Heel BootsLouboutin So Kate 120 Red Bottoms Black Patent Leather Size 41 Eu/10.5 Us HeelsAlexander Wang Indigo Leather Cut-out Heel Ankle Boots Size 39Christian Louboutin Heels!!!!! Size 37.5 (7.5 Us) Beautiful Shoes !!!Christian Louboutin Recouzetta 160 Black Leather Platform Boot Heels Shoes Lularoe M Cassie Skirt High Heels Shoes Unicorn Nwt Lularoe Black MediumUgg Australia Black Leather Mid Calf Boot Heels. Size Women's 8Valentino Black/pink Patent Leather Studded Heel Size 8 C6526Dansko Rylan Leather Boot Size Eu 38 Us 7-7.5 Brown High Heel Western EucCeline Black Leather Buckle Heels Sandals Sz.38Chanel Black Leather Ankle Strap Platform Slingbacks Heels Size 39 9Rare Velvet Angels Brown Leather Thigh High Boots With 5" Heels In Size 10Stuart Weitzman Black Suede Heel Over The Knee Boot Size 6.5m. C6640Alexander Wang 'kori' Cut-out Heel Ankle Boots, 39.5, 8.5-9, Gray $495Ann Demeulemeester Black Suede Zip Up Round Toe Chunky Heel Ankle Boots Size 39Jimmy Choo Lance Black Patent Leather Wavy Strap Sandal Heels Womens Size 37.5Tory Burch Black Leather Gold Tone Peep Toe Wedge Heels Size 5.5Tory Burch Open Toe Black Patent Leather Wedges Heels Size 7.5Kobe 11 "achilles Heel" Size 10.5Tory Burch Black Sophie Wedge Heel With Gold Logo Size 7Chanel Beige Black Bow Leather Slide Open Toe Heels Sandals 40. 1/2 CChristian Louboutin 160 Blue Kohl Spotlight Sparkle Drapesse Highness Heels 39Christian Louboutin 160 Black Leather Botticellita Spiked Heels 39John Fluevog Green Leather T-strap Mule Slide Heel Us 6 Made In Portugal NiceSophia Webster Yasmina Heels - Price Dropped! Christian Louboutin Size 4.5 Slingback HeelsChristian Louboutin 37 Suspenodo 45 Sling Glittered Patent Sling Heels NibFrye Dark Brown Leather High Heel Boot Shoes Size 9.5Vince Black Leather Pointed Toe Medium Heel Slip On Oxfords Size 8.5Christian Louboutin Pigalle Follies 100 Patent Degrade Heels 39Christian Louboutin No.299 150mm Swarovski Crystal Strass Heels Sz 38!!Pringle Crisp White Shirt - Wear With Slim Black Trousers & Kitten Heels 16Women's Otbt Bushnell Wedge Sandals Heels Shoes Brown Sz 8.5m Euc!Pedro Garcia Blush Castoro Suede Cross Strap Libby Heels Size 39Christian Louboutin Daffodil Silver HeelsSaint Laurent Wyatt Jodhpur Boot Tobacco Suede 30mm Heel Size 11.5 (44.5)Christian Louboutin Galata Metallic Patent 70 Mid Heel Shoes Size 40Tory Burch Tall Brown Leather Heel Boots Size 10 Very NiceChristian Louboutin Rolando Crystal Heels Size 38Tom Ford Purple Velvet Strappy Laced Stiletto Heel Sandals Size 40 10Jimmy Choo Patent Leather Strappy Heels Red 36.5 139553Guisseppe Zanotti Metal Heel Toe Booties Fur Lined Sz 37Burberry Espadrille Wedges Sandals HeelsLouboutin Grorolli 120 Red Bottom Nude Patent Leather Size 41 Eu / 10.5 Us HeelsChanel Black Pebbled Leather Cap Toe Knee High Block Heel Boots Size 37.5 7.5Nib Aquazzura Spin Me Round 2" Heel In Luggage Size 39Vtg 3 Pr Beautiful Hanes - 615 - Demi-toe - Sheer Heel Nylon Stockings 10-1/2 LMarni Metallic Silver Leather Ankle Strap Evening Heels Size 41 11 In DustbagWell Worn Jennifer Lopez Office Heels Women's ShoesLotta From Stockholm Silver High Heel Peep Toe Clogs Eur 39/uk 6/us 8.5Vince Camuto "baldwin" Over The Knee Low Heel Black Leather Riding Boots 9/39Burberry Prorsum Black Leather Shearling Buckled Aviator High Heel Boots 41 10Christian Louboutin Strappy Turquoise HeelsChristian Louboutin Black Heels 38.5 8 1/2Yves Saint Laurent Paris Python Heels Shoes Eu41 Us11 Alexander Wang High HeelsVintage Frye Camel Brown Burnt Orange Leather Knee High Pull On Heels Boots 8.5Badgley Mischka 8436 Womens Lavender Ii Blue Peep-toe Heels 9 Medium (b,m) Bhfo