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    

Vintage Seamed Stockings-cuban Heel - Garter Nylons-5 Pair-size 9 1/2-hosieryChristian Louboutin Salonu Fishnet Black T-strap Heels 120 Size 37 7 Stella Mccartney Star Platform Wedge Heel Oxford Shoes Sz 9 / 39$1145 Christian Louboutin Trepi 140 Tan Leather Sandal Heel 40.5 9 8.5$1495 Nib Giuseppe Zanotti Coline Siutta Metallic Gold Heel Sandal Bootie 35 5Authentic Gucci Women's Ursula Caged Ankle Wrap Horsebit Sandal Heel's Teal Sz 8Roger Vivier Ladies Black Patent Leather Low Heels - Sz 39 (8.5)Jimmy Choo Anouk Green Reptile Skin Heel Nib Christian Louboutin Pigalle 120 Black Patent Heels Size 40.5Jimmy Choo Eel Skin Sandals 5" Heels Off White11 11.5 12 42Iconic Prada Black Leather Bow Embellished T-strap Block Heel Sandals In Size 41Christian Dior Fur Pom Pom Kitten Heels 36 Galliano Era JadiorChristian Louboutin Women's Burgundy Suede Round Toe Heels Shoes Size 37.5 7.5Chanel Minimalist Double Strap Sandals Heels Black Leather 42 Christian Louboutin Heels Size 37.5Christain Louboutin Sporting 140 Cal Luggage Leather Heels Size 10 (41)Chanel White Clear Open Toe High Block Heel Ankle Strap Sandals Size 36Louis Vuitton Nwob Olive High Gloss Leather Slingback Peep Toe Heel Shoe 39 9Authentic Christian Louboutin Bianca140 Kid Platform High Heels Eu39.6 Us9 Uk6.5Cl So Kate 40.5 Nude Heels, Never Worn! Patent Leather Stained From SpillGianvito Rossi 38 Classic 11 Cm Heels Blue Patient Leather Pointed Toe AuthChanel Patent Calfskin Quilted Cc Thong Sandal Heels 38 Black 184312Chanel Cc Logo Peep Toe Perforated Leather Ankle Booties Heels 37.5 7.5 7 Gianmarco Lorenzi Size 36 (6) Pointy High Heels Fetish Ankle Boots SportChanel Satin Crystal Star Studded Slingback Heels 37.5 Black 182528Christian Louboutin Very Croise 140 Black Satin Slingback Heels 37.5 7.5 7 Christian Louboutin 120 'so Kate' Patent Black Leather Heels 37 100% Authentic Chanel Purple Suede Shoes High Heels Size 36.5 Would Also Suit 37Christian Louboutin Red Bottom Heels Pigalle 120 Nude Patent Size 37 Christian Louboutin Body Strass Glitter Solaria Flats Sandals Heels 37.5 Size 7Christian Louboutin Circus Black Patent Cutout Mesh 120 Heels Booties 37 Christian Louboutin Peeptoe Slingback Nude Leather 39 Eyelet Cutout Wood HeelHand Made Fetish Shoe Extreme 7 Inch Heel Platform Us Size 7 Sling Back PatentLoeffler Randal Tan Suede Thigh High Boots W Stacked Heel Nib Size 9 1/2Jimmy Choo Diffuse Turquoise Metallic Gladiator Sandals Heels Size 40 NibChristian Louboutin White Caged Heels$950 Christian Louboutin 36.5 No Prive Multi Glitter Sling Back HeelsChanel Black Velvet Patent Strappy Cc Logo Heels Shoes Sandals 36 1/2Christian Louboutin Technicatina 120 Patent/pvc Heels Size 40.5 Retails $1,075Prada Black Leather Classic Heels 4.5" Heels 11, 11.5, 12, 42Christian Louboutin Pewter Gray Leather Peep Toe Kitten Heels Size 38 8 In BoxAquazzura Very Eugenie Ink Suede Platform Heels Open Toe Shoes 39 Us 8.5Christian Louboutin Gold Glitter Nude Leather Cut-out Ankle Tie Heels Size 38Chanel Lambskin Satin Cc Cap Toe Ruler Heel Booties 37.5 Black 184377Giuseppe Zanotti Wedge Heels Eu 38.5 Us8.5 -ivory-no Reserve !!Chanel Navy Blue And Gold Patent Leather Heels, Unique And In Amazing Condition Fluevog Wearever Arigato D'orsay Heel, Size 7.5, Cherry/brownChristian Louboutin Very Prive 120 Black Leather Suede Heels Size 39 With Box No 6 Black Leather Fringe Platform Slide On Clog Heels Size 39 9Christian Louboutin Strappy Leather High HeelsChristian Louboutin Chocolate Brown Patent Leather Heels Sz8 Eur38 110mm 4.33inChanel Heels 39Gucci Jacquelyne Suede Strappy Heels Size 10Christian Louboutin High Heels Size 40 With Vibran SoleManolo Blahnik Navy Blue Suede Stiletto Heels, Size 11.5us / 41.5Christian Louboutin Leather Gladiator Sandal Heels 38 Tan 180599Ysl Stunning Sky High Heels 38.5Manolo-blahnik-terwe-black-elastic-strap-cork-wedge-gold-heel-sandal 42Y36 Gucci Gg Marmont Fringe Black Suede Mid Block Heel Sandals Womens Size 38Jimmy Choo Silver Heels 38