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    

Christian Louboutin So Kate Nude Heels Shoes Size 38 Great Condition No ReserveChristian Louboutin 37 Une Plume 140 Orange Open Toe Patent Slingback Wedge HeelPaul Green Tommy Block Heel Bootie Brown Us Size 10 Uk 7.5Michael Kors 3992 Womens Mallory Beige Leather Dress Strap Sandals Heels 38 BhfoLouboutin 9.5 Yellow Patent High Heel ShoesMarni High Heel Platform Patent Leather Shoes Sz 41 Or 10Lularoe Cassie Skirt High Heels Medium NwtBruno Magli Brown Leather Almond Shape Toe Lace Up Heel Oxford Sz 9Ann Demeulemeester Nib Asymmetric Leather Calf Slingback Heels Sandals Us 8.5 Christian Louboutin Beige Spiked Pigalle 120 Patent Heels 38.5 8Valentino Black Rockstud Kitten Heels - Size 37.5Giohel Pointy Overknee High Heel Boots 44 SizeChristian Louboutin So Kate 120 Denim/ Jazz Calf Heel Sz 40Christian Louboutin HeelsMaryam Nassir Zadeh /mnz Low Heel Palma Sandals 39 Us 8.5Christian Louboutin Pigale Pink HeelsAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Multicolor Mule Heels Christian Louboutin Spike Heels Size Yves Saint Laurent Heels 35.5 Tribute T Strap Beige Cream Platform SandalsLouboutin Women's Heels Architek Carpretto Nero Size 38.5 (size 8 Us)Nwob Fendi Block Heel Knee Leather Boots 6 36 It $1550 Authentic BrownGianmarco Lorenzi Extreme High Heels Overknee Platform Boots 36 SizeChristian Louboutin Black Leather High Heel Classic Ankle Booties Size 37.5 7.5Chanel Black Suede Gold Chain Cc Logo Heel Sandal Shoe Sz 37 7Paul Green Booties Beacon Size 4.5 (7.5-8us) Black HeelsWhite Cement 3's 88 (nike Air Heel Tab) 8.5No. 6 Clog Boots, Mid Heel, Size 38Ysl Navy Blue Patent Leather Tribute Heels 38~ Giuseppe Zanotti X Balmain Orange Black Beaded Gladiator Sandals / Heels ~ 38~ Martin Margiela Black Suede Lucite Heel Ankle Boots / Booties (funky Chic!) 37Prada Gray Suede Peep Toe/slides/heels/shoes Sz 38 $750Jimmy Choo Pointy Nude Heels - 37.5My Favorite Black Velvet Heels Well WornChristian Louboutin Black Patent Leather Kitten Heels Size 41Auth Louis Vuitton Mini Lin Monogram Lv Wedges Sandals Heels 37,7 BlueChristian Louboutin 39,5 Mary Jane Peep Toe Heels Brown Patient LeatherLouis Vuitton, Patent Leather, Peep-toe Heels, Us Size 5.5 / Eu 36Gucci Black Patent Leather Wedge Heels Open Toe Sandals Size 7.5 ItalyManolo Blahnik Black Satin Gotria Summer Wedding Heels Shoes Sz 39.5 Us 9.5Roger Vivier Belle De Nuit Wedges Heels Shoes Escarpins 36 Uk 3.5Gucci Tom Ford Stiletto Heels Black Strappy -- 38.5 8.5 Worn Once! $695~gucci~black Signature Gg Canvas Bamboo Horsebit Slides~sandals~heels~8.5/9!Kate Spade Dijon Bow Heels Size 7.5Roger Vivier Black Patent Leather Heels With Brass Buckle Size 11 Eu 41Ysl Black Suede Leather Trim Platform Tribute Sandals Heels Size 37 7Classic Louboutin Pigalle 120 Stiletto Heels - Specchio Mirror Silver - 38.5Vintage Hermes Tan Lizard Heels Shoes Size 39Genuine Alligator Heels Made In Italy Size 8.5 MediumAuthentic Christian Louboutin Suede Bow Heels Size 37.5Black Velvet Yves St Laurent HeelsJimmy Choo Black Suede Laser Cut Peep Toe Ankle Booties Heels Size 37.5 7.5Jimmy Choo Platform Heel 36.5 36Giuseppe Zanotti Blue Black Ombré Snakeskin Heels 40 / 10Dansko Thea Full Grain Womens Purple/tan Closed Toe Sandal Heel Size 9 Zc-130Vintage Authentic Chanel Brown Leather Loafer Heels Unique Lug Sole Size 36.5 Manolo Blahnik Mauve Pink Satin Gotria Summer Wedding Heels Shoes Sz 39.5 Us 9.5Christian Louboutin White Strappy Black/white Weave Heel Size 36 1/2Christian Louboutin Black Suede Ruched Peep Toe Ankle Bootie Heels Size 37.5 7.5Black Leather Round Toe Christian Louboutin Booties 4.5" Heel 39.5 Eu 8.5 UsGiuseppe Zanotti Lace Up Ankle Boots 38 Italy Peep Toe Heels Unworn