As another supermodel takes a tumble in her too-high-to-handle heels, have skyscraper stilettos had their day? Probably not, but this season marrying style and sense has never looked so good
When US supermodel Kristen McMenamy walked the Valentino Spring 2023 Haute Couture show earlier this year, she didn’t go viral for her embellished dress or poker straight natural grey locks. No, instead she became the latest victim of the sky-high stiletto, taking tumble on the Paris Fashion Week catwalk. In fact, McMenamy was barely able to take a step forward before she wobbled and fell down to her knees. And it’s not the first time the fashion house’s apparently unwalkable shoes have made headlines either — a number of models tripped or fell while walking its Spring/Summer 2023 runway show too. While the trend cycle can be a fickle business, high heels have been back in the spotlight since the end of lockdown forced us out of our Birkenstocks and slippers, particularly the dangerously high kind you have to take a deep breath before buckling into. Perhaps it’s time to ask how high is too high?
“I feel for these girls — it can be a great knock of confidence to take a tumble in a high-pressured environment,” Aimee Homer, chief executive and creative director of shoe brand Aimee Ann Lou tells MOJEH. A purveyor of both comfort and style, Aimee’s personal and professional experiences informed her eponymous shoe brand, which champions luxury, playfulness and, most importantly, comfort.“If falls become a regular occurrence within a short walk distance, imagine the potential hazards wearing these heels day.” After all, even the most die-hard heel fans have felt that aching sensation in the backs of their lower legs the day after a big night out in even bigger heels, with after-effects that can last for days. “As much as a vertiginous heel can seem aesthetically pleasing and almost sculpture-like, my personal experiences have led me to seek out interesting low to mid heel options that still feel equally as stylish,” says Homer.
Previously working in a high pressure corporate environment before launching her brand, Homer would regularly find herself having to stand uncomfortably to give presentations while thinking about the pain in her feet while trying to focus — and not forgetting having to keep up with her flat-shoed male colleagues as they brisk-walked between meetings. “At some point self-love kicks in and you look for alternatives that better serve you to accomplish everything you want in your life— or at least in that day,” adds Homer.
Lucky then, that while sky high heels may be back with a vengeance this season — only the boldest dressers will try out Loewe’s balloon-swathed pumps or Balmain’s rock-shaped soles — wedges have most certainly usurped the stiletto, while pool float flats, bolshy bold boots and pirouette-ready pumps are all on point for SS23. Case in point? Fancy fishnet fabrications have found their way to feet in the form of Chanel’s debutante-meets-dominatrix bow-detailed pumps layered with a transparent fishnet sock, while Louis Vuitton’s platform bikers are the boot of the season. Sneaker fans will also love Gabriela Hearst’s signature recycled plastic trainers at Chloé, which appeared elevated on platforms alongside metallic clogs for the heel-averse.
“My golden rules are to go for shoes that elongate the leg, draw positive attention and enable self-expression,” adds Homer. “I’m a big fan of anything from the low heel almond-shaped toes to the super pointy toes — I feel like they provide you with a flattering silhouette and are super feminine, which is important when considering a low alternative to a sky-scraper. On the other hand, I love the contrast of a chunky boot or loafer paired with feminine garments and there are some gorgeous low heel Mary Janes and thigh highs if you want to go for a sultrier look. These on-trend styles are a blessing to us ladies.”
For many, more will always be more, with lovers of deliciously-daring shoes still likely to hit up the likes of Tom Ford, Valentino and Dior this season. The key to staying comfy, however, is all in the details. “Super high heels aren’t for the faint-hearted, yet style-conscious shoppers gravitate to dramatic heights season after season,” Hollie Harding, buying manager for non-apparel at Browns, tells MOJEH. “We’ve definitely noted platforms increase in popularity in line with the Y2K revival, which offer an added element of support and ankle strap detailing also helping the wearer to feel more secure.” You could also try opting for a wider heel over a pin heel — “this is a must so that you simply don’t get stuck in a drain or pavement somewhere,” adds Homer — while blocky wedge boots are also the height of style right now thanks to Fendi’s F-detailed patent wedge boots, Bottega Veneta’s sculptural iterations, Dior’s pirate strap swashbucklers and Masha Popova’s patchwork denim numbers. Sensible? Maybe. Stylish? Absolutely. The future of fashion? Only time will tell.
- Words by Naomi Chadderton