Lizzy leopard Pony-Hair Pump

I love shoes and I have a lot of them: boots, flats, wedges, pumps, and sandals, in a range of colors and materials and styles and heights. My favorites are heels. In my personal blog, one of my favorite posts is about The Joy of High Heels (among other things, they help you keep your mojo). But as good as they look, high heels are not always kind to my feet. When I was much younger, I’d suffer through it, often limping home after a long day and night in the fabulous shoes that were killing my feet. I like to think I’m smarter now, so I don’t do that anymore.

Kate Spade 'Bloom' Pump

So when I’ve got a long day ahead I usually have to lug another pair of more walkable shoes with me. Wearing-a-pair and carrying-a-pair is my norm. And I’m not alone; all over NYC, outside office buildings, ballrooms, and restaurants you’ll see women crouching in a one-legged stance, changing from sensible shoes to cute heels before hitting their destinations.

Max Studio 'Macan' Peep Show Pump

This is really starting to bug me. It’s the 21st century. Why is it so dang hard for shoe designers to make seriously attractive shoes that are not ridiculously high?  Actually, I know it’s not that hard; it’s just laziness. A very high heel makes any shoe look more interesting. Designing a “hot” shoe with a lower heel takes a bit more work. Women know that high heels change the “conversation:” the way the outfit flows, the way our legs look, the way we walk, our attitude.  So we buy really high heels and suffer through the pain. But I’m on a mission to make high-ish heels the new black (a much-over-used phrase, I know, but one that’s easily understood).

For the past two or so years, I’ve refused to buy a pair of shoes that’s over 2-3/4” high. I come home from a lot of shopping trips empty-handed. The Barney’s Warehouse Sale has become a joke to me, as the requirement seems to be that all the shoes are 5” high.

Renee Gallen Slingback

Christian Louboutin’s winter collection is fantastic, but seems to have nary a pump with a heel less than 3” high (which is low-ish, but not low enough). Saves me a lot of money, but also makes me a little sad. I wander, flabbergasted, around the entire floor that Saks Fifth Avenue has dedicated to shoes—so big it has its own name and zip code, Saks 10022. It has thousands of pairs of shoes, and maybe two or three that meet my requirements.

Spiga Black Calf Pump

I know that flats are in right now, but I’m not talking about flats. I want wearable heels. Cute, sexy, chic, delightful shoes at a sensible height. But I’m not looking for sensible shoes—there’s a difference. A sensible shoe is not stylish. And even the kitten heel–well, it’s getting there but it’s a little timid. And that’s not the point I want to make, either.

Last night, I spent hours online visiting the fashion sites, looking at all the new arrivals. I just wanted to find a pair or two of awesome heels at a level-headed height. It was tough, but there were a few—sadly, only a few.

Stuart Weizman 'Bowling' Pump

It’s ridiculous. I want to blame the designers but I know it’s really our fault. Designers make what sells…and we’re buying high, high heels and ignoring the discomfort, bunions, and ungainly gait. Because what price beauty, ya know?

I would like us to stop it. I would like you to help me. If we demand more fantastic, high-ish heels, they will come. I know they will.

After searching through hundreds of pairs of shoes, on this page are six I found that pretty much fit my qualifications: they’re 2-3/4” high or lower, and stylish…although probably not exactly “hot.”

If you’ve seen some others that make the cut, I’d love to see them. Just post them to the “High-ish Heels” photo album on WVFC’s Facebook page or our Flickr gallery.

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  • eleanore wells January 28, 2011 at 9:22 am

    @Rita: I dunno about that. High heels can be fun and sassy… for a few hours. I don’t think that’s every been true for foot binding.

  • [email protected] January 26, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I’m with Abigail – high heels are the modern equivalent of foot binding.

  • Cherrie Hanson December 5, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Eleonore – bravo for “The Joys of High-ish Heels. I really like your perspective on this subject. I think you will inspire women to rethink the ridiculous stilts and hopefully catch the attention of designers. The best form of consumer feedback is designs not purchased. Reject the insanity!
    You might enjoy reading another entry at CHERRIE BOMB! called “Sleepwalking” Posted on Sept. 2nd: (
    On long work days I wear “sweat chic” to stylishly diguise athletic shoes. It’s not “giving up” as Seinfeld would say, but “giving in” to happier legs.

    Thanks for your comment on “Standing up for Singles” at CHERRIE BOMB.

  • abigail congdon December 1, 2010 at 9:46 am

    i don’t see any difference between wearing very high heels and foot binding in the Chinese style. i live in the Village and am surrounded by young women who are hobbling in pain, walking with short stunted steps, or hanging on someone’s arm for stability.
    give me lovely fun shoes that i can STRIDE in! that is sensible AND sexy!

  • Adrian Miller December 1, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Go to Camper down on Prince Street. I bought my first pair when in I was in Barcelona and they are fab. Very cool shoes, lots of heels but with great cushioning and not over the top on price.

  • Elizabeth W November 30, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Hear hear! My ideal would be the lovely thick heels, Cuban I think? Chunky and kind of retro, and decently kind to feet.