Are You Over High Heels?

Although Carrie Bradshaw’s personal style still resonates decades later, there’s one dead giveaway that explicitly dates each and every one of her outfits to an era preceding 2017: her shoes. “I’m very, very comfortable in heels. The higher the better,” Carrie says. And boy, does she put her fictional money where her mouth is. I can literally only think of one outfit — ONE OUTFIT, across the entire series — in which she isn’t wearing high heels. It’s the episode where she’s sitting on the steps of a brownstone with Steve, and on her feet are tucked into a pair of hot pink Dr. Scholl’s. Upon further research, I discovered that Sarah Jessica Parker was pregnant during the filming of this particular episode, which is likely why her character was temporarily given leave from round-the-clock high heel duty.

Is it just me, though, or is everyone kind of “over” heels these days? What I mean by that is: When given the choice between wearing high heels or wearing pretty much any other kind of shoe, it seems like people are ubiquitously opting for the latter.

I blame the sneaker craze of 2014. Well actually, “blame” is the wrong word. “Credit” is better, because I’m grateful the craze occurred. To recap: Sometime around 2014, street-style stars and high-end brands magically colluded (a.k.a. it was a chicken-and-egg situation — I’m not quite sure who had the idea first, although Isabel Marant’s wedge sneakers might very well have been the embryo) to enforce the concept of wearing gym sneakers with non-athletic attire. All of a sudden, sneakers were not only acceptable every-occasion footwear, but they were also COOL.

Up until then, fashionable footwear and comfort were treated as mutually exclusive, so it makes perfect sense why the trend caught on so quickly and so universally. The comfort was addicting. Walking ten blocks didn’t feel like an experiment in pain tolerance. Bunions were no longer de rigeur.

The sneaker trend had a good run (pun intended), but it maxed out after a couple of years. It was inevitable, given how homogeneous it became. The habituated comfort of forgoing high heels, however, was seared permanently into our psyches. How could it not be? It felt so good!!

Other high heel-less shoe trends trotted in to fill sneakers’ place. Slides have been a predominant contender of late, but loafers, ballet flats and espadrille wedges form a solid supporting cast of comfortable footwear options.

I sold my last two pairs of high, high heels on The RealReal a week ago. I never wore them anymore. The thought of putting on uncomfortable shoes that I can’t walk in actually makes me panic. I don’t buy it when people claim they’ve finally found a comfortable pair of high heels, because what they really mean by that is that they’ve finally found a pair of high heels that don’t feel absolutely, positively terrible to stand in more than an hour, much less walk in for a block.

I do understand the aesthetic enjoyment of a pair of really beautiful high heels; there is something truly mesmerizing about their shape and silhouette. I think, though, they’re kind of like those super elaborate cakes you see piled with fondant in store windows — pretty to look at, but not particularly tasty once you get down to the actual consumption business.

We’re fortunate to live in a time when designers are producing an abundance of cool shoes that don’t have high heels — casual ones, fancy ones, in-between ones — leaving us with comfortable and attractive options for almost any circumstance, from leading a board meeting to going out to a fancy dinner. They’re responding to a consistent, consumer-driven demand, no doubt — because now that we’ve tasted the sweet, smooth, buttercream frosting of shoes that not only get you from point A to point B pain-free but also look great simultaneously, why would we ever go back to fondant?

Collage by Ana Tellez

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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