For many women, high heels are a wardrobe staple. They’re feminine, elegant, and flattering on all body types. Heels make you look taller, and they accentuate the legs—what’s not to love? And like the perfect shade of red lipstick, a pair of heels can make you feel powerful and ready for what’s ahead.
Women have been wearing heels for centuries, with styles evolving over the years. But how many different types of high heels are there, anyway? In actuality, there are plenty of comfortable heel types. While many looks fade out, a handful of high heel shoes will always have a place in fashion.
With a curated selection of tried-and-true styles you know you’ll wear again and again, each pair is worth the investment. From wedge heels to kitten heels, these eight fundamental types of heels are here to stay, and you might want to consider adding a few of these to your collection of comfortable sandals.
8 TYPES OF HIGH HEELS
High heel shoes are an excellent confidence booster. They can be worn year-round with just about any outfit. But different types of high heels are better for certain occasions. Are you looking for a crash course in high heels? Here’s a detailed breakdown of each kind of heeled shoe, where to wear them, and how to style them.
When people picture high-heeled shoes, they often imagine a pair of stilettos. This classic style has been around since the 1930s and features a thin, almost pointy stiletto heel. There are several varieties of stilettos, including standard designs with pointed toes, round toes, and peep toes, as well as strappy sandals, slingbacks, and boots.
Stilettos tend to be relatively tall compared to other types of heels—sometimes reaching 5 or more inches. These sky-high shoes can be somewhat challenging to walk in, especially if you’re not used to tall, pointy, and thin heels. While stilettos weren’t the first type of high heel, the style is undoubtedly iconic. Although a stylish shoe, these can be uncomfortable and may cause foot pain due to poor arch support.
It’s tough to say whether stilettos or pumps are more timeless. Then again, why choose? Both types of heels are ideal for dressy and professional occasions, but they have distinct differences. Although the uppers of pumps can come in all the same styles as stilettos, they’re often not as high, and the heels are less pointy. With pumps, heel heights usually range from 2 to 3.5 inches. Take the Carmel Heel, for example.
Pumps are a highly versatile shoe, and they tend to be relatively comfortable. On the job, try wearing this high heel shoe with slacks, a jumpsuit, or a pencil skirt. For a night out, pumps look excellent with cigarette pants, a dress and tights, or even jeans. However, if you’re looking for a tried and true comfortable shoe to get you through the day, pumps may not be your best bet.
3. Kitten Heels
A Kitten heel has a heel type as thin as stilettos, but they’re much shorter—typically between 1 to two inches in height. They were first popularized in the 50s as formal shoes for adolescent girls who weren’t old enough to wear higher heels. By the 60s, women of all ages began wearing kitten heels, which was a relief for many who weren’t thrilled about extra-tall shoes.
Over the decades, these mid-century shoes have remained a top choice for many women. Like stilettos and pumps, you can find kitten heel styles, like the Ziva Kitten Heel and Jacynda Kitten Heel, with a round toe or pointed toe, as well as slingbacks and slides. They’re more comfortable to wear than a stiletto heel and provide a slight boost. This style of shoe is typically seen with work attire, formalwear, and even some semi-casual ensembles.
4. Block Heels
A block heel (which is sometimes called a stacked heel sandal) features a wide, solid chunky heel. Since the chunky heel shape provides additional stability, they’re one of the more walkable types of high heels.
Chunky block heels are usually medium in terms of height, but they can range from 2 to 4 inches. You can get block-heeled boots, sandals, Mary Janes, and straightforward closed-toe styles. Aside from being considerably comfortable, one of the best things about these comfortable heels is how versatile they are. They’re the perfect comfortable work shoes while also being a great option for happy hour, a wedding, a concert, out to dinner, shopping, and even dancing.
Wedges were first seen in ancient Greece and are usually considered to be warm-weather footwear. The platform heel style shoes feature wedge-shaped soles that gradually rise from the toe to the heel. A summer-ready wedge heel can be made of cork, leather, rubber, or wood. When comparing wedges vs. heels, wedges tend to be more comfortable and easier to walk in. The uppers are usually leather, suede, faux leather, or canvas, sometimes with an ankle strap, tie, or buckle and have a platform jute sole.
For those who want to stand tall but find other types of high heels to be uncomfortable, a wedge heel is the way to go. These heeled sandals will get you through the day in style and in less heel pain than some other high heeled shoes.
Wedge sandals curve to the natural shape of your foot, and the wedge sandal heel evenly distributes your weight, which steadies you as you walk. As a warm-weather shoe, wedges look excellent with maxi dresses, sundresses, shorts, rompers, jeans, and jumpsuits. In our opinion, every woman can use a pair of these beachy, elevated shoes. Need more style tips for this style of shoe? Check out our guide on how to wear wedges.
Platform shoes are available both as types of sandals or high-heels. Wearing platform sandals tends to be more comfortable and easier compared to other high heel shoes. They elevate the entire foot, from the toe up to the heel, with the toe slightly lower. The soles of platform shoes are notably thick and usually wide. With a low heel height ranging from 2 to 4 inches, the soles are often made of foam, rubber, plastic, and sometimes wood. Like other types of heels, the uppers can be made from a variety of materials.
Sandals with a platform heel are similar to wedges. However, platform soles tend to be more uniform, whereas wedge heels have a steeper slope. Platforms are a retro heel style with the signature long, sharp heel but with a separate elevated block under the ball of the foot. When it comes to women’s comfortable sandals with a bit of a heel, platform sandals are the way to go. Although platform heels come in and out of style, platform-style sandals remain a top choice for spring and summer. That said, these are a great option for a soon-to-be-bride who wants a pair of beach wedding sandals with some heel height. If you aren’t sure how to style this shoe, check out our tips on how to wear platform sandals.
Mules are a type of slip-on heel with no backing. But that doesn’t mean they’re not comfortable or easy to walk in. Once you get used to wearing mule heels, they can be pretty comfy—almost like a slipper. Most mules have a medium heel—sometimes with a curved design—but they can be flat, too.
8. Heeled Boots
When discussing the different comfortable heel types, you can’t overlook boots. Although heeled boots are almost in a category of their own, they’re heeled shoes, nonetheless. As we mentioned above, some boots have stiletto heels, but there are tons of other styles to choose from if you’re looking for a heeled shoe. Some have block heels and some have standard pump-style heels. Heeled boots can go up to the calves, knees, or above the knee. There are also ankle booties which stop at the ankles and typically have a medium heel, like the Regan Ankle Bootie or Sibley Ankle Bootie.
During the fall and winter, heeled boots are a woman’s best friend. Knee-high boots and over-the-knee boots can be pulled on over jeans or leggings with oversized sweaters. And ankle booties can be worn with just about anything. We also love how heeled boots look with skirts and dresses. If you like wearing heels but need something warmer in the winter, comfortable boots for women are your best bet.
WOMEN’S HEELED SHOES FROM VIONIC
From ankle strap heel styles to ankle boot heels, thick heels to thin heels, the options are endless. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the types of high heels, don’t sweat it. A shoe collection can be established over the course of several years and even decades. The key is choosing styles that are not only flattering but also provide plenty of support. Whether you want to show off your wild side in a pair of animal print shoes or strut simple mule heels to the office, make sure your feet are supported no matter what you’re doing or where you’re going. At Vionic, we’re dedicated to offering innovative footwear that checks all the boxes. Our shoes are fashionable, flattering, and comfortable with orthotic cushioning and unmatched arch support.
Whether your personal style is retro, modern, traditional, boho-chic, or varies from day to day, we have a pair of high heeled shoes that will complement your aesthetic. When you browse our wedges and heeled shoes, you’ll find block heels, kitten heels, platform sandals, slingbacks, heeled ankle booties, tall high-heeled boots, wedge booties, and everything in between.
What types of high heels do you want to line your closet with? Shop our elevated styles today and find a pair that suits you.