Stilletology: The Science Of High Heels

You probably don’t think a lot about how your shoes are made … until, that is, you’ve been standing in them for two hours and you’re thinking in dire agony, What the eff kinda person thought these heels would carry me through the day … or the next two blocks?! Despite the painful downfalls of the high heel’s structure, there’s quite a bit of science that goes into the design in order to make the shoe work. Balance must be achieved, and a reinforced shank must be perfectly placed and angled in order to evenly distribute weight.

Ask Christian Louboutin or Manolo Blahnik about their wares, and you might get the impression that they’re physics experts more than they are fashion designers. Blahnik tells the New York Times, “‘Balance is the most important aspect of creating a 115-millimeter heel. To achieve it, I use a compass, a ruler, my eyes and my hands.’ Some designers now use a CAD, or computer-assisted design, system in their work but Mr. Blahnik said he would rather do everything himself — ‘I am a traditionalist,’ he said.” Shoe designers seem to all have their own different ideas about proportions. For Blahnik, he caps off his stiletto height at 115 millimeters (about 4.5 inches): “115 is the highest heel to walk properly and comfortably.” Louboutin’s max, however, is 160 millimeters, a little more than six inches.

Nicholas Kirkwood is another shoe designer who believes knowledge of construction is a must. He explains, “It’s about balance, shapes and proportions … It has to fit the foot and different feet. It’s not just an objet d’art.” Try telling that, however, to a lady who just spent an evening in a pair. At the very least, you know they tried. [New York Times]