As the coronavirus vaccine continues to roll out and we start taking tentative steps into the world, is it possible those steps might be in stilettos?
It’s a question I asked myself last week as I tried to figure out what to wear to my first dinner out in 14 months. During the pandemic, I cocooned myself in the most comfortable pieces in my wardrobe—sweatpants, baggy dresses, clogs, Birkenstocks. My heels were relegated to the back of my closet. And I wasn’t alone: In 2020, sales of high heels dropped 71%. But by the time I got vaccinated, I was ready for a change. So for my first night out on the town, I swapped my Danskos for a pair of gold Gucci block heels.
Around the country, heels seem to be making a comeback. According to Google Trends, searches for “high heels” have been going up for the past few months. Retail analysts and trend forecasters have also seen a spike in sales of heels and other more formal footwear. (Crocs is even getting in on the game.) Heels had been on the decline for years before the pandemic, as consumers searched for more comfortable footwear (read: sneakers and flats). It’s unclear whether heels will ever return to their heyday of the early and mid-20th century.
But in the post-pandemic world, heels appear to be more than just a footwear choice. They’re imbued with new symbolism and represent change—a return to a world where people have parties and style matters because we’re seen in public once more. They could be our version of the flapper dresses that were all the rage during the Roaring ’20s, the years that followed the 1918 flu pandemic.
If you’re eager to throw your ergonomic quarantine shoes aside for a pair of fabulous heels, here are five new styles that can help you reimagine everything a high heel can be.
United Nude, Space Kick Summer, $320
United Nude’s strappy platforms have all the comfort and appearance of a sneaker but the 2.6-inch heel gives them a special-occasion feel. Plus, the fabulous colorways—animal prints spliced with metallics—will make a statement as you go about your exciting post-pandemic life.
Heels that feel like flats
Marion Parke, Leah Tie Sandal, $595
If you’re nervous about transitioning back into heels, designer Marion Parke is here to help. She’s a former podiatrist who used her extensive knowledge of women’s feet to create a line of luxury shoes that are so comfortable you won’t know you’re wearing heels at all. These ankle-tie sandals are ideal for the hot summer months and are designed to keep the foot stable, which makes walking easier.
A silhouette to remember
Amina Muaddi, Lupita Zebra Mule, $645
Amina Muaddi launched her eponymous label last year and has quickly become a favorite of celebrities like Rihanna and Kendall Jenner. One of her most distinct looks is a mule with a wide, triangular heel that makes it very easy to wear since it distributes weight better than your typical stiletto.
An elevated clog
Tamara Mellon, Grass Roots, $795
Did you get overly attached to your clogs during the pandemic? Tamara Mellon has a solution. She’s designed a pair of architectural wooden clogs with gold studs. At 4.3 inches, these heels are high, but they’re also embedded with foam padding to relieve pressure points.
Off White, Sponge Boots, $1,100
If high-heeled boots are what you’re after, don’t miss Off White’s Sponge Boots, which look like they were designed for intergalactic travel. The sole has a sponge-like texture, and there’s a funky partition that leaves only some of your toes exposed. At 5 inches high, these boots aren’t exactly made for walking—but that’s okay. You’ll probably be seated on your spaceship anyway.