Heel (shoe)

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Heels of women's shoes

The heel of a shoe is the thickened part of the bottom of the shoe that is located below the heel of the foot . Not all shoes have heels ( moccasins, for example, have no heels ).


Early document of worn high heels: Portrait of Louis XIV in 1701

The origins of the high heel shoe are not fully understood, evidence of such shoes can be found in the history of different cultures. However, these are often platform shoes without heels, such as the Japanese Geta . In Europe, the Kothurn and the Chopine are examples of early platform shoes . Furthermore, so-called tripping was widespread in the Middle Ages in order to stay away from the rubbish of urban streets.

The oldest known shoes with clear heels are shoes from equestrian peoples , examples of which are preserved in the Bata Shoe Museum . To this day, riding boots always have a clear heel, as they enable surefootedness in the stirrup . In the course of the intensive diplomatic relations by Abbas I around 1600, parts of the Persian culture, including the high heels, are said to have reached Europe and been positively received. This declaration of the origin of the heels is represented by the Bata Shoe Museum. As a result, high heel shoes spread as a representative symbol in the Baroque era , initially for influential and wealthy people. At the same time, the sales height, which was directly associated with a person's social rank, also increased. In some cases there were even detailed regulations for this. Even then, women's models differed from men's models in that they had more pointed toe areas and slimmer heels. In the wake of the French Revolution and the prevailing ideals of the Enlightenment , high-heeled shoes fell into disrepute at the end of the 18th century. Shoes with flat heels, on the other hand, had largely prevailed over shoes without heels as early as the 17th century.

Higher heels (more than 3 centimeters) were initially not linked to gender. This only changed towards the end of the 19th century - since then, the increased heel has been almost exclusively associated with women's shoes, with high heels with significantly higher heels than before. Very slim stiletto heels only became possible in the post-war period through the use of particularly strong steel. High heels in the form of platform shoes were widespread from the late 1960s, which significantly improved wearing comfort. One possible reason why high heels spread again as explicitly female shoes at the end of the 19th century is the simultaneous emergence of (nude) photography , which fundamentally changed the view of female attractiveness and eroticism.

The well-known exceptions to high heels for men's models include western boots (with about 4–5 centimeters high Kuba heels), as well as a fashion episode from the late 1960s to the 1970s. Here are a few examples:

  • The main actor in the movie Saturday Night Fever ( John Travolta wears Cuban heels).
  • In Reader's Digest magazine (March 1977 issue), an advertisement for branded jeans depicts a man with comparatively high heels.
  • In the episode "Talos IV - Tabu" from the Spaceship Enterprise series (1966), Captain Pike wears quite high heels during (the illusion) of a picnic on the planet of the same name.
  • Countless pop musicians performed in high heels, often with platform soles , in the 60s and 70s .

From 1980 this fad disappeared among men.

Heel height

Only a few men's shoes have a visually accentuated heel, like these cowboy boots with Cuban heels .

The heel height is not always clearly defined. In retail, the heel height is measured laterally in the middle of the heel. This results in a value by means of which both the increase in body size and the (orthopedically relevant) foot position (in the direction of the equinus) can be estimated. Especially in the case of shoes with very high heels, this value is only partially meaningful in terms of size. The heel height below the ankle, on the other hand, corresponds exactly to the increase in body size when wearing the shoe. The constructive heel height, in turn, is to be measured at the rear end of the shoe. This dimension is relevant when developing shoes, it is called the construction height .

The height of a heel is already planned in the design of the shoe and specified by the heel split of the last and can only be changed minimally afterwards without negatively changing the overall construction and the "position" of the shoe ( heel position ; see below). The heel height of customary men's shoes is between 2.5 and 3 centimeters; Most women's shoes have a heel height between about 3 and 8 centimeters. Paragraphs 6 centimeters or more in height are, by definition, tall heels . Shoes with 10 cm heels and more are called high heels .

Material, models, names

Heels have various heights, sizes and shapes and are made from a wide variety of materials (cork, wood, rubber, PVC, leather, straw, metal, etc.). Since paragraphs may have a considerable volume, they are often made hollow or only stabilized by a stiffening skeleton, both to save weight and to save material costs and to achieve better damping. Sometimes certain heels are associated with certain shoe models (for example the Cuban heel for western boots or the shimmy heel for men's dance shoes ). Accordingly, there are many different heel models: Louis XV heel, stiletto heel, funnel heel, diabolo heel, block heel, wedge heel, cuba heel, ballerina heel, trotteur heel and others. A heel does not always have to be attached as a separate element below the sole (usually with nails or screws from the inside of the shoe); long wedge heels, for example, are an optically integrated part of the shoe sole and not recognizable as a separate body.

The side and rear surfaces of the paragraph is paragraph coat called the front face sales chest or -Front . The layer of the paragraph that comes with the ground contact, called half-heel or heel heel lift . It is exchangeable for repair purposes. In order to increase the abrasion resistance of the upper stain on layered leather heels , it consists of two partial stains on larger tread surfaces (for example, on footwear heels of men's low shoes) , the rear of which usually consists of a particularly wear-resistant and at the same time shock-absorbing (rubber) material.


The primary function of the heel is to facilitate unrolling when stepping, to relieve the longitudinal arch of the foot and - with higher heels of women's shoes - an erotic change in posture (emphasis on the chest and buttocks) and gait, as well as optical lengthening of the legs and optical reduction of the feet. Furthermore, the heel offers an increase in the upper of the shoe in the area of ​​the tread, so that the upper is more protected and remains cleaner, so that only the bottom of the shoe is exposed to greater soiling and thus greater stress. Also not to be underestimated is an increase in safety against slipping through the inside edge of the heel.

Sales level

The correct height and alignment of the heel (one speaks of "heel stand", or "stand" for short) is important for foot health. A correct heel level is a prerequisite for a natural step of the foot and a normal gait.

The last around which the shoe is built basically observes this important statics. However, if mistakes are made in the manufacture of shoes (for example, one and the same last is used to manufacture a shoe with a single as well as a double sole), the result is often a poor “stand”.

The unclothed healthy foot stands securely on the ground with three main stress points (heel, ball of the big and small toe). This is also the case with a shoe with a good footing; he touches the floor with the entire heel tread and in the front part of the shoe at the level of the ball of the foot (axis through the ball of the big and small toe) with the outsole. However, if the heel is too low or too high for the shoe in question (both cases often occur in practice), the ball line of the shoe inevitably shifts. If the heel is too low, the ball line is shifted towards the heel, in the opposite case (heel too high) the ball line shifts towards the tip of the shoe. This results in incorrect loading of the foot and, in the long run, can lead to overload and all kinds of damage to health. The shoe itself is also overloaded due to incorrect statics, often shows unnaturally deep creases and wears out prematurely.

The correct heel level can be seen when looking at the unloaded, empty shoe from the side on a flat surface. When standing correctly, the top of the heel should be flat and the shoe should be in the ball area. (A minimal raised position of the front edge of the heel is not critical, because the weight load when wearing the shoe pushes it into the plane parallel to the front tread at the height of the ball of the foot.) Also, if the stance is statically correct, light pressure from the inside on the heel area should be done Do not change its position in the shoe of the front shoe. However, if the front part of the shoe were to detach itself from the support surface when pressure was applied to the heel, the shoe would not stand properly.

Health aspects

Incorrectly positioned, too narrow and / or too high heels pose health risks. Press reports that paragraphs are fundamentally unhealthy are rejected by experts. In this respect, so-called health shoes are not fundamentally healthier. These are almost always without heels and often with a negative heel height (so-called negative blast made), that is, the heel is on the inside deeper than the toe pads. Basically, heels relieve the longitudinal arch of the foot and facilitate the beginning of the rolling movement. A buckle foot, especially in connection with osteoarthritis, can be treated conservatively . According to medical estimates, these positive aspects predominate in heels up to a height of about three to four centimeters. However, there is also the critical assessment of paragraphs. Manufacturers of barefoot shoes argue that the foot naturally has no heel. In the forefoot, which protects the knees from hard blows from the arches of the foot, hard soles and raised heels are a hindrance.

It is different with higher heels. From the orthopedic side, frequent wearing of high heels is considered a health risk. Both factors (frequent and high) have to come together in order to cause noticeable and possibly permanent damage. The resulting clinical pictures are manifold and range from circulatory disorders to Cinderella shoe syndrome, shortened muscles and tendons as well as joint wear and tear , to (chronic) tension and back problems and ultimately postural problems. This is associated with decreased performance and pain, especially when standing and walking.

Sales materials that do not dampen the appearance should also be viewed critically. In particular, the slim, tall women's heels reinforced with metal pins transmit the impulse of the appearance unabated. Some women's shoe manufacturers are experimenting with technical improvements, some of which work like mechanical shock absorbers.

The smaller and further away from the longitudinal axis of the heel center the heel tread, the more unsafe it is to stand and walk in such shoes, and the risk of twisting the ankle increases. The consequences can be sprains, torn ligaments and tendons as well as broken bones.


  • Elisabeth Semmelhack: Heights of Fashion - A History of the Elevated Shoe. Periscope Publishing, Toronto 2008, ISBN 9781934772942 .
  • Linda O'Keeffe: Shoes - A tribute to sandals, loafers, high heels. Pp. 70–130, Könemann, Cologne 1997, ISBN 3-89508-467-0 .
  • Camilla Morton: How to change a lightbulb in high heels without accidents - The ultimate style bible. Goldmann, Munich 2006, ISBN 978-3-442-16741-8 .

Individual evidence

  1. Kremer, William. "Why Did Men Stop Wearing High Heels?" BBC World Service. 26 Jan 2013 [1] .
  2. Carl, Klaus. Shoes . New York, Parkstone International, 2011. EbscoHost.
  3. Wade, Lisa. "From Manly to Sexy: The History of the High Heel" The Society Pages. 5 Feb 2013.
  4. ^ Elisabeth Semmelhack: Heights of Fashion - A History of the Elevated Shoe. Periscope Publishing, Toronto 2008, ISBN 9781934772942
  5. Advertisement poster for Saturday Night Fever , Cuba sales , accessed on February 12, 2006
  6. Nice legs despite high heels , Lifeline.de, accessed on February 12, 2006
  7. a b High heels or pumps, which is more effective in terms of health? , paradisi.de, December 17, 2009, accessed on July 9, 2011.
  8. a b c High Heels and Health ( Memento of the original dated November 6, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , haushaltstipps.net, accessed on July 9, 2011. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / haushaltstipps.net
  9. a b c Edith Leisten: High shoes: a health hazard? ( Memento of May 24, 2011 in the Internet Archive ), accessed July 9, 2011.
  10. Arthrosis: Knee arthrosis due to high heels , fid-gesundheitswissen.de, accessed on July 9, 2011.
  11. Shoes can do that. In: glamour.de. Retrieved December 7, 2015 .