University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Modern Stiletto Shoes

High-heeled Shoes and Pointed Toes


These four inch high, Nine West stilettos are from the private collection of Ashley Ayers. Special thanks to her for loaning the stilettos and modeling them (see below).

Throughout the 20th century, high-fashion shoes for women have gone through cycles of pointed toes and rounded toes, high stiletto heels and lower, broader heels. In the 1920s, 1950s-1960s, and 1990s-present, the toes were sharply pointed; in the 1930s-1940s and 1970s-1980s, heels were high but broader. In the 1950s-1960s and 1990-present, the heels were very high stilettos.

Thus, high-fashion shoes have both very pointed toes and very high, stiletto heels. This combination of styles is harmful for women’s feet and leads to problems with spinal alignment and therefore posture. The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society’s web site, among many others, highlights these problems.

Source: bound feet in lotus shoesimage from Wikimedia Commons (public domain); stiletto heels – staff member modeling for exhibit. Please see our page on Traditional Lotus Shoes.

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