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Since they were first created, high heels have fascinated the fashion world — especially those that are truly sky-high.
Stiletto heels, thick platform soles and more have all added a burst of elevation to traditional shoes over the decades. Numerous designers and brands, from Christian Louboutin to Pleaser, have released dynamically daring pumps, boots and more silhouettes with soaring heels totaling up to a staggering 20 inches in height. Some, like the late Alexander McQueen’s famed Armadillo boots — synonymous with Lady Gaga’s “Fame Monster” era — have even become a part of pop culture history.
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Many heeled styles have also become a subject of widespread historical fascination. In 2014, the Brooklyn Museum in New York City debuted its hit “Killer Heels” exhibit, which spotlit over 160 shoes from the 1500s to the 2010s. The display, curated by Lisa Small — who also wrote an accompanying book on the show — featured various towering footwear to show the transformation and international enchantment with high heels over time.
Below, FN takes a look back at the tallest high heels ever created.
James Syiemiong’s 20-Inch Heels
In February 2004, designer James Syiemiong was awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records for the Highest Shoes Commercially Available (formerly sold on the now-defunct Boldnbootiful.com). The winning style encompassed a set of black ankle boots totaling 20 inches in height, set atop a 17-inch platform for a towering finish.
Alexander McQueen’s Foot-High Armadillo Boots
Within Alexander McQueen’s spring 2010 collection, “Plato’s Atlantis,” the late designer debuted one of the most viral shoes in pop culture: the Armadillo boots, a curved platform style with 12-inch heels. Crafted in a range of finishes, only 24 pairs of the towering shoes exist; 21 were made in the collection’s first run, with three later auctioned for charity in 2015, according to Dazed. The shoes grew famous for their ties to Lady Gaga, who virally wore them in her “Bad Romance” music video and won styles at the aforementioned auction; pairs were also shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s traveling “Savage Beauty” exhibit in the 2010s, which paid homage to McQueen’s design career.
Vivienne Westwood’s Platform Pumps
The late Vivienne Westwood made waves with her spring 1994 fashion show, where models wore heeled pumps with crossed lace-up straps, thick front soles and towering 10-inch heels. During the occasion, supermodel Naomi Campbell virally fell on the runway while wearing the soaring shoes — which she later wore to the 1993 Designer of the Year Awards — cementing them in fashion history.
Pleaser Shoes’ 10-Inch Platforms
Pleaser Shoes is known for towering platform-soled footwear, often featuring pumps, sandals and boots with thick bases and soaring stiletto heels. The brand’s soaring footwear — also a longtime favorite of Lady Gaga — notably includes its signature 1020 boots, a lace-up style with angled platform soles and heels totaling 10 inches in height.
Courtesy of Pleaser
Christian Louboutin’s Metal Peep-Toe Stilettos
Within the Brooklyn Museum’s original “Killer Heels” exhibit, Christian Louboutin’s “Printz” pumps were prominently featured. The FNAA-winning designer’s black leather style featured a peep-toe silhouette with Mary Jane straps, all set atop silver metal stiletto heels totaling 7 inches in height.
Christian Louboutin’s Ballerina Stilettos
For the English National Ballet’s 2011 Summer Party, Louboutin auctioned off a limited-edition pair of sculptural pumps inspired by ballerina slippers. The pointe-style shoes featured a vertical, slipper-like silhouette with rounded toes, embellished mesh uppers and stiletto heels totaling 8 inches in height, according to Glamour. The pair also continued the shape of a black leather shoe — now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent collection — that Louboutin crafted for a 2009 exhibit with David Lynch.
Walter Steiger’s Towering Horn Pumps
French brand Walter Steiger’s spring 2013 collection featured one of the brand’s boldest shoes: the “Unicorn Tayss” heels, a platform-soled sandal with curved 6.69-inch heels shaped like animal horns. The edgy set was also notably featured in the Brooklyn Museum’s “Killer Heels” exhibit.
Jay Zukerkorn/Courtesy of Walter Steiger/Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum
Marc Jacobs’ Kiki Platform Boots
First introduced on Lady Gaga and Kendall Jenner in his fall 2016 runway show, Marc Jacobs’ gothic Kiki boots have faced a cultural resurgence in the 2020’s. The designer’s platform-soled boots feature numerous buckled straps and thick flared heels for a height-boosting edge. Today, numerous pairs have been worn in various silhouettes by stars including Olivia Rodrigo, Bella Hadid and Jacobs campaign star Kim Kardashian.
Giuseppe Zanotti’s 6-Inch Platforms
Within his towering signature shoe lineup, Giuseppe Zanotti has launched the Curve Jem — a round-toed platform bootie with curved counters and thick, wedged heels totaling 6.3 inches in height. The slick shoe has been crafted with smooth leather and suede in an array of colors, as well as a peep-toe version coated in sparkling crystals.
About the Author:
Aaron Royce is the Digital Editor for Footwear News, where he writes stories on trending news, celebrity style, collaborations and in-depth profile interviews. Prior to joining Footwear News, Aaron wrote for publications including PAPER, Grazia and the Daily Front Row. He currently holds a B.S. in mass communications from Virginia Commonwealth University.
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