We've all been there: You're shopping for shoes and spot a pair that makes your heart quicken — only to pull them off the shelf and find that your dream shoes are attached to a cork heel of doom. Do you overlook it and buy them anyway? Or do you put them back, bitterly cursing the hell from which cork heels come?
The fact that most people would answer B shows how much of a make-or-break element heels really are. A good one can elevate a basic shoe to the sublime. But a good shoe with the wrong heel is like a catchy song with a wack chorus, a cute dude with no text game — it makes an otherwise-lovely prospect a total nonstarter.
Because they're the raison d'etre of footwear, heels are also a natural focus for designers' creativity, and the place where trends are most evident, too. The uppers of shoes don't undergo much in the way of transformation from season to season. But a heel's height, chunkiness, and the presence or absence of a platform can define an outfit — or an entire era.
In tribute to the most expressive part of your shoes, we're breaking down the 12 most distinctive heel trends this fall. The shapes range from sophisticated to surreal, heights from barely-there to towering; some curve sensually, while others are sharp, spiky, and take-no-prisoners. There's really no one "must-have" heel this fall — the only bad one is a boring one, and your guide to avoiding that misstep is right here.