Slingbacks often get a bad rap. They can be as difficult to walk in as any high heeled sandals. The strap can rub and hurt the back of the foot as badly as a new pair of thigh highs.
The absence of an ankle strap gives a slingback all the security on the foot of a mule, which is to say: almost none.
But when they are done right, there is nothing more beautiful than a slingback heel. The key is a thin strap around the back of the heel, which flexes with the foot slightly as you walk.
Get the strap right and you can do anything with a slingback – a closed vamp, peep toe or strappy sandal frontage are all in the game.
But get it wrong, and things get messy. A strap which rubs will make a night in slingbacks simply hellish. It is very difficult to stick anything to the feet to stop the rubbing because it will be highly visible.
Vero cuoio is a mark of quality, but only in a limited way. The only real meaning of the phrase is to distinguish the leather used in the shoe from “fake” or artificial leather (sometimes known as “PU”).
Hence if your shoe says “vero cuoio” you do at least know that the manufacturer has used real leather – provided they are telling the truth in using the stamp!
The trouble is that leather quality can vary widely from top shelf to very poor quality indeed. It’s all “vero cuoio” but that doesn’t really mean all that much.
Doesn’t vero cuoio mean that the leather used is good quality Italian leather?
Before 2013, the Italian National Tanning Industry Union (known as UNIC) had a trademark for the vacchetta and vero cuoio. This gave them a virtual monopoly over the use of vero cuoio and meant that shoes with the phrase stamped on their soles would have been made of superior Italian leather.
However in 2013 the Court of Milan decided that the genuine leather symbol could not be the subject of exclusive intellectual property rights. The court case was a partial determination of claims brought by French manufacturers, and it left some aspects of the claims still to be decided.
In July 2014, the Court of Appeal of Milan confirmed the partial decision (Unic Servizi Srl et al. v. Chaussures Eram Sarl et al.). The Court of Milan then issued its full and final decision on 15 January 2016.
The effect of the litigation is that other manufacturers are free to use the symbol and words “vero cuoio” provided the overall graphical impression of their trademarks is different even if the difference is minimal. The words can therefore be applied to genuine leather from any source eg Spain (image credit: CC BY-SA 2.0) by EraPhernalia Vintage . . . [”playin’ hook-y”] ;o).
Does vero cuoio prevent counterfeiting?
Unfortunately the use of vero cuoio on shoes can’t really help you tell if shoes are fake. Just as counterfeiters can counterfeit the shoes themselves, they can easily stamp vero cuoio on the soles.
However, in some limited situations, the absence or presence of vero cuoio could be a pointer. This is particularly so if the shoes are vintage designer heels from before 2013 and you know whether they actually made use of Italian leather.
The days when the exhilarating feeling of buying heels was relegated to a trip to the department store or corner shoe store are long gone.
Internet sales of shoes are booming, with retailers desperate for a slice of the online action despite return rates of up to 40%.
Best sites to purchase high heels online
Let us help you buy heels online right now! Shop with confidence, avoid troublesome returns and find your perfect stilettos.
We’ve reviewed hundreds of sites since we launched a decade ago, but three stand out as the best sites to buy heels online (full disclosure: as affiliates, we receive a small commission if you buy heels through the links below).
#1 Best online site for branded and work heels
Zappos.com has set the bar high with fast, free shipping and returns, and a seemingly endless variety of stilettos and high heels (literally thousands of pairs). They are the go-to place for work pumps too.
All the “jumbo” brands like Steve Madden, Nine West and Calvin Klein can be found at Zappos together with a couture selection offering heels from high end designers such as Giuseppe Zanotti and Sergio Rossi. Shipping is to the USA only.
In July 2019, Zappos turned 20 years old. There’s a reason that they’ve been around so long and that reason is because they are good! Highly recommended.
#1 Best online site for budget and fierce heels
Milanoo is the absolute best site for budget high heels. The site has free shipping and returns within the USA and also ships internationally.
Milanoo has plenty of fashion-influenced heels at great prices, with daily specials. It also has a section for ultra-high heels as well. Check it out today!
#1 Best online site for clubwear and party heels
AMI Clubwear is another long-standing online shoe retailer, having now had 15 years in the business (it was founded in California in 2004).
The site is famous for its cute heels and sexy shoes, as well as boots and celebrity-inspired offerings. AMI Clubwear famously invented the word “clubwear” and it is the best place to go for fun party heels.
Two more great tips for shopping online for high heels
Shopping online for the best high heels has never been easier or more accessible. From the most fabulous trendy, strappy styles to professional pumps, you’ll be certain to find the right shoe.
To help you get started, here are two more tips that you may find useful. Good luck with your shopping!
#1 Know your fit
While many sites now offer free returns, it is better to get sizing right first time. This requires some knowledge about your shoe size and fit.
The best thing to do is to ask for what you think is your regular or most usual size. When setting up business, former custom shoemakers shoes of prey wondered if they could do better. They experimented with lots of different methods for trying to get people to more accurately explain their shoe size when ordering shoes online.
In the end, they concluded that “measuring your feet is actually very difficult to do without proper training.” After lots of experimentation, they found that if customers just asked for their regular shoe size that gave them the best chance of getting a good fit.
If you’re not sure of your size or fall between sizes then try rounding up. And when trying on shoes, do it later in the day as your feet will swell as the day wears on.
#2 Check the details
One feature that a number of online sites are offering to better promote their shoes is the view from every angle. You can also enlarge the pictures to see the small details and craftsmanship more closely.
One trap lies in not carefully checking the written details as well. A particularly important thing to check is that the material that the shoe is made from is what you want. Is it natural or is it man-made? Some sites use phrases like “PU leather” or “leather look” to describe man-made (ie non leather) materials and it can be easy to be caught out.
There’s nothing like a celebrity shoe controversy to excite fashionistas. And one long-standing celeb footwear controversy that refuses to die is this: who made Kate Moss’s wedding shoes? Was it Manolo Blahnik or Christian Louboutin?
It is easy to see how confusion could have happened as Kate Moss’s 1 July 2011 wedding to Jamie Hince, the guitarist from indie rock duo The Kills, was quite the fashion event.
On the big day itself, Kate wore four different outfits and Jamie wore two. But the real question is what shoes was Kate wearing during her actual wedding ceremony in St Peter’s Church, Southrop in Gloucestershire England?
The answer is that Manolo Blahnik made the shoes that Kate Moss wore to her wedding ceremony.
Kate Moss’s official bridal heels were a bespoke pair of Manolo Blahnik’s strappy Godichefac sandals in white leather, which had been customised with crystals and blue insoles for Kate to wear on her big day.
The shoes were available at Barneys New York, but are no longer for sale anywhere. For the record, they had an open toe with an intricate swirl design and a 3.5 inch covered heel as shown below.
The shoes were made in Milan, Italy but there was a problem: they didn’t work with the long train on Kate’s John Galliano-designed wedding dress. Too many jewels had been added the heels and they kept catching in the dress as the bride tried to walk.
The shoes arrived only the day before the wedding and they had to be sent back to the factory in Milan urgently for the problem to be corrected.
“We did them five times to get them the way she wanted,” revealed Manolo Blahnik to Women’s Wear Daily at the time. “My workers are the best people. I wouldn’t be here without them… we had women working up until midnight to change it.”
“The thing I relish in fashion is: drama. Take the shoes I made for Kate Moss when she got married. What a bloody nightmare! We gave her the shoes, but then she said, ‘Oh, we need them without the jewels because they catch in the Galliano dress.’ So they went back to Milan, and the factory stayed open until midnight. I love things like that, the madness of it.”
So why could there have been such confusion about what brand of shoes Kate Moss was wearing when she got hitched? There are a few reasons.
First, Elle Magazine published an article on the day of the wedding quoting a supposedly “reliable source” as saying that Kate would be wearing red-soled Louboutins at her wedding. The source stated that the shoes would have a baby blue color in the interior.
Hours after the wedding, Elle issued a *red face* retraction of the story but the damage was already done.
Secondly, Christian Louboutin and Kate Moss did indeed collaborate for the supermodel’s wedding. However the shoes they were working on were not used for the ceremony itself. They were likely worn in the celebrations that followed.
In fact, Christian Louboutin’s So Kate heels were actually inspired by the designer’s time spent with Kate Moss fitting her for her shoes for her wedding celebrations – a fact which both of them have confirmed. And they’re still Kate’s favorite heels of all time.
After her wedding ceremony, Kate wore three different Stella McCartney looks: an oyster silk chiffon dress for the first dance; a mini, body-con, beaded dress after that and then a three-piece wool suit for her departure. While no pictures exist, we bet that she wore the Louboutins with the beaded dress.
Unlike Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik actually attended Kate Moss’s wedding. He told the Telegraph’s old fashion website : “I’ve known Kate since she was a little girl. The wedding was divine. Kate has such a presence. You just have to feel it.”
Kate’s father Peter even thanked Manolo for making the bride look beautiful.
Unfortunately, a little like the Godichefac bridal shoes, the marriage didn’t pass the test of time. Kate Moss and Jamie Hince sadly separated in 2015 and divorced the following year.
Blake has previously compared the feeling she gets from her “magical” Louboutins with the emotions she experienced first watching Walt Disney’s Cinderella (the 1950s animated film, not the live-action version which didn’t come about until 2015).
That happened when Blake attended the 24th Annual Footwear News Achievement Awards at MOMA on November 30, 2010 in New York City clad in a pair of Louboutins.
The relationship between the shoes and Cinderella was all that the actress could be drawn into speaking about. “They’re magical,” Blake told the assembled press, saying:
It’s the same feeling you got when you watched Cinderella.You know the feeling you got when you watched Cinderella?
Every time you slip into a pair of his shoes, they make you feel empowered, they make you feel beautiful, they make you feel magical. You can be anybody you want to be.
Christian Louboutin returned the favor less than a year later, at his book launch in November 2011. Gushing about Blake as his muse, he said:
She has proved that she is really intelligent, and she also has this natural beauty and this natural way of moving, which makes her absolutely a great image.
Born inMalaysia in 1957, Jimmy Choo is considered a grand-master of the stiletto heel. Choo made his first pair of shoes at the age of just 12 when working in the family business that was based out of their home.
Choo attended Cordwainer’s Technical College to perfect his knowledge of shoemaking while visiting relatives in London in the late 1970s . He began designing footwear in 1980 under the name “Lucky Shoes”, quickly moving to a more custom-made shoe business by the mid-eighties.
Jimmy Choo also continued to build his own shoe line which became known for using exotic skins such as python, embossed leathers and fish skins. He achieved particular fame for his unusual embellishments, catching the eye of many celebrities that included Diana, Princess of Wales.
In 1996, Tamara Mellon, a stylist for British Vogue, approached Choo about taking the company to a larger scale, and would use her father’s wealth to back it. The line was produced in Italy, and grew quickly, selling $400 a pair stilettos around the world.
Frequent mention of Choo’s stilettos in the press accounted for their success, such as the Bush twins wearing cashmere boots to their father’s inauguration in 2001.
Unfortunately creative differences between who actually designed the shoes soured the partnership between Choo, Mellon, and a niece who was also involved in the partnership, named Sandra Choi. The Jimmy Choo name was owned by Mellon and Choi, and became its own household name.
The Jimmy Choo brand was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2014. It was subsequently bought by Michael Kors in a transaction which completed on 1 November 2017.
Manolo Blahnik is the modern legend for today’s stiletto heel, probably the greatest shoemaker of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The maestro of mules did not come from fashion royalty: Manolo Blahnik was born in 1943 on his parents’ banana plantation in the Canary Islands. After an unsuccessful time studying law and politics in Geneva, he moved to Paris in the mid-1960s to study set design.
Yet Blahnik’s interest in footwear was formed early in life. In the 2017 bio-pic Manolo: the boy who made shoes for lizards, Blahnik recounts that he would capture lizards on the island when he was a child and make shoes for them out of Cadbury’s foil chocolate wrappers!
As a child Blahnik had also been enchanted by his nanny’s “fantastic” espadrilles and his mother’s spectacular shoe collection – she was “mad for shoes” he said.
Upon meeting Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue Magazine in American, Blahnik took an interest in designing shoes and introduced his first collection for Ossie Clark in 1972. Clark was “the man” in London at those times, and Blahnik has always counted himself lucky to get the design brief.
“Focus on extremities!” Vreedland had earlier told Blahnik when meeting him in 1970. “Oh my dear boy, do accessories”, she implored the young designer according to Blahnik himself. “Do shoes, shoes!”
Blahnik gathered a slew of celebrity friends as he partied his way around London, and became known for the shoes that Bianca Jagger wore for her big entrance on a white horse to Studio 54 in 1977.
Although well known in fashion circles by then, Blahnik became much of a household name due to the love affair that Carrie presented his shoes in Sex in the City on HBO in early 2000’s.
Since then, the name “Manolos” is frequently referred to in popular music, movies, TV shoes, and other pop culture references. His sensual style has become the gold standard in which stilettos are thought of.
The first man on the cover of British Vogue, Blahnik is also a firm favorite of current Vogue editor Anna Wintour. “I can’t remember the last time I wore somebody else’s shoes,” Wintour has said. “I mean I just don’t even look at them!”
After designing over 25,000 shoes, Blahnik still sketches around 600 pairs a year. He is always seen doing this while wearing gloves because the inks he uses – from the legendary Dr Ph Martins – go straight into the skin and don’t come out easily.
Still carving the first wooden shoe lasts for his new models even though he is in his 70s, Blahnik has confessed that “My joy in life is spending time in the factories… It’s quiet sad to say, but this is the only thing that I love!”
The trade off is that many claim that his stilettos are the most comfortable of their style, as Blahnik has a true understanding of the contours of a woman’s foot.
The world of stiletto heels owes its popularity if not its existence to French designer Roger Vivier. Named for the Italian word meaning small metal dagger, stilettos became an international sensation when Vivier first introduced them in 1954 for the House of Dior.
While the idea of a stiletto heel was hinted at through fetish drawings in the late 1800’s, they were not created for mass appeal until his unveiling. Even today, many years after his death in 1998, Vivier is known as the “father of high heels” or the “Fabergé of Footwear.”
Roger Vivier’s early career
In 1937 Roger Vivier founded his own boutique and atelier (meaning “workshop” or “studio”) in Paris, from which he began to sell women’s shoes that he had designed.
However, with World War 2 looming, Vivier escaped by boat to the United States of America. There he continued shoemaking until the USA entered the war in 1942 and passed a law restricting the production of new shoes.
Undeterred, Vivier turned his skills to making exquisite hats, opening a shop on Madison Ave in New York. He returned to France in 1947, having taken the opportunity to meet Christian Dior on the boat on the way back. From here his career would really take off.
Post war years
On his return to Paris, Vivier experimented with the use of clear plastics in the footwear industry (yes, like you might see today on stripper shoes) but his key achievement was to team up as the designer for Christian Dior in 1953. This was the first time that a couturier had ever directly associated his brand name with a shoemaker’s to promote a mass-market shoe line.
The shoe line took off. During this time, Vivier also created incredible masterpieces of luxury shoes that were worn by the wealthy, celebrities, and even royalty. Queen Elizabeth II wore his shoes for her coronation in 1953. His use of opulent silks, jewels, beading, lace, and other appliqués were a credit to his masterful style.
One year later, in 1954 Vivier increased the height of the heels he was producing from 6cm to 8cm (2.3 inches to 3.1 inches).
Using a thin metal rod, he designed the infamous thin high heel of the stiletto as if it were a piece of sculpture, which he had studied at the Ecole des Beaux in Paris. (Vivier had left his studies to design for a shoe factory in 1936, at the beginning of his career).
When Christian Dior died in 1957, Roger began a collaboration with Dior’s successor, Yves Saint Laurent.
His best was yet to come: in 1967, Catherine Deneuve wore Rogier Vivier pilgrim shoes in the movie Belle de Jour. The movie was a huge success and the buckle “pilgrim” shoes went on to become Vivier’s best seller.
Today we still see the legacy that Vivier left behind in the way his designs still influence.
Perhaps unlike modern celebrity shoemakers, Vivier remained a quiet soul – unobtrusive and modest to the end. He died in 1998 aged 91, leaving one son.
A rough statistic for the return rate of shoes purchased over the internet is often quoted as between 20% and 35%. That is, one pair of shoes is returned for roughly every three to five sales.
That may seem high. However some sources cite return rates as high as 50%!
Estimating the “return rate” for shoes purchased online is quite a difficult issue because there is not much data out there. In this post we analyse the information which is available on return rates.
In the end, we conclude that the return rate for high heels is likely to be about 25%: that is, one in every four pairs is returned.
Our conclusions are presented in detail below. We have referred to the available statistical evidence. We will update this post if more information becomes available.
Return rate for shoe ordered online
The only shoe-specialist retailer to have spoken out about its return rates is Zappos shoes, way back in March 2010. Zappos said that on average customers returned 35% of the items they ordered.
At this time, Craig Adkins, then vice president of services and operations at Zappos, explained to Internet Retailer that the company’s best customers returned 50% of their items:
“Our best customers have the highest return rates, but they are also the ones that spend the most money with us and are our most profitable customers.”
As this rate seems high, it may be explained by the fact that Zappos practically begs its customers to take products to try on – and to return them if they don’t.
Then again, another retailer of high heels which has also quoted its return rate at 50% recently is German merchant Zalando. On 18 July 2014, Zalando told readers of its blog that:
“Our return rate is around 50 percent across all markets and categories.”
Zalando’s disclosed return rate does not distinguish between shoes and other apparel, so it is not a guide to only the shoe return rates.
Return rate for clothing and apparel ordered online
This leads us to the return rates for apparel generally.
Some guide can be taken from research conducted by the University of Regensburg in 2013. This study found that online retailers that were active in the clothing sector indicated a return rate of between 25 % and 50%.
This figure is very broad so it is also not particularly helpful.
Another 2013 study also addresses the issue, this time by Copenhagen Economics (E-commerce and delivery). This study also didn’t give a clear indicator of return rates, saying simply that they ranged between 1% and 50%.
The study did at least indicate that shoes were amongst the highest items returned, stating:
Actual return rates range from less than 1 per cent up to 50 per cent, with the majority of e-retailers experiencing return rates between 1 and 10 per cent… The highest return rates are experienced by e-retailers selling clothing, shoes and jewellery, as well as electronic equipment and household appliances.
The Copenhagen Economics study also re-inforced the Zappos model: namely that high return rates can be a good thing for retailers of shoes. It stated:
A high rate of returns is not necessarily a sign of consumer dissatisfaction. In fact, a high return rate can be part of a successful business model for e-retailers selling apparel, shoes etc. By offering free delivery and free returns, e-retailers move the fitting room from a physical shop to the customers’ home.
What are the problems for retailers with high return rates?
According to a worldwide study conducted by Pitney Bowes in 2011 (E-commerce survey provides roadmap), 20% of online shoppers consider return policies the most important factor when shopping online in the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea.
With many retailers offering “free returns” to cater for this audience, the cost and difficulty of high return rates can become a problem for retailers. So what are some of the major issues with this?
Perhaps the most important consequence of a high return rate is that it will result in double-handling as goods are re-received into warehouses. The work involved here involves checking that each product being returned has not been damaged or worn by the person returning it.
An associated issue, particularly with the return of designer shoes, is “switch fraud.” This happens when a customer orders an expensive pair of designer shoes and returns them – but before returning them swaps the designer items for cheap knock-off replicas.
Major retailers quickly developed processes to handle “switch fraud” but they involve extra work – and therefore cost – for the retailer.
A second problem with the return of goods is that it will complicate accounting processes, and may include processing fees when a credit card payment is reversed. The retailer will have to absorb these costs.
A final issue for retailers is that there is also the cost of the actual return (ie the postage) where the retailer has offered free returns.
There may not be a simple answer to these issues. What we do know is that retailers of high heels must account for a significant percentage of their goods to be returned by online shoppers. This is unlikely to change in the short term.
Converting between international high heel sizes is not as difficult or painful as you might think.
Using our free shoe size conversion chart will help you swap between USA shoe sizes and European, Australian and British sizes easily.
Below the chart you will find lots of helpful information to help you to convert high heel sizes. Please also read our FAQ for the most comprehensive information about converting heels from US sizes to European and English sizes.
Free international high heel size conversion chart
US / Australian
FAQ about high heel size conversion
The information in our chart is intended as a guideline. Unfortunately sizing and fit may sometimes vary between brand.
Where a brand publishes its own conversion guide, you should use that. Here are some more hints to help you use this chart.
How do I adjust for half sizes?
For half sizes, just add on 0.5 to each measurement.
What is the difference between US and Australian shoe sizes?
US and Australian sizes for high heels are *the same.* You do not need to convert between these two shoe sizes.
How does the heel conversion chart convert between US and UK sizes?
The shoe size conversion between US and UK sizes is based on the rule which the most authorities rely on: just take away 2 sizes to go from a US size to a UK one.
It’s easy really and most shoe designers convert their sizes this way! However a small number of manufacturers recommend deducting 3 sizes (Christian Louboutin is one of these), and occasionally we see some slight variations to the golden rule.
If in doubt, we recommend that you ask the manufacturer.
What’s the most popular shoe size?
The most popular women’s shoe size in the USA is a US 8. This is a European size 39 and a British size 6.
More helpful information about converting between heel sizes
Sizes differ between brands but you should stick to your most usual size
It seems crazy but not all shoe manufacturers use exactly the same sizings. This can mean that if you’re a 7.5 in one brand, it is possible that you’ll be an 8 in another brand.
This means that you might convert a size and find that your heels are too big or too small. However, it is important to understand that this is not a problem with the conversion: it is one of the vagaries of buying stilettos.
You are more likely to get the shoe sizing right than get it wrong
Most people who buy high heels online end up with the right sized shoe! Although many people do have to return heels, the evidence from retailers suggests that return rates are around 35%.
If we accept that this applies to high heels, it means that 2 out of 3 purchasers are happy with their purchases. Of those who are not, many will be returned because the purchaser did not like the shoe – not because the shoe didn’t fit.
This means that most people buying shoes online get the fit right. You are also likely to do so, if necessary with the help of a trustworthy shoe size conversion chart like the one at the bottom of this post.
Measuring your feet is hard
Some online sites suggest that, rather than converting your shoes size, you should instead measure your feet and pick your shoe size from the measurements.
This might be possible but it is not always easy. Many shoe manufacturers have experimented with different methods to get people to more accurately measure their shoe size when ordering shoes online.
In the end, the usual conclusion is that just ordering your regular shoe size gives you the best chance of getting the correct fit. Measuring your feet is actually quite difficult to do, and your usual size is still the best guide.
There is no international “standard” for shoe size conversion
Our shoe size chart is based on the best, most widely agreed conversions for shoe sizes.
Not all shoe size charts will agree with ours because there is no absolute international standard for shoe size conversion.
Even leading manufacturers will differ slightly in their calculations. If you are buying from a brand that publishes its own shoe size conversion chart then you should follow that if it differs from our chart.
Our high heel conversion chart is based on the *most common* conversions between US and Australian sizes and European and English sizes. It is based both on our extensive experience and our research.
Good luck converting the size of your high heels and we hope you enjoy your purchases.
Download this chart?
If you’d like this chart as an image, it is available below.
The original and #1 website for heels, stilettos and women's shoes daily