Some high heels come at a steal, while others cause ladies to live on ramen noodles for a month just to be able to afford a red-soled or other famously named pair of footwear. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article detailing what goes into the latter variety of shoes, giving some insight into why certain pumps cost so much.
A reporter with the news source went to Italy, the home of arguably the most finely crafted leather goods in the world.
"Orchards and cabbage fields are interspersed with small factories serving the most famous names in shoes – Louboutin, Ferragamo, Chanel, Armani, Prada, Alexander McQueen and Gucci among them," wrote author San Mauro Pascoli.
The writer spoke with Sergio Rossi shoemaker Francesco Russo, who explained that crafting the perfect pair of shoes is like designing a piece of architecture, because they're the foundation for a woman's body structure, which requires precise support.
For example, Russo said that heel height and strength are key factors to making a quality pair of shoes. Heels should be no more than 4.1 inches high, according to the designer, because anything taller alters the way a woman walks. Additionally, a weak heel – one that is made from anything but tempered steel – may cause significant stability issues.
"When you see a woman and her heel is shaking, it's normally because the steel isn't strong enough," said Russo, quoted by the news source.
The toe box presents another key factor in comfort, as it should be cushioned enough to absorb impact while walking – which can be great when wearing high heels because so much weight is placed on the ball of the foot.
The Harvard School of Public Health reports that a narrow toe box can be a catalyst for bunions or hammer toe. The bony foot conditions are thought to be genetic, but bunions or hammer toe are sometimes made worse by wearing towering stilettos and sky-high wedges because they place extraneous pressure on the toe joints.
Additionally, the university reports that conservative means of bunion correction should be tried before resorting to bunion surgery, which can potentially be painful and expensive. These non-invasive methods include wearing supportive footwear, using orthotics and icing inflamed areas.
Bunion splints have also been shown to reduce the appearance of bunions or hammer toe sans scalpel – and they may even allow women to slip back into their Louboutins.