A footwear revolution that lets you go out in skyscrapers and come home in FLATS! The shoes that let you change the height of your heels
As I am 5ft 2in, I have long been addicted to my stilts, but this has not always gone swimmingly. There was the night I had to wander around a smart party barefoot because the platform Louboutins I was wearing became too painful to bear.
I have got stuck in grates, lost a whole shoe on an escalator and caused an ankle injury that took months to heal by dancing in (very) high-heeled boots.
The other day I went to a bash in the country in 5in Dior platforms, had to take them off because I couldn’t walk and stood in a cowpat by mistake as my husband tried to disown me.
It’s not that I refuse to wear flats. I adore ballet pumps, having long wanted to be a ballerina, but a glance in a shop window one day while wearing a beloved pair of black patent ones from French Sole brought me even further down to earth with a bump. In my mind, I was Elle Macpherson-elegant. In reality, I was simply stumpy.
And surely I can’t be the only woman who has found herself clod-hopping into the office in ancient trainers, only to discover there are no smart heels handily stashed under my desk.
So when I heard about a new company that says it has solved the dilemma of heels versus flats, you’ll understand just how keen I was to learn more.
Tanya Heath makes shoes with a difference — they come with mix-and-match heel heights.
Here’s how it works. You start with a shoe shape without a heel — a plain pump, strappy sandal or ankle boot, say, which will set you back between £260 and £370 (this is not a cheap exercise, but if they really do what they say on the tin then I’m prepared to invest).
Then you get to choose from the range of four heels: stiletto (Francois, 3½ in, long and slender); chunky high (Denis, 3¹∕³ in, but gratifyingly sturdy); kitten (Stephane, 2¹∕³ in and prettily curved); and chunky low (Christophe, 1½ in, which look like the heels the Queen wears).
These cost between £21 and £50 per pair, come in a huge range of colours and finishes and fit each and every one of the shoes, slotting into place easily and securely in an instant.
You slide the heel onto the shoe at the back until you hear a loud click, which means it’s on properly. You simply press a button on the inside of the shoe to release the heel when you want to take it off.
I can’t wait to start trying out different shoe/heel combinations. The strappy sandals (Dominy coral blush bronze, £290) are satisfying to play with because they look so different with a change of heel: with a black-and-gold mottled stiletto (Denis baroque, £36) they’re perfect for an elegant evening soiree; click on a lower chunky Christophe (£21.50) and you’re all set to wander around the park on a sunny day.
The ankle boots, too, are a revelation. Good leather versions can be very expensive and you probably don’t wear them all winter, so it strikes me as sensible to have a pair where you can swap the heels.
A pair of tan ankle boots (Anastasia Midnight, £338) with chunky high or low heels are a very different proposition to a glamorous pair with a stiletto heel in shiny red or black. That’s the difference between the school run and a smart party.
Practically speaking, it’s also rather gratifying to know that these shoes aren’t a write-off if you break or irredeemably scuff the heel.
And here’s the thing — the chunky low heels are hugely comfortable, while the stilettos are really rather walkable, too.
I’ve certainly teetered around in worse before now. Perhaps it’s the confidence of knowing I can break into a trot at the push of a button, but I would be more than happy to go dancing with Francois or Denis.
But I didn’t love all the designs. Sensible court shoes must be particularly stylish to cut the mustard, otherwise they are frumpy — being able to adjust the heel height doesn’t change that.
On me, Tanya’s courts are definitely more bluestocking than sophisticate. Also, while I love the eclectic range of heels, not everybody wants animal stripes on their feet. Chunky red zebra heels? No, thanks. I don’t think anyone ever saw Audrey Hepburn in those.
And you have to overcome your nerves. Psychologically, the click-on, push-off mechanism can seem a little too easy. Having simply clicked something on, you have to dispel your fear that it might just as easily click off again.
If you put them on right, they won’t; once I got over my initial suspicions, I galloped up an escalator without a second thought after switching from high to block heels. So, am I sold on the concept? You bet.
The lower options are comfortable enough to have as a back-up for that time in the evening when your tortured toes are screaming for mercy, but look almost as good as the higher heels.
My ten-year-old son showed a flicker of interest when I explained the shoes worked a ‘little bit like Lego’, while my husband seemed rather cheered by the fact that a woman could survive with three pairs of shoes instead of 15 ...