The Future of High Heels Looks Wobbly—at Least for Now

Najay Roache, a 34-year-old who works in government affairs in New York City, recently went to her closet to try on her Vince Camuto pumps with four-inch heels for the first time in a year.

“I was doing like a saunter step, trying to be cute, and I fell forward,” she says. “It was a huge, messy dramatic fall.”

As vaccines roll out and society emerges from quarantines, many women contemplating returning to offices, restaurants and social events are taking a new look at their long-unused high-heeled shoes. Some are dreading or altogether rejecting the idea of going back to pumps after months in house shoes, sneakers and flats. Others can’t wait to get dressed up again and wear their favorite heels, discomfort be damned.

Sales of high-heeled shoes fell 45% in 2020, according to market researcher NPD Group, as women had nowhere to wear them. Beth Goldstein, the firm’s industry analyst for accessories and footwear, predicts sales will rise this year, but only modestly, as more women, feeling liberated from the tyranny of heels, stick with more comfortable footwear.

Many women had already been moving away from heels pre-Covid with the growing casual-fashion trend. The pandemic accelerated that shift. Brands famous for stilettos and pumps, such as Christian Louboutin and Stuart Weitzman, have been promoting more flats, loafers, sandals and sneakers on their Instagram accounts.

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