Whenever a woman steps into a pair of 4in heels, something magical happens.
Her silhouette instantly changes: her head lifts, the small of her back curves, her shoulders broaden slightly and her calf muscles bunch. From that moment she, quite literally, walks taller.
Any higher a heel, and you’re pushing things. Lower, and those silhouette changes don’t take place in quite the same way.
As a shoe designer, I constantly strive to combine balance with beauty. A 4in heel truly is the sweet spot.
Only a woman herself can explain how wearing heels makes her feel, but it’s wonderful when a woman comes into my shop wearing lower heels, or a pair of trainers, then, as she puts on heels, she seems to step through a magic portal; suddenly she seems self-assured in a different way.
It seems to be happening more often now the lockdowns have ended and glamor is making its way back into our lives.
You can see that incredible transformative effect in the Duchess of Cambridge, who, I’m proud to say, often wears my 4in Malory pumps.
Shoe designer Rupert Sanderson says 4in heels are the ‘sweet spot’. Here Kate is pictured wearing heels leaving the Design Museum in Kensington in May this year
Rupert Sanderson says heels help those who wear them ‘walk taller’. Here the Duchess is pictured wearing blue heels while visiting Bletchley Park to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings
Take the blue pair she wore on a visit to Glasgow in May; or the nude pair perfectly teamed with an aqua shalwar kameez-inspired dress for her tour of Pakistan.
She is a mother of three — one who knows the great comfort and practicality of a pair of trainers — and she has an important public role, one that involves the entire world looking on.
The Duchess uses a stiletto heel as part of her sartorial arsenal in transforming herself from a busy mother into one of the world’s most photographed women.
She’s tall, but in heels she becomes commanding, often standing a head above the men in the room.
Last Thursday offered the perfect example, when she wore a pair of pink stilettos with an Alexander McQueen trouser suit to meet with the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, at the Royal Institution.
The height of her heels, combined with a natural grace, may be one of the reasons why the Duchess photographs so well — photographers get those wonderful clear shots because they can see her so clearly.
Rupert Sanderson says in heels the Duchess of Cambridge ‘becomes commanding’. Here Kate is pictured wearing white heels while arriving into Kingston, Jamaica, as part of a royal tour of the Caribbean in March
The Duchess of Cambridge wore a nude pair of heels teamed with an aqua shalwar kameez-inspired dress for her tour of Pakistan. Here she is pictured arriving at Pakistani Air Force Base Nur Khan in October 2019
I can understand many women might feel anxious about heel height. If you’re already a tall woman, then another 4in can easily take you past the 6ft mark.
Others might associate high heels with pain. I understand they can be difficult to wear if you’re not used to them.
I cannot speak for the Duchess, but she doesn’t appear to be in discomfort in her heels — she spends a lot of time on her feet, and all the while in the public eye.
Many of my customers wear 4in heels all the time — for work and for pleasure — and they say they feel as comfortable in them as in a pair of slippers! All that’s really happened is they’ve got used to how to wear them.
Of course, the quality of the shoe’s design, the materials and the workmanship will always make a difference as far as comfort is concerned. My shoes are crafted from the finest leather and are designed to be as supportive as possible. It will definitely help if you spend as much as you can afford.
My hope is that a 4in heel will have a place in every woman’s wardrobe.
They can be empowering; they can change your state of mind.
SCIENCE BEHIND THE DUCHESS’S STILETTOS
Here, LIBBY GALVIN looks at the facts and figures…
Pictured are the shoes the Duchess of Cambridge wore at Windsor Castle for the traditional Easter Sunday Church Service on April 17, this year
The Duchess of Cambridge’s love affair with high heels isn’t just about aesthetics — there is science to support her affinity for 4in stilettos.
While you may wonder if heels are to blame for your bunions or bad back, studies have shown that shoes like Kate’s could actually be good for you, increasing your social influence and, if worn occasionally, even strengthening your legs.
Four-inch heels can increase your ankle strength—at least for a little while. A 2015 study of women who frequently wore 10cm (4in) high heels found that for the first one to three years of wearing them, their ankle strength increased. Dr Jee Yong-Seok, a professor of exercise physiology at Hanseo University who worked on the study, explained that while ‘wearing high-heeled shoes may at first lead to adaptation and increased strength’, it was best to wear them infrequently, because after four years of constant use, balance worsened, making heel-wearers more prone to injury.
Kate, of course, is safe, as she frequently switches her high heels for supportive plimsolls and sporty trainers.
BOOST YOUR STATUS
A study published this year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that a woman pictured wearing high heels was perceived as being of a higher social status than one who was wearing lower-heeled footwear. In addition, a French study found that if a woman drops a glove on the street while wearing heels, she’s almost 50 per cent more likely to have a man fetch it for her than if she’s in a pair of flats.
She’s also twice as likely to be able to persuade men to stop and answer survey questions on the street.
The height of the heel was instrumental in each case — with the woman stopping passers-by to answer her survey getting a 46.7 per cent answer rate wearing flat shoes; a 63 per cent answer rate in 2in heels and an 83 per cent success rate when wearing heels of almost four inches.
THEY CAN BE BETTER FOR YOU THAN FLATS!
Wearing totally flat shoes such as flip-flops or ballet pumps can be worse for your feet than wearing heels, as heels at least offer support through the arch of the foot, say podiatric experts.
And while studies have shown that dancing in 4in heels puts excessive pressure on the toes, a 2010 study found that changing the height of the heel from 4in to 3in or just under 2in made only limited difference to the force exerted on the foot — suggesting that if you wear heels to dance, you may as well go as high as Her Royal Highness.