mid-heel red bow September 2010 W Magazine

Mid-heels strike a pose in the September issue of W Magazine. Photo: Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot/ Courtesy of W Magazine

There's a ladylike upheaval in autumn's designer collections and fashion magazines: the rise of the lower heel. After dominating several seasons, towering platform shoes are finally yielding to mid-heels.

All sorts of buyers are boosting the trend, climbing down off their stilettos and trading them in for anything under four inches.

With kitten heels, d'Orsay pumps, and low-heeled boots popping up in the glossies, on runways, and (at last!) on store shelves, mid is having a moment.

Marc Jacobs was a front-runner, sending out bow-topped low pumps in Louis Vuitton's fall show and chunky-heeled Mary Janes for his namesake collection.


A handful of other influential designers got low too. Stella McCartney sharpened her looks with pointy, shiny, asymmetrical slingbacks. Loeffler Randall's over-the-knee boot styles start with a slim wedge of just over an inch and top out with a cone-shaped three-inch heel.

Even designers known for nosebleed heels are taking things down a notch: witness Christian Louboutin's ballerina-style kitten pump. In short, you can now find lower heels on virtually any shoe or boot style -- with varying levels of irony.

Salvatore Ferragamo's new line, meanwhile, invests heavily in the mid-heel. My Ferragamo includes kitten heels, block heels, and a double heel inspired by the iconic ridged wedge.

Buyers for major department stores have been snapping up the lower heels and report that customers are scooping them up in return.

Lincoln Moore, the accessories fashion office director at Saks Fifth Avenue, told StyleList that customer demand and product options are happily in sync. As their shoppers began asking for more mid-heels, Saks found more styles to offer. The company has been emphasizing the trend when training their sales staff.

"Already, we have been hearing from our stores that [customers] are excited by the mid-heel selections offered in boots and in career pumps," Moore said. "We expect this trend to resonate in major urban markets throughout the country."


cone-heeled pump Sigerson Morrison

Retro-cool styles like this cone-heeled pump mesh with the '80s trend. Photo courtesy of Sigerson Morrison

Ken Downing, fashion director at Nieman Marcus, echoed this pattern. "The kitten heels have been very popular from the moment they've arrived in store," he revealed to StyleList. "We have them featured in our fashion publication and we're certainly showcasing them in windows and visually throughout the stores."

He especially appreciates the style's versatility, as it works well with two huge fall trends: tailored menswear looks and 1950s-inspired longer skirts.

"With the wider pant paired back to a matching jacket, there's the need for a shoe that has a bit more poise and polish to it," he explained. "The 70s pantsuit is taking on so much momentum. [Lower heels] give a bit of femininity to it... that lower heel works with [the full-skirt] silhouette too."

Smaller-scale shoe stores notice the same surge in mid-heel sales. Michael Tatro, a floor manager for Sigerson Morrison, sees lower heels as the common ground for two different customers. "Gals in flats want a lift (it always make a leg look nicer) and the high-heel ladies like to come down a bit during the day."

The designers behind Marais USA, a budget-friendly source for cult-favorite low styles, believe it all comes down to an easier fit. The platform heels may be sexy, but how many of us can wear them all day long?

"We, like most of the ladies out there, enjoy a little extra height without sacrificing comfort," co-founder Haley Boyd told StyleList. "A lot of women find that a mid-heel is often more comfortable than a totally flat shoe." Surely podiatrists will be pleased.

This trend definitely has legs. Several department store representatives predicted they will continue pushing lower heels through Spring/Summer 2011, having seen so many knockout styles.

Fashion magazines have been showing the short stacks all season. November's Glamour, for instance, is full of kitten heels from Jimmy Choo, Stella McCartney, and Louis Vuitton; even cover girl Taylor Swift rocks a pair inside the issue. First ladies Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni keep them in the spotlight, too.

With sleek design, mid-heels can kick off their granny reputation. After all, they give you a sway in your step and highlight your ankles and calves, without the strain of stilettos. What's not to like?

Well, the generic term isn't a favorite. A few companies noted that they don't like the term "mid-heel," thinking it sounds too fusty. How about "lady heels," "demi-heels," or "cropped heels" instead? Fashion commentators, start your engines.

Click here to see why some say Michelle Obama was responsible for reviving the kitten heel.

In other news, read on for a less ladylike fall trend: insect style! And check this roundup of the 6 hottest shoe trends for Fall.