Kitten Heel

AKA: trainer heels, Sabrina heels

How to say it:  kit-n  heel

Traditional Features: 

Kitten Heel

  • short, slender heel
  • 3.5cm – 4.75cm in height
  • slightly curved shape which sets the heel in from the back of the shoe

21st Century Kitten Heels

Modern kitten heels come in all shapes and sizes. From pumps to sling-backs to ankle-straps to peep toes; whatever style the 21st woman wants, she will no doubt be able to find it in a kitten heeled version.

J.Crew Miu Miu

J.Crew, Miu Miu

Stuart Weitzman Topshop

Stuart Weitzman, Topshop


…of the style: The kitten heel emerged on the modern footwear market in the 1950s. Stiletto heels were fashionable among women, and young girls were eager to emulate the style of their elders. At the time it was considered unseemly for the younger girls to wear the full-sized stilettos, due to the sexual connotations that went along with the shoe and the difficulty of walking in them, so the kitten heel was introduced as an in-between.

As these young, kitten heel wearing girls grew up, they continued wearing the shorter heel and the style became popular with adult women as well as teenagers. The popularity of the shoe grew thanks to Audrey Hepburn who wore the shoe in many of her movies in the 1950s, causing the style to become known as the ‘Sabrina Heel’.

Kitten heels fell out of fashion as stacked and cork heels became popular during the Hippie Movement of the 60s and 70s, but came back into fashion in the 1980s. In the 21st century the style has been revived again (some say thanks to Michelle Obama) and the kitten heel can now be found on various styles of women’s shoes, including pumps, d’orsay shoes, peep toes and sling-backs. However, despite the revival, there seems to be a bit of a debate as to whether kitten heels are a good look or not. Many say no, claiming they are unflattering, calling the kitten heel the ‘mullet of shoes’ or the ‘ugly sister of flats and heels’. Clearly not everyone adheres to this opinion as there is a wide range of styles currently available on the modern footwear market, ranging from designer to high-street brands.

Despite being the originally designed for teenagers, and the subject of an ongoing style debate, kitten heels appear to remain a popular style for women and many styles are available on the 21st century market. Whether the style remains popular is yet to be seen, but whether or not the popularity continues, the comfort of the shorter heel will no doubt ensure that it will never truly disappear from the footwear landscape.

…of the name: I couldn’t find any reasoning behind the name ‘kitten heel’, however some sources suggest that it may be because it is a small or baby heel and a kitten is a baby cat. Who knows.

For more info on Kitten Heels try Wikipedia, On This Day In Fashion, Shoes History Facts, The Budget Fashionista or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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