Best designer heels - from classic collectables to of the minute styles

The best designer heels - from evening glamour styles to everyday

best designer heels by: Manolo Blahnik, Valentino, Aquazzura
(Image credit: Manolo Blahnik, Valentino, Aquazzura)

Practically a work of art, the best designer heels are not just crafted to be the height of fashion but involve precision cutting to hold your foot as best as possible. Associated with power and glamour, the best designer heels are made to stand the test of time.

As with the best designer bags, the best designer shoes are worth the investment. While designers will bring out a host of new footwear styles as part of the latest spring/summer or autumn/winter shoe trends, many brands have core staple styles that remain in stock season, after season (often increasing in price too). Crafted from high-quality materials, when cared for properly, they should last a lifetime. And if you pardon the shoe quote, "A woman with good shoes is never ugly", is just one of the iconic Coco Chanel quotes on shoes that we have vowed to try to live by.

Often a subtle sign of Stealth Wealth, if you're only going to invest in one pair of the best designer heels, make them a neutral colourway, such as black, as these will always be wearable and never go out of fashion. The best Quiet Luxury shoes will have discreet markings, or specific detailing that is core to the particular brand's design aesthetic that will instantly alert those in the know of your pricey footwear choice. 

Where to shop for the best designer heels

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When it comes to choosing the best designer heels there are a few key brands that will always stand the test of time. Favoured by celebrities and the fashion crowd these are 5 the brands that make some of the best designer heels and are loved by fashion editors and celebrities across the world.

Best designer heels - 30 buy now, wear forever pairs, selected by our experts

1. Christian Louboutin

Immediately identifiable by their red soles, Christian Louboutin's are probably the most recognisable designer heels in the world. The trademarked colour of the sole is always a tell-tale sign of a true pair of Louboutin shoes and their classic shape is universally loved by designer heel wearers. Available in two heel heights - 85mm and 100mm, these aren't for the faint-hearted or uninitiated to heels, but they are shoes you will certainly keep forever and have increased in price in the last year, meaning this timeless style is likely to maintain a strong value at resale (if in mint condition). Whether you're looking for what to wear on a first date to make an impact, or simply want a pair of power heels that make you walk tall,(great for adding to a work capsule wardrobe) there is no more iconic shoe to shop.

2. Manolo Blahnik

A favourite designer for Sarah Jessica Parker's character, Carrie Bradshaw, Manolo Blahnik's shoes are referenced continuously throughout the many series of Sex and City, making them even more iconic for those who grew up watching the show. Loved for their sculptural simplicity, alongside party-ready embellishments, Manolo Blahnik has a long history of making some of the best designer heels. From the best wedding shoes for brides to elegant heels ideal for teaming with the best bridesmaid dresses, it's a brand many trust for the most important of occasions. First opening in Chelsea in 1970, now a globally recognized brand, it's still essentially family-run, with Manolo at the creative helm and his niece as CEO. The brand also makes some of the best dressy flats, with many styles reflecting the most legendary Blahnik shoe.

3. Jimmy Choo

For many, Jimmy Choo will be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of the best designer heels. With a strong mix of classics and on-trend styles, Jimmy Choo has maintained a young and fresh approach to shoe design, complementing its shoes with luxe high-end handbags, the best designer sunglasses, statement trainers and even a show-stopping swim collection. Loved by celebrities and royalty, Jimmy Choo started in the East End of London back in 1996 and is now a global leader in the designer footwear market. A key player when it comes to footwear to work with the latest bridesmaid dresses or wedding guest outfits, if you're getting married in the near future, you'll want to check out Jimmy Choo's bridal shoe line too.

4. Bottega Veneta

Founded in 1966, Bottega Veneta has showcased a variety of styles and led key trends over the years, although its recent success with some cult handbags and successful shoe collections has seen an enormous increase in popularity in recent months. Loved for colour and texture, Balenciaga heels are for style moments, rather than wardrobe classics. 

Whether you are looking for the best sandals, a stiletto, new mules or wedges, Bottega Veneta has it all. With a mixture of fabrics and textile applications, perfect for both day and evening wear, these shoes are destined to steal the spotlight, elevating any outfit. Pair with the matching bag for the ultimate stylized look. 

5. Stuart Weitzman

Stuart Weitzman offers a bit more of an entry price point to the designer heels market. The American footwear brand was run by Weitzman until he retired in 2018 after five decades in the footwear industry, however, the brand carries on and is synonymous with beautiful timeless styles, ideal for everyday classics or special occasion pieces such as event and wedding heels. Generally a lower heel and more comfortable design, Weitzman make great bridal shoes but are also a good place to shop for footwear to pair up with the best mother of the bride outfits and best mother of the groom dresses as the heel heights, designs and price points are ideal for family occasionwear looks. With shoes starting from around the £300 / $400 mark, it's a more accessible way to invest in the best designer heels. 

6. Guiseppe Zanotti

In the shoe game for nearly a quarter of a century, Guiseppe Zanotti is well-loved in the worlds of fashion, music and entertainment for his contemporary and glamorous approach. Championing modern femininity, his shoes are coveted everywhere - from the red carpet to the runway, to the street. Beautifully crafted, utterly creative and iconic, Zanotti heels combine the delicate with rock and roll for must-have styles that will never date. 

7. Saint Laurent

Powerful and iconic Saint Laurent is known for its sleek and sensual aesthetic and this very much follows through to its beautiful shoes and the best Saint Laurent handbags. While like most big French clothing brands, its offering changes with the seasons, the brand's timeless designs will take pride of place in any collector's wardrobe. When it comes to the best designer heels at Saint Laurent, look for the sculptured YSL heels and squared-off boot designs as these are some of the brand's most iconic and enduring looks. With an edgier feel, they're ideal for what to wear to a concert, teamed with your best leather jacket to finish the look.

8. Prada

Italian clothing brand Prada has been around since 1913, so when it comes to high-end design and quality, you know it can be trusted. With effortless elegance at its core, Prada pumps guarantee you style, stability and comfort, making each pair a worthwhile investment. If you're looking for a subtler designer shoe, Prada succeeds in discreetly incorporating its iconic triangular logo or name into each design, without jeopardising the style or making them too showy, although they are unmistakably Prada.  

9. Aquazzura

If you're looking for colourful designer heels, look no further than Italian luxury footwear brand, Aquazzura. Ideal for occasions such as what to wear to the races, this brand has become a firm favourite amongst stylists, celebrities and fashion editors, with even Megan Markle wearing Aquazzura for both her engagement and wedding day. Combining wearability and comfort with the best designer heels, the brand creates beautifully crafted footwear in a range of colours, patterns and fabrics that you can enjoy for a lifetime. 

10. Valentino

Valentino is one of fashion's most desirable brands. Adored by celebrities and fashion editors alike, despite its long-standing heritage, the brand manages to reinvent itself season on season, staying at the forefront of fashion trends, creating cult buys that are much sought after and replicated. Making some of the best designer heels, Valentino collections are bold, and powerful, they don't shy away from colour and playful detailing, and while they house plenty of classic styles, it's the brave designs that are always the talk of the town. 

Are designer shoes worth investing in?

The best designer heels can cost a small fortune, but are they really worth the hype? Sometimes.

Beauty PR, Iman Leila says, "Designer heels can be overpriced but if you opt for a classic pair, like a strappy black style that won't date, they can be a great investment. You can of course, also find some great designer dupes on the high street. My advice would be to pick up heels in the sale for a great investment bargain".

Designer heels do have a high price tag, but unlike your run-of-the-mill, straight-to-market shoes, the best designer heels are often handcrafted from the finest materials and are extremely high quality.

"Designer shoes are almost always worth the money because they are well made and many have survived many years walking in the city without needing much more than scuff repair. One thing to watch out for however is sizing. Many designers run wildly small. I have to go up 2 sizes in some brands" - Renee Cafaro, creative director of plus size luxury brand RCA Public Label.

Aside from quality fabrics and beautiful craftsmanship they often have decades of experience in crafting high-heeled shoes that not only look good but are as comfortable as a stiletto heel can possibly be.

Of course, as we've shown in this feature, not all designer heels have to be stilettos, many designers do lower iterations of their most loved designs so whether you like your heels kitten, block or sky-high, there is a pair for you. 

What to look for when buying designer heels

While the best designer heels take lead from the latest shoe trends, if you're new to purchasing designer shoes, we always suggest opting for classic pairs that won't date. If you're spending a lot on a pair of heels, you're going to want to get maximum wear out of them, so a sleek black pair or a neutral colour will never be a bad investment. 

Of course, the bright colours are enticing and if that's where your heart leads you, or you want a really loud statement pair of pumps, go for it, but if this is going to be a big and special purchase, make sure you've run through what you can wear your new heel with and when. 

Embellished styles are also a good option as they will always be useful for evening occasions and for adding instant glam to any look. 

If you have wider feet, buying designer heels might be a little trickier as many tend to be quite narrow or pointed. Look for more rounded toes or square toe styles as a good starting point. And remember, feet can swell in the heat or throughout the day as we get tired - if you've walked a lot, so take this into fit consideration too. 

Can you buy designer heels for less?

If you don't want to pay full price, then checking out the best designer outlets is a smart way to invest in designer heels for less. While you might not find the latest spring/summer shoe trends 2023, you will still get a good selection of heels to start your collection. An investment purchase that will stand the test of time, well-looked-after designer heels can also be resold online. Check out our guide on how to sell clothes online for more tips. And finally, to keep your shoes in good condition, get yourself one of the best shoe organisers to keep your footwear neat, tidy and dust-free - although shoes being sold with their original box are likely to have a higher resale value. 

Rivkie Baum
Fashion channel editor

Rivkie is a fashion editor, writer and stylist