Which high heel pumps are best?

High heel pumps get a bad rap for how uncomfortable they are, but there’s no denying that they’re often the perfect finishing touch to an outfit. The trick is finding a pair that combines form and function, so they feel as good as they look on your feet.

Pumps are typically shoes with a closed toe, but there’s plenty of variation in other style details, such as the toe shape, heel type and height. For pairs with high heels, though, that usually means pumps with heels that are 2 inches or taller. So if you’re looking for a striking pair of leather pumps that offer surprising comfort despite their 4-inch heels, the Jessica Simpson Claudette D’Orsay Pump is worth checking out. 

What to know before you buy high heel pumps

Heel type

Pumps are available with several types of high heels. Some styles are easier to walk in than others, especially if you’re new to wearing heels.

  • Stilettos are one of the most popular types of pumps. They feature long, thin heels that resemble a stiletto dagger. They’re typically the highest style of heel you can find, so they can be difficult to walk in if you’re not used to wearing heels. 
  • Tapered heels are wide at the top but narrow to a slim point. The design gives them a sturdy base, so they’re typically easier to walk in than stilettos. Tapered heels are also known as cone heels. 
  • Continental heels are similar to stilettos, but the back of the heels features a slight curve. The front of the heels is straight. They can be somewhat difficult to walk in for beginners. 
  • Block heels have a square shape that offers excellent stability. They help balance your weight and lessen the pressure on the front of your feet, too. They’re ideal if you’re new to wearing pumps. 
  • Flare heels feature the opposite design to tapered heels. The heels are thinner at the base and widen toward the bottom. They usually have a curved shape, too. They provide greater stability than thinner heels, so they can be a good style if you’re not used to wearing pumps. 
  • Kitten heels are usually shorter than other heels, coming in at below 3 inches. That makes them easier to walk in, so they’re sometimes referred to as training heels. 

Heel height

Pumps are generally considered high heels if they have 2-inch heels or higher. If you’re not used to wearing heels, stick to pairs with 2- to 3-inch heels. 

Other common heel heights include:

  • 3-inch heels are one of the most common heights for pumps. They’re easier to wear and balance in than higher heels but still offer some height. 
  • 4-inch heels offer good height but require more balance to wear than shorter heels. 
  • 5-inch heels require significant balance to wear, so they’re not for the faint of heart. They do make a bold statement, though.

You can find pumps with heels higher than 5 inches, but they’re usually extremely challenging to walk and balance in. They’re best saved for occasions when you won’t be standing much.

What to look for in a quality pair of high heel pumps

Material

Pumps are available in a wide range of materials, but common options include:

  • Leather is the most common material for high heels. It’s highly durable and stretches over time, making it highly comfortable. Leather pumps are also versatile, so they can work for many occasions.
  • Faux leather is an ideal alternative to leather if you prefer a cruelty-free pair of heels. They look just like leather pumps, so they can work in the same settings. However, faux or vegan leather pumps aren’t as durable as leather pairs.
  • Suede is a type of leather, but it has a soft, fuzzy finish. Suede pumps work well in colder weather. 
  • Patent leather has a shiny, mirror-like finish that helps your high heels stand out. 
  • Satin has a sheen that works well for heels worn for formal occasions.

Toe style

Pumps typically feature a closed-toe design, but you can choose from several styles or shapes.

  • Round-toe pumps are extremely popular and provide plenty of space for your toes to spread out. 
  • Pointed-toe pumps are another common style and help your legs look longer. They’re not the most comfortable style for wide feet, though.
  • Almond toe pumps fall somewhere between round-toe and pointed-toe heels. They can fit both narrow and wide feet comfortably.
  • Square toe pumps work well for wide feet because they offer plenty of space for your toes. 
  • Peep-toe pumps feature a small cutout at the front of the shoes to provide a peek at your toes. 

Nonslip bottom

Since it can be tricky to walk in high heel pumps, it’s a good idea to choose a pair with a nonslip bottom. Some shoes feature a rubberized sole and heel cap that provides effective traction on most surfaces.

Color or pattern

Pumps come in nearly every color. You can often choose from plenty of fun patterns, too, including animal print, polka dots and floral print.

For a basic everyday pair, stick to neutrals, such as black, gray or nude. You may want a pair of statement heels for evenings out, though. Red, pink, white or purple pumps are ideal for helping you stand out. 

How much you can expect to spend on high heel pumps

High heel pumps generally cost $20-$1,000. You can find budget-friendly pairs that cost $20-$50, but you’ll usually pay $50 to $250 for high-end, durable pumps or embellished heels. Designer pumps can cost as much as $1,000, though.

High heel pumps FAQ

Are high heels bad for your feet?

A. Pumps and other high heel shoes can cause issues for your feet, including bunions and hammertoe. They can also lead to back, knee and ankle pain. That’s why it’s crucial to choose the right size, so they don’t put undue pressure on your feet. It’s also a good idea not to wear them every day and save your high heels for special occasions.

What type of pumps should I choose if I want my legs to look longer?

A. Pointy toe heels are the most flattering style if you want your legs to look long and lean. It also helps to choose a pair in a nude color to give the illusion that your legs extend a bit farther. 

What are the best high heel pumps to buy?

Top high heel pumps

Jessica Simpson Claudette D'Orsay Pump

Jessica Simpson Claudette D’Orsay Pump

What you need to know: These simple, elegant heels work well for many occasions and add the perfect feminine touch to any outfit. 

What you’ll love: The uppers feature 100% leather construction. They’re available in a wide range of colors and patterns. The 4-inch heel is still comfortable. The lightly cushioned insole provides effective shock absorption.

What you should consider: Sizes can run somewhat small. Light-colored pairs can scuff easily, too.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top high heel pumps for the money

Naturalizer Berlin Pump

Naturalizer Berlin Pump

What you need to know: These stylish, affordable pumps are easy to wear for even those new to high heels, but they still provide excellent height.

What you’ll love: The platform design and block heel offer excellent balance and comfort. The heels are 3 3/4 inches for flattering height. The almond toe is comfortable for both wide and narrow feet. They feature faux leather if you want a vegan option. 

What you should consider: Some buyers report that they run somewhat big, so it may be difficult to find the right size. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Macy’s

Worth checking out

Calvin Klein Gayle Pumps

Calvin Klein Gayle Pumps

What you need to know: These classic pumps offer a stylish look but still boast plenty of comfortable features to allow for all-day wear.

What you’ll love: The 3-inch stiletto heels offer a striking look. The pointed toe helps elongate the look of your legs. The shoes feature gel pod inserts for comfortable cushioning. The soles have a nonslip, weatherproof design that helps with shock absorption. 

What you should consider: The sizes can run small, so you may need to size up if you have wide feet. 

Where to buy: Sold by Macy’s and Amazon

 

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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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