The Small Heels Trending In A Big Way For 2023

When stocking up on 2023's trendiest shoes, you may want to consider raiding your grandma's closet. The new year will have you kicking off your sneakers and sky-high stilettos for a retro compromise: the kitten heel. Vogue confirms that kitten heels are relatively short, ranging from 1.5 to 1.75 inches in the back. Their low height made them the go-to style in the 1950s for young girls who couldn't yet walk in towering heels (per CR Fashionbook). 

With time, however, kitten heels became a fashion staple for women of all ages after being worn by icons like Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O in the '60s and later by various supermodels and even Princess Diana herself throughout the '90s. Since then, the shoe style has mostly fallen out of favor with fashionistas, and a go-big-or-go-home attitude toward heels has gradually become the norm. 

But more recently, fashion runways and influencers alike have started to embrace the micro heel once again — and for good reason. Here's why kitten heels deserve a spot in your closet and how to bring them into 2023 (and beyond). 

Little heels, big benefits

It might be time to retire your steep heels for something a little closer to the ground. In a recent The List survey, nearly 40% of respondents said they were tired of wearing high heels. Fashion experts agree that spindly shoes are out. "For so long, the best shoes in the market were north of 100mm. Now, we are seeing a fashionable return to heel heights somewhere in the middle," Ryan Kleman, the Director of Buying, Non-Apparel at Moda Operandi, told Elle.

Abigale Masters, a fashion stylist, also prefers shorter heels for practical reasons, admitting, "I don't enjoy walking in high heels. I find them uncomfortable." Likewise, as Masters pointed out to The Strategist UK, "They're risky if you don't know what type of terrain you'll be walking on." Kitten heels could be the ideal option for elongating legs without the wobble that accompanies wearing high heels. 

They add just enough height for petite women, without adding too much for those who are naturally tall. And besides being flattering, they're safer for your feet too. According to Health, heels that are under three inches are recommended by experts to avoid straining and injuring your hardworking tootsies. 

How to look modern rather than matronly

Over the last few years, kitten heels have often cultivated an unflattering reputation. In a 2012 Gothamist article, women on the streets of New York City were interviewed about the tiny heels. Their thoughts? Kitten heels were usually worn by "older women" and they "look good on 'Mad Men,'" but they're difficult to style in real life. Fast forward 10 years and a slew of new styles are taking kitten heels out of the 1960s and into the modern day. 

The Strategist UK notes that trending versions are strappy, pointed-toe, and not overly feminine or dainty. PopSugar also recommends brightly colored, metallic, and embellished styles, which stray far from the stuffy kitten heels of the past. Small heels can even be seasonless when placed on modern boots, as well as being both comfy and warm when the temperatures dip (per InStyle).

If you do decide to borrow a nostalgic pair of kitten heels from your grandmother's closet, look for ones that are sleek and simple. Black, minimalist kitten heels free of era-defining details (like oversized buckles or scalloped edges) are more likely to look just as fresh today as they did decades ago. 

Working kitten heels into your wardrobe

There are practically endless ways to wear kitten heels, which is likely why this trend might just have staying power. As Valentina Bezuhanova, the co-founder of accessories brand By Far told The Zoe Report: "Kitten heels are perfect everyday shoes: you can style them with anything from bike shorts and cropped vintage jeans to a sleek slip dress." 

Vogue echoes this statement, noting that short heels work well with jeans, suits, and everything in between. Kitten heels pair seamlessly with sophisticated or slightly dressier outfits, and they can also elevate a casual street-style look. If you're not sure where to start, ease into the trend with a simple pair of strappy kitten heels, worn with a minimalist top and bottoms à la stylist Pernille Teisbaek

If you're ready to experiment, try layering with socks and even leg warmers (another major trend on the rise) like content creator Amy Sarah