On the list of important wedding day accessories, finding the perfect pair of bridal shoes is at the very top. Comparable only to the dress, bridal shoes are essential from a fashion, comfort, and aesthetic perspective. And just like wedding dresses, there are a lot of different options out there depending on your personal style—and figuring out what type of heel you should wear on your wedding day is a question that may have come to mind.
Meet the Expert
Julie Sabatino is the owner of The Stylish Bride, a wedding styling company offering in-person, virtual, and day-of assistance and consultations.
Since your wedding shoes are often a focal point of your day-of look, help tie your entire bridal style together, and have to hold up for a night of dancing and mingling, it’s obvious why so much thought goes into the choice. While the founder of The Stylish Bride, Julie Sabatino, says not everyone wears heels during their wedding, this shoe option is certainly a common choice for modern brides. For some, this means reaching for a skyscraper pair of stilettos while for others, a sensible block heel is the move.
To help you weigh the options and find the best footwear for you, we've created a guide detailing everything you need to know about the most popular types of bridal heels, and what to consider when shopping for this accessory.
What to Consider When Shopping for Wedding Heels
Prior to starting the wedding heel search, it’s a good idea to specify your day-of style. Are you going for ultra-glam? Feminine? Contemporary? Do you envision a pop of color, lots of sparkles, or a more classic shoe? Considering this can help you land on the ideal wedding heel from an aesthetic perspective.
You’ll also want to start your heel search after finding your dress. Chat with your stylist or seamstress to see what would work best with your dress, and if you’re torn between a few different styles, Sabatino urges brides to bring a few different heels to their first fitting. If you don’t have similar styles on hand, check the return policy of a few options in order to try them out—or borrow a pair from a pal to get an IRL idea of your potential day-of ensemble.
But more than looks, Sabatino urges brides to first and foremost consider comfort. “Even brides who are great at wearing heels in their everyday life struggle with wearing them all night at their wedding,” she explains. “A bride should select a pair that will be comfortable to wear for a long period of time.”
How to Pick The Perfect Bridal Heel Height
After narrowing down how you want your heels to look, the next step is to land on a height. This will help you decide between options like stilettos and kitten heels, blocks, and platforms. The biggest factor Sabatino says every bride needs to keep at the forefront of their mind is the terrain of the venue. “If you will be outside on the ground, consider a block heel so that you don’t sink into the grass,” she shares. “If you want height without the high heel, consider a platform.”
Additionally, as you’re debating between different heights and styles, Sabatino says it’s best to veer on the side of shorter because lower heel heights will generally be more comfortable for longer periods of time. And after spending so long pulling your entire look together, the last thing you want is to have to kick off your shoes before the reception even starts.
The Most Popular Styles of Wedding Heels
From platforms to pumps and block heels, ahead are the most popular wedding heel types to help brides-to-be find their flawless fit.
Named after the stiletto dagger, stilettos are easy to recognize thanks to their long, thin heel. This style is typically one of the higher heel options ranging from two or three inches, up to as many as 12. “Stilettos look gorgeous on the foot, but boy can they hurt,” notes Sabatino. “Be careful when selecting this shoe because the super skinny heel makes all of the pressure go on the ball of the foot.”
These heels work best for indoor venues, experienced heel wearers, and brides who plan to switch shoes later in the evening since they’re not very dance floor conducive.
Platform heels can range in height from sensible to sky-high, and pencil-thin to thick, but their biggest defining factor is the thick soul under the ball of the toe. “A good platform heel is one of the best ways to get height on your wedding day without the discomfort of a stiletto,” explains Sabatino. “Because the toe of the shoe is also elevated, the pitch (the degree of the angle of the shoe from back to front) is less than if it goes to the ground.”
Sabatino says this is a popular option for brides who want both comfort and height. Depending on the thickness of the heel, you’ll want to be mindful of your venue since the more pencil-like, the harder it is to walk on grass, sand, or brick.
Block heels — which are aptly named after their thicker heel diameter — are one of the most comfortable and terrain-friendly heel options for brides. Not only do you get “added stability because of the width of the heel,” says Sabatino, but they’re “easy to wear and are great in outdoor settings.”
The additional heel width makes walking (and dancing!) easier and more comfortable, and because they’re so popular, you can find a wide variety of styles ranging from simple to ultra-glam.
Sometimes called a “shorter stiletto,” kitten heels are known for their dainty, thin heels. The difference between these cuties and stilettos is that they measure much shorter — with heel heights of less than two inches. The chic style was made popular by Audrey Hepburn and continues to be one of the more beloved bridal styles.
“A kitten heel is great for someone who wants the look of a heel without the height,” says Sabatino. “They tend to be more dainty than their block-heeled counterparts and are very flattering on the foot.” The catch, however, is because they feature thin heels, they’re not conducive to outdoor venues or uneven terrain.
Wedges are distinct thanks to their continuous height that starts at the toe and gradually extends to a more elevated heel. While Sabatino says this option is particularly good for outdoor weddings, she notes they’re not as common by today’s wedding standards, so it can be tricky to find a bridal wedge.
The good news is there are plenty of more classic wedges out there in neutral hues. If you’re having an understated event, a celebration on the sand, or don’t mind a less flashy shoe, a classic wedge could check off all your boxes.
One of Carrie Bradshaw’s favorite heels is coming back in style. The strappy sandal boasts thin, barely-there straps that create the illusion of nude or not-really-there heels. Sabatino says these work best in warmer weather but cautions brides that heat does cause feet to swell, so breaking them in is a must.
Since these heels can vary wildly in height, thickness, and comfortability, it’s important to try on pairs you’re interested in and spend plenty of time walking around in your chosen selection before the big day.
While you might have heard the term “pump” thrown around, Sabatino explains the word can be used to describe “any shoe with a heel.” That said, when people refer to pumps, Sabatino says they’re usually generally talking basic heels without many embellishments. If pumps do have any extra details, it’s typically limited to a buckle or bow.
The heel width can also range from block to stiletto, so narrowing down those deciding factors is your best bet when bridal shoe shopping.
Like pumps, peep-toes are a broader term for a heel that has a cut out in the toe. Peep toes aren’t as open as mules or sandals, explains Sabatino, but they’ll still showcase a pretty pedicure. While they’re a little more delicate and feminine than their closed-toe counterparts, Sabatino notes they’re not as common in today’s wedding scene.
If you’re debating between closed and peep toes options for your pumps, it’s best to consider the weather. Sabatino prefers closed-toe heels in colder climates to keep brides’ feet comfy and warm.
Helpful Shopping Tips
No matter what type of bridal heel you gravitate toward, what’s most important is that you feel beautiful and true to yourself on your special day. But before you pick a pair, here are a few more shopping tips from Sabatino to help you find the best style for walking down the aisle.
- Consider your personal heel tolerance. Some people rock stilettos every day while others never wear heels. Think about the types of shoes you already have in your closet and use that as a jumping-off point when selecting your wedding footwear.
- Put comfort first. It might be tempting to pick the highest pair of heels, but selecting a shoe you can actually wear is essential. If you simply must don a certain style you’re not used to, get a practice pair to walk in as much as possible.
- Break your shoes in. No matter what type of shoe you end up with, breaking in your wedding kicks will help you avoid blisters and aching toes, and can help determine whether they're the right pair to wear on the dancefloor.
- Inform your seamstress of shoe changes. If you plan to change out of your heels on the wedding day, tell your seamstress. They can help ensure your hemline works for both shoe options and avoid potentially tripping on a skirt that's too long at the reception.
- Don’t be afraid to skip the heels. If heels don’t feel right for your personal style, or you want to ensure you’re comfortable all night long, it’s totally okay to ditch the idea of heels. From flats to boots and sneakers, there are plenty of wedding day shoe options for every bridal aesthetic, no foot pain necessary.