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Moment 96: The Walk of Pain

Sometime around 2005, designers turned sadistic into sartorial chic. Spikes, studs and impossibly high heels became the go-to in runway footwear.

Alexander McQueen’s armadillo shoe spring 2010

Alexander McQueen’s armadillo shoe, spring 2010.

Photo By Giovanni Giannoni

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 11/01/2010

Sometime around 2005–2006, designers turned sadistic into sartorial chic, at least when it came to their shoes. Suddenly pretty pumps were passé and high heels no longer a leg-elongating trick but a literal platform for perversity. For spring 2007, Christian Lacroix paid homage to Jenga with his tasseled wedges, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana spiked and studded peep-toes for D&G, Donna Karan put glacial Lucite heels on her gladiators, and in what was to be the barometer of the season’s aggressive trend, Nicolas Ghesquière tricked out his sky-high, bondage-style sandals with chain-link platforms at Balenciaga. They didn’t just look dangerous—“There were some very difficult shoes,” model Irina Lazareanu told WWD. “They were very high, plus there were slippery runways. A lot of girls fell down and hurt themselves.” A cautionary tale, one would think, until fashion diehards—editors and civilians alike—lapped it up and fueled an S&M shoe movement that only began to turn when Alexander McQueen unveiled the extreme shoe for extremists: his otherwordly armadillo styles for spring 2010.