How To Measure Heel Height on Dress Shoes (Men and Women)

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The heel is an essential part of any type of shoe and has become an integral part of a wide variety of dress shoes. As such, knowing how to measure shoe heel height is key. However, a question that comes up almost anytime is why do men’s dress shoes have heels?

While this may seem like a simple and straightforward question to answer, there is actually a good deal of background and history as to how the heel came to be.

Once we understand where the heel comes from and what it's for, we'll also learn how to measure heel height on shoes.

The History of Heels

The heel on dress shoes and more pronounced shoes like high-heels are quite unique because their history has a very different story to tell than what you would think.

Modern-day heels are more focused around fashion trends and comfort, while traditional heels were designed to make horseback riding easier for riders. 

The heel of a shoe would help add a place for the shoes to lock into a horse stirrup.

That way, there is additional security for those riding horses for battle or hunting.

With heels having such a practical use back in the early days of humanity, it is interesting to see them being used as a modern form of status and elegance.

However, the heels that we once again associate with feminine style were still not intended for females until modern times.

The royal males were interestingly the ones who were seen wearing high heels in public.

From the ancient horseback riders of the middle east to modern heels that you can find on nearly all pairs of shoes, there is also a rich history of the heel on men's dress shoes.

Why Do Men’s Dress Shoes have Heels?

Like every other piece of clothing from older times, the heel has evolved from its roots of horseback riding.

There is no longer a nobility associated with high heels, so there is a gap between old traditions and new ones.

The Removal of Heels on Men's Shoes

Many historians attribute this removal of higher heels on men’s shoes as a result of the French Revolution, when heels were seen as a sign of the hated patriarchy.

Eventually, higher heels became a grim sign of tyranny until they later became a fashion staple for women.

Despite history and fashion, there is still the question to be asked why men’s dress shoes have heels in modern times.

The Regained Popularity of Heels on Men's Dress Shoes

A popular belief as to why many dress shoes targeted at men have begun to start using heels again is due to their acceptance in the new wave of dress shoe styles.

Oxfords, monk straps, Chelsea boots, and almost every other popular dress shoe design soon embraced the addition of the heel again.

The shoes were seen on movies and celebrities wore them often, so they were taken to the mainstream men’s fashion world, which helped them made a good comeback.

The heel's size also increased until seeing men and women with heels became normal.

Why Shoes Have Heels

Heels have gone from a status of nobility to being seen on every dress shoes a man or woman owns.

To see why modern men’s heels still exist, let’s see why the modern dress shoe should even need a heel in the first place.

Elevate One's Height

With both men’s and women’s dress shoes, the presence of heels makes them stand out as unique among the rest of the shoes in a person’s closet.

From the sizing of the heel to the style, men and women’s heels look very different.

Despite the many style differences, there are many commonalities present among the shoes that we can see on either option.

The primary similarity we see between the men’s and women’s heel purpose is to elevate the wearer's height.

Heels on dress shoes have become something of a staple of a more formal outfit as they both literally and figuratively elevate the wearer.

As you can see across a wide range of men’s dress shoes like oxfords and loafers, they have a higher heel than a standard pair of sneakers you would wear when running.

This elevated heel has become popular recently since it gives the wearer a few extra inches of height when they wear their dress shoes.

Almost all women’s dress shoes follow a similar fashion to the men’s design by having a heel on almost every variation of dress shoes.

Makes You Stand Out

Many people will associate the heels on a woman’s shoes with those seen on the very tall high-heel design of dress shoes, but there are heels to be found on a vast majority of women’s dress shoes.

Dress shoes designed for everyone will have some form of a heel to help the shoes and the wearer stand out.

Having a good-sized heel on the bottom of a shoe will give a formal outfit some added taste and elegance for any occasion.

Added Protection

Heels are very quickly becoming something of a fashion staple in the dress shoe world with their style.

As a bonus, heels are also showing to serve a practical use when added to a pair of nice shoes.

People want to protect their dress shoe investments by protecting them from damage to save time and money later on.

The back area of dress shoes are often the most damaged, so an added heel means added protection.

This new layer of protection means fewer trips to the cobbler to get the dress shoes' sensitive leather repaired.

The heel region of a shoe can often be exposed to a large amount of pressure when you walk normally, which can lead to increased wear in that area.

As such, adding a larger heel section to a pair of dress shoes that are generally expensive can make the shoes last longer.

Adding a heel to normally fragile dress shoes goes a long way to give them support and protection.

Men’s vs. Women’s Heels' Primary Purpose

Men’s and women’s heels have quite a few differences that determine how each one functions and helps the shoe overall.

The difference between a heel on a man’s shoe and that on a woman’s are quite unique.

Both style and functionality play a significant role in modern heel uses.

Men's Heels

As to why do men's dress shoes have heels, the heel gives more rise and protection to the shoe.

Most men’s dress shoes are made of leather and don’t have much protection.

The heel adds reinforcement to the shoe so that the leather does not need to touch the ground and break.

As a bonus, the heel on men’s dress shoes can easily add an inch or two to the wearer’s height.

Women's Heels

The heel on a woman’s shoe acts differently since it is primarily designed to lift the wearer.

High heels, in particular, help the wearer have more defined legs and heightened foot placement.

However, the aggressive angles and higher heel heights are something that not all women are comfortable wearing.

That is why lower height heels are so popular since they give a nice boost in height without the discomfort.

how to measure heel height on shoes

How to Measure Heel Height on Shoes

While measuring the heel of a shoe is more often a consideration made for women’s higher heeled shoes, understanding the size of a heel on any shoe can come in handy for anyone.

If you are a taller person, you will likely want to look for dress shoes with less pronounced heels to make you even taller.

1. Get in the Right Setting

When looking to measure the height of any heels, all you really need is a ruler or tape measure.

For you to get the most accurate measurement, a flat surface is ideal so that the measurement reflects the height of the heel on a standard surface.

With your heels in place and your measuring device in hand, you are ready to start measuring.

2. Use the Right Technique

The best way to measure the size of a heel is to measure the heel's distance where it touches the floor to where it connects to the bottom of the shoe.

On the vast majority of dress shoes, the area where the heel connects to the shoe will be along a seam line that acts to hold the two pieces together.

3. Take the Measurement

With your measuring tool, you can now measure the said area in inches or centimeters to see how much of a lift you would get when wearing the pair of shoes.

Understanding the height of the heels you like is important when buying in the future.

With an idea for your preferred size, you can buy shoes with that heel length.

What to Look for in a Heeled Dress Shoe

From the office to the dance floor, every shoe and heel offers something different to the wearer.

Thus, there are a variety of heel designs and slight changes between styles that make specific types suited for particular needs.

Let’s look at a few things to look for when choosing your next pair of dress shoes with a heel.


The heel size is something that we have covered already. It is the one that determines the amount of added height that you will get with a pair of shoes.

Knowing that you would rather have a two-inch heel over a three-inch heel will allow you to get the perfect dress shoes for your needs.

The right sized heel is the one you would love to wear.

  • Women's Shoes

In general, taller heels will be more reserved for women’s shoe designs since men’s shoes will likely only have a slight heel rise.

On the other hand, shorter heel height will provide a more stable walking and standing platform for most.

That is why most heeled shoes that are labeled comfortable are generally on the shorter side.

  • Men's Shoes

Even with men’s dress shoes, small height variations on dress shoes can lead to a vastly different wearing experience.

Generally, men should choose shoes with heels that are below 1.2 inches or three centimeters.

That is because it will look more of a pair of boots rather than dress shoes.

That said, you can go a little higher if you're height is below five feet, and your main purpose is to elevate your height.


In a similar vein to the height of the heel, the heel's width can also have an impact on how the overall shoe will look and feel.

The heel design on most men’s shoes will cover most of the heel area of the shoe and will more than likely sit flush with the shoe's silhouette.

As far as women’s shoes go, high heels will have a skinny bottom point for higher looks.

Unfortunately, the added height of the heels also hurts the overall stability of the shoe.


Despite not seeming like an important consideration for such a small part of a shoe, the heel's material can play two vital roles in the overall usability of the shoe.

The material used in constructing the shoes primarily affects the grip.

A rubber heel provides more grip when walking than a leather heel that could cause a slip.

The material a heel is made out of also determines how durable it will be when walking.

Certain materials are better for impact protection and getting dirty, while others are somewhat fragile and built for looks.


The last thing that can play a role in how a heel feels for you and fits into your wardrobe is to see how it is attached to the shoe itself.

For the majority of lower end and more affordable dress shoes, you will see that they are attached by glue to the shoe.

That is not ideal for a pair of shoes you want to last a lifetime.

You should look for a heel attached via a Blake stitch or Goodyear welt that generally holds up better.

Having a stitch also means you can replace the heel down the line much easier.

Toe Shape

The toe area of dress shoes will not only affect the shoes' appearance but also your comfort while wearing them.

Something too pointy, square, and round will not look attractive, which means going for dress shoes with perfectly symmetrical toe shapes is a no-no.

It is always best to go for those that have a similar silhouette to your feet.

Essential Heel Maintenance Tips 

As we have come to understand, there is a lot more to the heel on a dress shoe than meets the eye.

We need to ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to keep it looking and working it’s best.

Let’s look at a few of the best and most effective ways to make sure the heels of your shoes are always in their best condition.

Use Heel Savers

Just because your heels are causing you to slip doesn’t mean you have to put them away in the back of the closet.

Heel savers and similar products have become essential for many.

You can add a special layer to your heels to help them last longer and get you a better grip.

Heel savers can be a great help, especially for high heels with just one point touching the ground.

Wearing high heels doesn’t have to be scary with heel savers to protect them from breaking when you take a wrong step.

Clean Them

While this may seem like an obvious piece of advice, several people completely neglect to clean their shoes' heels.

Cleaning the heels of your shoes will help them give you stability back and allow them to last longer.

Something like rubbing alcohol can be your heel’s best friend.

This simple solution cleans off the gunk and dirt that builds up over time.

Dress shoe heels and those with larger and higher heels will both benefit from the cleaning.

Understand Your Walking Pattern

Something that people never really think about is the way they walk and apply force when walking.

This can have a serious impact on the heels' and shoes' overall lifespan and hinder their ability to protect our feet.

Too much pressure can seriously damage our heels when walking.

The repeated impact from hard walking or dragging feet can damage smaller heals and break higher ones.

Take some time to see how you walk and apply pressure to shoes.

Lighter steps could be an easy way to save your new heeled shoes.

Use a Shoehorn

If you want your heels to last as long as possible, you need to care for them properly.

That means taking them off slowly and not just ripping them off because you are tired.

Ideally, using a shoehorn ensures safe and gentle shoe removal.

Small things can add up over time if you are not careful with your shoe heels.

Neglecting to care for them once leads you to do it many times over without a thought.

Heels are sensitive and need special care to keep you supported.

Short or High Heels?

A common argument is whether short or high heels are better. When it comes to men’s dress shoes, this argument is less pronounced yet still something to consider.

Regardless if you are looking for new oxfords or high heels, picking the right heel height is an important consideration.

With high heels, you are obviously going to get a higher level of elevation with many women’s high heels making the legs look better for formal wear.

Most high heel options will be styled for women as that is the direction that fashion has gone.

The primary downside of a higher heel is that they are harder to walk in.

The smaller base with a larger height means you are walking on mini stilts with every step.

The design of many high heels is also not for maximum comfort. 

The shorter heel on both men and women’s shoes make them easier to walk.

The shorter height means less balancing and a more natural position for the feet.

High heels are great for a short event but can get rather annoying after some time.

Despite just being a small part of your overall shoe, the heel on your dress shoes is essential.

Understanding how to measure heel height on shoes will allow you to shop with confidence going forward.

Despite just being a piece of material, heels have quite a bit of personality.

About Heels and Height

Height is associated with power. Of the last twenty United States presidents only two have been under 5’10” and ten have been over six feet. Short men are more marginalized than taller men.  According to Medical News Today, the average height of a male in the US is 5’9” and the average for a woman is 5’4”. 5’8” is generally accepted as a minimum height for female models.

Heel height helps address the problems associated with short stereotypes and provides the extra height. A pair of oxford shoes with a thicker sole and the heels of the shoes created to match that are the perfect pair of formal shoes to provide the extra inches of height, so you are not overlooked.

Not only Oxford’s but other types of footwear can also feature different heights. These range from basketball shoes to cowboy boots.

Here are three final tips.

1.       Avoid shoes with a square toe as they do give the impression of reducing the extra inches of additional height you are aiming for.

2.       Be wary of any pair of shoes where the heel is too high. Remember that looking uncomfortable does you no service. Any height increase must be comfortable and not cause pain. Experiment with the best height for you.

3.       For women, in particular, it is a good idea to try to take an additional pair of low heel shoes to change into, in case the high heel shoes become too painful to wear.

Last Updated on April 21, 2022 by admin_comfortabledressshoes