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High Heels vs Pumps: Differences and Similarities

High-heeled shoes

Everyone notices high heels. It’s a fashion element that was made to stand out and draw attention. It can drastically change the way a person stands and walks and it definitely adds a lot of style to any look. But when is that shoe a high heel and when is it a pump? What’s the difference, why does it matter and do you need to know how to recognize them both?


Pumps are a fashion footwear classic and in fact, they date back hundreds of years. They were originally known as a court shoe because they were worn in royal courts in Europe. The basic design of pumps is always the same. It is a shoe with a seamless vamp and no laces, no buckle, straps, ties or closures. The pump leaves the entire top of the foot exposed while covering most of or all of the toes.

Clarks womens Linvale Crown Pump, Black Leather, 7.5 US

Within this basic style foundation, pumps can be made with many different variations and different types of toe box designs. Some pumps have closed toe designs or peep toe (peekaboo toe) designs that allow the tips of the toes to show. The toe of pumps can have many variations, in fact, from pointed toe to round toe styles to everything in-between. Extras like an ankle strap may also be added to standard pump designs. Ankle strap heel designs are popular on many different types of high heels, including pumps. However, a true pump will not have any big variations to the upper design, such as a slingback heel or a sandal.

The seamless, simple upper design of the shoe is what makes a pump a pump. The heel of the pump, however, can have many different variations. A pump can have any type of heel on it. That includes super tall and skinny stiletto heels, supportive wedge heels, chunky kitten heel styles or any number of other heel types. It can even be a platform heel. In other words, there is no standard or typical pump heel.

High Heels

One of the earliest wearers of high-heeled shoes was not a woman known for her fashion sense. It was King Louis XIV of France, who stood at 5 foot 3 inches in height. He had shoes with heels specially made so he could appear taller. The shoes quickly caught on. Once the King of France popularized the look, everyone wanted it. Later in history, women’s heels became a fashionable footwear look.

Yellow high heels shoes

Catherine de Medici, who would become Queen of France after her 1533 marriage, wore high heeled shoes that were made by Italian designers. Her women’s shoe style quickly caught on in the French court and she set the women’s footwear trends that would shape fashion history.

High heeled shoe designs are made from a huge variety of materials, including patent leather or genuine leather and even paper, and they’re made in a huge array of styles, with many different types of heels. Some of the most popular and best-known types of heels include stiletto, which are very tall and thin, short and curvy French heels, chunky square heels and square Cuban heels.

High Heels vs Pumps

In the battle between high heels vs pumps, there is no winner. Pumps are a style of high heel shoes. And while pumps are just one type of high heel, they are considered a classic style and they are one of the most popular types of high heeled shoes. Pumps are often used as an example of any stylish high heel. Pumps and heels are one and the same, though high heels can appear in many other styles, too. So for this epic matchup, we call a draw. You can’t have pumps without heels or heels without pumps!


Still have questions about high heels, pumps or comparing the two to each other? Get the answers to the most common questions about high heels and pumps.

Are pumps more comfortable than other types of high heels?

The search for comfortable heels is a bit like the search for the Holy Grail…endless. Many high heels are made with some sort of support for arches and feet. Some high-end designer brands are made with even more support in an attempt to make their heels more comfortable.

But the truth is, lifting up the heels of the feet changes the natural stride of the foot. It changes the way the foot strikes the ground when walking and how the foot supports the body when standing. Walking and standing in this unnatural position can always cause leg and foot pain, which is why some foot doctors recommend wearing no high heels at all. Others say to chose a low heel style if high heels are worn at all. When it comes to foot health, a flat shoe is best.

High heels are not good for the feet and this is a pretty well-known fact. Some high heels are more comfortable than others because of how they’re designed and the cushioning they offer but no one particular type of high heel is necessarily more comfortable than others. How comfortable any type of high heel is depends a lot on the heel size, the cushioning in the shoe and the overall design. Any shoe that has a padded insole, for example, will be more comfortable than one that doesn’t.

Another important factor in how comfortable shoes are is in what they are made of. Black leather is more breathable than plastic, for example, which can help your feet stay less sweaty. Some materials may rub against your skin and cause blisters or other discomforts.

Which heel height should you wear?

The heel height you choose is mostly all about style, though in some instances you may intentionally need to reach a certain height. If you’re trying to wear a dress that’s three inches too long for you, then you’ll want to wear a heel that is at least four inches high. If you want to appear much taller, you’ll want to choose a tall high heel. And if you want to keep your feet as healthy as possible, look for a heel that’s three inches or lower.

Are pump shoes good high heels for beginners?

Pumps are simple high heel style that slip on easily. There’s nothing that needs to be buckled or tied or strapped together. There are few extras, like a strap around the ankle, that can make other types of heels so difficult. Pump styles are also classic and they look good with anything. They can be worn for everything from casual to formal dress shoes occasions, so they’re a great all-around shoe. For these reasons, pumps are a good starter high heel and a great go-to high heel that every woman should own. However, this is only true if the pumps have a medium-high heel that isn’t too skinny. A shorter, more supportive heel is best for beginning wearers. You definitely don’t want to start on a super-thin heel like a stiletto.

What’s the best type of high heels?

There are many different types of heels that range from tall and skinny thin heel designs, as in stiletto heel styles and cone heel styles, to short and chunky heel styles, like a wedge heel type or a block heel design. The best type of high heel is the one that you like best and the one that you enjoy wearing, which probably won’t be limited to just one type.

How do you walk in high heels?

If you’re wondering how to even begin walking in high heels, it’s a fair question. Many people don’t know how to walk in heels. Start by wearing a pair of heels that feel comfortable and supportive. If a high heel shoe is pinching your feet or causing pain, you aren’t going to be able to walk properly.

With heels on, practice taking steps one foot at a time. Step naturally by placing your heel on the ground first, then shifting weight to the ball of the foot. That’s the wide area under the toes, just past the arch. Once your weight has shifted to the ball of the foot, you can now shift your body weight to this foot and move your back foot, bringing it forward to step from heel to the ball of the foot again.

When in doubt, keep your weight on the balls of your feet and step onto the balls of your feet. You have walked on tiptoe before in your bare feet. Mimic this exact action to walk in high heels if the ground is somewhat uneven or unsteady beneath you. You will certainly need to do this on grass, where your heels may sink into the ground and get stuck. If your heels get stuck in the ground a few times, you’ll end up with a black heel on each shoe so you want to step toward your toes first. But whenever you can, step heel first, ball next and then shift your weight onto that foot.

The big thing about walking in high heels is that you want to be very steady and confident on your feet. Don’t look down at your feet as you walk. Step with confidence, keeping your back straight and your shoulders pulled back, head up. Bend your knees naturally as you walk. Whether you’re walking on a thick chunky heel or a stiletto, this technique will work.

Related: High Heels vs Stiletto Heels | High Heels vs Flats | Are High Heels Bad for Your Feet?


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  • Health – 10 Comfortable High Heels That Won’t Wreck Your Feet, According to Podiatrists
  • LiveAbout – Shoe Glossary: Pumps
  • MadeHow – High Heel
  • Self – What Wearing High Heels Does To Your Feet
  • The Trend Spotter – 30 Types of Heels Every Woman Should Know
  • WikiHow – How to Walk in High Heels