Fashion: Sell high, buy low?

Political upheavals and economic woes may come and go, but our fascination with the vagaries of female footwear reigns eternal. Last month, an announcement by shoe designer extraordinaire Christian Louboutin, in which he unveiled his dastardly plan to unleash a pair of eight-inch stilettos on the world, led the fashion press to declare that heels, and women's irrational love of them, are set to reach new heights this season.

But before reaching for a bumper pack of blister plasters or booking a Botox session for your feet (prevents aching soles, apparently), it is worth remembering that in the topsy-turvy fashion universe, most trends come with a polar-opposite alternative, which means that this season, for every vertiginous heel, there is a glamorous flat.

Choosing a side is tricky. Flattering they may be, but skyscraper heels always have a little of the "try-hard" about them, as Posh's enduring predilection for stilettos attests. Nevertheless, more demure stars such as actress Anne Hathaway are proving that towering heels can be WASP as much as WAG.

Meanwhile, those rooting for flats include Alexa Chung, who has the advantage of looking leggy even in a pair of men's brogues, and similarly genetically blessed, die-hard ballet pump-wearers Elle Macpherson and Claudia Schiffer.

If the example of Gwyneth Paltrow is anything to go by, however, you may find yourself without much choice. Gwynnie saw out the summer in footwear of ever-increasing height, but a knee injury meant she was back in pancake-soled gladiator sandals at October's London Film Festival. We suspect the two may be connected.

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