"It's like brainwashing," says the Pied a Terre press office. "Stilettoes are a fraction of our Autumn/Winter collection, but that's all the magazines want to photograph." A brief tour suggests that the high street has put its collective foot down. At Office, heels are high but as fat as a BLT sandwich. Toes are stubbornly rounded rather than winklepicker sharp. Knee-high and ankle boots have been snatched off the catwalk but made with the same stubborn clump of a heel. Shelly's offers a trompe l'oeil slice heel, black, suede pump with an inch-thin heel in profile (pounds 54.99). From behind, it is platform thick.
Six-inch heels are as laughable as the It girls who will doubtless wear them. High-street shops are waiting until winter really kicks in to see if real women will swallow what the magazines are force-feeding them. But stilettoes are sexy. They take the k.d. Lang out of masculine suits and the suburban secretary out of pencil skirts. The Autumn/Winter silhouette is balanced on the point of a fine stiletto. Block heels may be sensible, but never let it be said that high fashion values practicality over aesthetics. This is Style Police not Watchdog, after all. Where's your sense of adventure?
Pied a Terre has cleverly hedged its bets with block and "Slim" heeled boots. The "Slim" four-inch heels are knock out on black, microfibre, below-the-knee boots (pounds 139) and Todd Oldham-designed, black, satin and diamante slippers (pounds 270). Russell & Bromley has a more refined version of the slice heel in black velvet (pounds 125). Knee-high, slim-heeled boots allow you to flash a bit of flesh-coloured nylons between boot top and pencil skirt (from pounds 120 at Pied a Terre). But steer clear of spiked ankle boots unless your name is Suzy Quatro.
"We've all heard the one about "affordable and fashionable" basics in M&S - and we've all heard about the Yeti. But if you really sift through the racks of Lady Thatcher navy court shoes you will find a hidden gem. For pounds 35, M&S has produced perfect black, suede, three-inch heels. Just on the right side of delicate and comfortable, these beauties will steer you through a difficult season. They may not be stiletto nor six inches, but best not to run before you can walk.