What Are Kitten Heels? 9 Ways to Style Your Favorite Pairs

If you're on the fence about them, these picks will convert you.

Woman wearing pink kitten heels

Getty Images / Jeremy Moeller

When it comes to shoe trends, certain styles have a split audience: steadfast fans and those who detest. Okay, perhaps there’s a middle ground, but we’re sticking with the former for the sake of dramatics. Kitten heels are one such style frequently met with mixed feelings. But considering most of us have spent a year or more in nothing but cozy and practical footwear, it would seem that the low-to-the-ground shoe is the perfect trend to hop on board with as we ease away from 24/7 sweats.

What is a Kitten Heel?

A kitten heel is a shoe style that typically has a thin, one to two-inch heel. Kitten heels come in a variety of silhouettes, including pumps, sandals, mules, and boots. 

For further convincing, kitten heels have been a dominant shoe trend in recent seasons, with no signs of slowing down in 2021. You could chalk it up to sneaker culture, perhaps. To quickly get into their history, low heels famously appeared on men throughout the 19th century. They peaked for women in the 1950s, initially as a trainer-heel of sorts before they matured to the stage where three-plus inches was suitable. Then the ‘90s came, ushering in the era of minimalist kitten heel mules, and now, we’re deeming them the ultimate post-pandemic heel du jour. 

Whether you’re looking for an effortless foray into the world of heels or consider yourself a petite-heel enthusiast, keep scrolling for the seven best kitten heels worth adding to your wardrobe. Plus, we’ve included styling extras to ensure an on-point kitten-heel outfit, from head to toe.

Kitten Heel Pumps 

Pumps are among the most refined of kitten heels. Pair them with workwear and jewelry for q polished style. They’re also great footwear for occasion attire, particularly if you’re looking for a more conservative finish.  

Slingback Kitten Heels

Another sophisticated kitten heel is the slingback, coming in styles ranging from open-toe sandals to classic pointed-toe silhouettes. If you prefer something modern and distinctive, opt for slim straps, pastel hues, or two-tone designs. 

Kitten Heel Sandals

One of the most versatile kitten heels is the simple sandal—available in ankle strap, square toe, or strappy designs. Team yours with jeans for casual looks, or dress them up with midi skirts and dresses. 

Closed-Toe Kitten Heel Mules 

When you want to slip-on a mule without baring toes (like when you’re in desperate need of a pedicure), a closed-toe kitten heel style is ideal. To keep things contemporary, opt for a pair in a fun color with a trendy square toe (or one that combines both).

Lace-Up Kitten Heels

Lace-up kitten heels feel feminine and fresh, coming in all sorts of silhouettes, from strappy sandals to classic pumps. We love wearing these for date nights or special occasions like weddings.

Minimalist Kitten Heels

One of the trendiest kitten heels of the moment involves ultra-minimal designs, including super-skinny straps and thong silhouettes á la the ‘90s and aughts. The Row’s Bare leather sandals set the bar when it comes to fashion-lover favorites, albeit they’re a serious splurge. But fret not; tons of affordable options exist, from mass retailers to indie labels. 

Kitten Heel Boots

The ultimate cold-weather kitten heel is the boot— be it knee-length, slouchy, or an ankle cut. Our favorite way to wear them is with a fluid midi skirt and a feminine knit. 

Kitten Heel Slides

Channel a ‘90s aesthetic with a slip-on pair of kitten heel mules. When investing in a well-made pair, you can’t go wrong with neutral leather options. But don’t let that deter you from luxuriating in playful colors or whimsical designs. 

Embellished Kitten Heels

From chain-link straps to rhinestone accents, embellished kitten heels are a must for statement-making style. It may be instinctual to reserve them for dressed-up moments (which totally works), but don’t overlook them as an unexpected accompaniment to your tried-and-true T-shirt-and-jeans outfit. 

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