Comfortable stilettos may no longer be a fashion myth. And we have celebrity stylist-turned designer Neil J. Rodgers to thank for that. After 15 years as a stylist to the stars, namely Anna Kendrick, Beyoncé, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, he took all their shoe gripes and set out to solve them with the launch of his eponymous footwear line, which comprises 12 styles (each in two to three different colors) that finally give red carpet-worthy heels a level of never-before-felt comfort.
“For Anna [Kendrick], we would select two shoes for the red carpet: one to walk in for 10 to 15 minutes on the red carpet, which was typically the least comfortable, and then another one to spend the rest of the evening in,” Rodgers explains to us. “Each one of my shoes has seven millimeters of cushion, which not only takes seven millimeters off the heel height, but it’s also concealed. There’s no other red carpet shoe that’s this comfortable.”
A “red carpet shoe” is one that’s designed to be photographed at every angle. It’s sexy, it lengthens, it adds height (it’s why stylists still put their clients in platform heels at ever major event), and it’s usually painful. But with Rodgers’s 7mm-deep foam cushion, it acts as a less-rigid platform—but a hidden one—creating the illusion of a single-sole heel. It’s no wonder celebrities are already fans. Charlize Theron, Mila Kunis, Daisy Ridley (the very first star to publicly wear his creations), and Jane Fonda (who has placed a couple of personal orders already) are among the impressive roster of stars to choose Rodgers’s stilettos over established designers.
Rodgers spent more than a year to perfect his designs, drawing inspiration from Old Hollywood glamour, ’90s minimalism, and (surprisingly) NASA pictures of the galaxy (hence the iridescent finishes on some of the styles). The shoes are crafted in Milan from the same factories as prestigious brands like Dior, Saint Laurent, and Prada, and it was there where he first noticed the dragonflies along the Riviera del Brenta. He incorporated the dragonfly wings into his designs (the mesh wing shape on the silhouette, the teardrop-like clasp), and soon enough, that will inevitably become his signature detail.
Comfort aside, Rodgers’s shoes were designed to flatter women. The curve of the shoe (pictured at top) lengthens your leg in profile, and the ankle straps dip ever so slightly to avoid cutting off and shortening your frame (a gripe of Kendrick’s). And the sandals look as though they have two delicate straps in the front, but it’s actually one, connected by a clear, see-through strip (a solution to another one of Kendrick’s concerns with strappy sandals—she didn’t want her pinky toe to fall through). (In full disclosure: Only the closed-toe heels have the cushioning. Rodgers says there is some padding in the sandals, but not as much, due to it being harder to conceal.)
But let’s get back to the main selling point. For a four-inch stiletto that’s touted to be the most comfortable, we had to try it out for ourselves. Keep scrolling to find out how three of us fared. The challenge: To wear them for a full 9-to-5 workday without cheating.
“Confession: I hardly ever wear heels. And if I do, it’s for a very short amount of time and honestly, when I know my day is largely going to be spent sitting at my desk. I wore the Cecilias in black suede, which I’m told run half a size small (my feet are on the narrower side, and the fit was perfect). I felt the padding immediately (a co-worker likened them to her Asics running shoes, and I have to agree). Still, ever the pessimistic, I figured I’d be hobbling home after spending the day in four-inchers. I braced myself for the pain, but they never came. These miraculously pulled through—zero blisters, zero discomfort.”—Andrea Cheng, Associate Fashion Editor
“No fewer than five people stopped me while I was wearing these sky-high T-straps to comment, ‘cute shoes.’ That said, I would be willing to wear them through eight-hour workdays (which I did) even if they weren’t pretty comfortable, at least for what they are (I mean, they’re still stilettos, so it’s not like you’re going to want to run football fields, or walk more than a block, if we’re being really honest). However, they ran a half-size big on me, so I think that might have contributed to the comfort factor, as well as the open sides, which work well for wider feet. I tried on Andrea’s pair in an equivalent 37 and found them a half-size small and much narrower, resulting in immediate ball-of-foot pain that had me throwing them aside 30 minutes later.”—Stephanie Trong, Fashion Features Editor
“This much I can say for sure: If you are looking for a solid work-week heel that won’t make you hate life by 3 p.m., these are a winning solution. I wore my sample pair around the office all day (and it was a busy day—full of meetings, run-throughs, and frequent snack runs) without any pain in my footbed or toes. Perhaps even better, the footwear made a notable impact on my outfit; pretty much every time I left my computer, someone, everyone, had something nice to say about how great my shoes looked, and by the end of the day, I was seriously considering whether I should permanently keep a pair under my desk. That said, these are not miracle shoes. I still felt like a teetering baby deer from the stilettos’ tall, skinny lift (perhaps more a statement on how infrequently I wear super high pumps than a flaw in this particular one’s design), and would not feel comfortable wearing the style at night without the help of an Uber—but $10 to $20 for a evening without limping? Doesn’t sound so bad to me.”—Alison Syrett Cleary, Fashion Writer
Neil J. Rodgers shoes ring in between $595 and $1,050, and they’re available at neiljrodgers.com.