A shoe is an item of footwear intended to protect and comfort the human foot while doing various activities. Shoes are also used as an item of decoration. The design of shoes has varied enormously through time and from culture to culture, with appearance originally being tied to function. Additionally fashion has often dictated many design elements, such as whether shoes have very high heels or flat ones. Contemporary footwear varies widely in style, complexity and cost. Basic sandals may consist of only a thin sole and simple strap. High fashion shoes may be made of very expensive materials in complex construction and sell for thousands of dollars a pair. Other shoes are for very specific purposes, such as boots specially designed for mountaineering or skiing.
The foot contains more bones than any other single part of the body. Though it has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in relation to vastly varied terrain and climate conditions, the foot is still vulnerable to environmental hazards such as sharp rocks and hot ground, against which shoes can protect.
High-heeled footwear (often abbreviated as high heels or simply heels) is footwear that raises the heel of the wearer's foot significantly higher than the toes. When both the heel and the toes are raised equal amounts, as in a platform shoe, it is technically not considered to be a high heel; however, there are also high-heeled platform shoes. High heels tend to give the aesthetic illusion of longer, more slender legs. High heels come in a wide variety of styles, and the heels are found in many different shapes, including stiletto, pump (court shoe), block, tapered, blade, and wedge.
According to high-fashion shoe websites like Jimmy Choo and Gucci, a "low heel" is considered less than 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters), while heels between 2.5 and 3.5 inches (6.4 and 8.9 cm) are considered "mid heels", and anything over that is considered a "high heel". The apparel industry would appear to take a simpler view; the term "high heels" covers heels ranging from 2 to 5 inches. Extremely high-heeled shoes, such as those exceeding 6 inches, strictly speaking, are no longer considered apparel but rather something akin to "jewelery for the feet". They are worn for display or the enjoyment of the wearer.
Although high heels are now usually worn only by girls and women, there are shoe designs worn by both genders that have elevated heels, including cowboy boots and Cuban heels. In previous ages, men also wore high heels.