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Fancy Footwear

A shoe is just a shoe, unless it's a Jimmy Choo -- or a Manolo Blahnik or an Edmundo Castillo. For a stiff price -- sometimes hundreds or thousands of dollars -- the wearer is promised to feel sexy and get noticed. In the conclusion of Morning Edition's fashion series, Karen Michel offers a lowdown on high-end footwear, and the lengths some people will go to make it fit.

Valerie Steele is director of the museum at Manhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology, where she oversees a collection of about 5,000 pair of shoes. Steele uses phrases like "toe cleavage" to describe the look of a foot wearing high-heeled stilettos. Slip on the right pair of heels, she says, and you feel slimmer, more bosomy. Men will drool at the mere sight of you.

"For would-be Pavlovs," Michel reports, "there's no better place to salivate than Manhattan's mecca of Manolos and Miuccia Pradas than the shoe salon at Bergdorf Goodman. It's a warren of rooms devoted to displaying shoe upon expensive, designer shoe."

This is where you will find geometric patterned flats in the $300 to $400 range -- and a Manolo Blahnik crocodile boot for a cool $12,900. Ruupel Patel, Bergdorf's women's fashion director, calls such a pricey purchase a lifetime investment.

Some people may have the money to spare for a pair, but they may not be able to slip the shoes on when they get them home. That's when some turn to an expert for help.

Dr. Suzanne Levine is a clinical podiatrist on Manhattan's Upper East Side. She sculpts and plumps the feet of the well-heeled set. A $2,500 toe-shortening procedure helps some fit better into their pointy pumps. Others pay to have collagen injected into the base of their feet, to provide cushioning.

"One woman requested that her heel be made wider because [her feet] were slipping out of the back of her Jimmy Choo shoes," Levine says. Another wanted liposuction on her toes. "She said her boyfriend wanted her toes to feel a lot thinner. I suggested she get rid of her boyfriend immediately."

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