The Most Extreme Shoes Ever Created

From Alexander McQueen's Armadillo shoes, to Julian Hake's Mojito, these are the most extreme shoes to ever walk the earth...

extreme shoes
extreme shoes

From Alexander McQueen's Armadillo shoes, to Julian Hake's Mojito, these are the most extreme shoes to ever walk the earth...

Whether they're covered in spikes, dangerously high, or just plain painful, some seriously extreme shoe styles have walked this earth over the years.

Designers have long sought to experiment with out-there new ideas, some of which (like giant flatforms) have broken through to the mainstream trend-sphere, while some have really just broken our ankles.

From Chinese foot-binding to curling great Medieval winkle pickers, ancient cultures loved an extreme shoe shape, often completely disabling their feet for the love of fashion.

Christian Louboutin and Alexander McQueen have both attempted to break records with height, while Naomi Campbell's towering Vivienne Westwood platforms were almost the cause of her (literal) career downfall back in 1992.

But extreme footwear doesn't always mean scary, unwearable footwear. Some of the most beautiful creations have come from out-there ideas. You've got to admit that, while they might not look like shoes you can exactly run for miles in, architect Julian Hakes' 3D printed 'Mojito' mules, and Zaha Hadid's towering wedges, sure do make for a stunning sculptural object?

Here, we chart the most extreme shoe designs ever created.

Julian Hakes Mojito Heels, 2009

extreme shoes

Image: V&A

Julian Hakes Mojito Heels, 2009

Julian Hakes Mojito Heels, 2009

extreme shoes

Image: V&A

Lady Gaga In Alexander McQueen Heels

Lady Gaga In Alexander McQueen Heels

Iconic shoes
(Image credit: Sipa Press/REX Shutterstock)

Alexander McQueen's 'armadillo' shoes caused shockwaves in the fashion industry when he launched them at his SS10 show. So innovative, so exotic, so... totally impossible to walk in. Lady Gaga (who else) was the first to road-test the style in real life, but even she couldn't get anywhere fast without toppling over. 

Medieval Shoes, 15th Century, V&A

Medieval Shoes, 15th Century, V&A

extreme shoes

Now this is what we call a Winkle Picker. Long and curly toe points were the look du jour in the 15th Century. We're not sure they'd be so practical on the tube now, though.

Naomi Campbell In Vivienne Westwood Platforms

Naomi Campbell In Vivienne Westwood Platforms

Iconic shoes
(Image credit: News UK/REX Shutterstock)

Here, we chart the most iconic styles to ever grace our shoe-niverse...

Chau Har Lee's Flat Pack Shoes, 2011

Chau Har Lee's Flat Pack Shoes, 2011

extreme shoes

Flat pack shoes. Now there's an invention you'd have thought Ikea would have dreamed up, but actually it was the work of shoe designer Chau Har Lee in 2011.

Shoes For Chinese Foot Binding, Est 960

Shoes For Chinese Foot Binding, Est 960

extreme shoes

Foot binding in China is now illegal, but around the year 960, the ancient practise saw womens feet be crushed into tiny point shoes like these, just for tradition.

Chopines, 15th Century, V&A

Chopines, 15th Century, V&A

extreme shoes

Like stilts, for your 15th Century counterparts to totter home on after a night on the town.

Christian Louboutin Artistic Heels, 2007

Christian Louboutin Artistic Heels, 2007

extreme shoes

Supposedly the highest stilettos ever created, Mr Louboutin was all about pushing the limits when he created these masterpieces in 2007. 

Zaha Hadid For United Nude, 2013

Zaha Hadid For United Nude, 2013

extreme shoes

Is it a sculpture, is it a shoe? Who cares, when architect Zaha Hadid has put her stamp on it.

Salvatore Ferragamo Rainbow Wedges, 1938

Salvatore Ferragamo Rainbow Wedges, 1938

extreme shoes

These might not look all that extreme to you right now, but back in the 1930s Ferragamo's shoes were a shocker to the conservative dressers of the times.

Andreia Chaves Invisible Nakedversion shoes, 2011, V&A

Andreia Chaves Invisible Nakedversion shoes, 2011, V&A

extreme shoes

These shoes were printed with a 3D printer. Isn't that amazing!? We were certainly impressed with Andreia Chaves' invention and so were the V&A. They declared them museum-worthy when they featured them in the 2015 exhibition Shoes: Pleasure And Pain.