Lady GaGa may be making headlines for her music and clothing, but shoe lovers are honing in on her outrageous footwear.
Though the singer's Alexander McQueen 10-inch stilettos aren't for the average woman, designers have come up with similar styles that are easier to wear: heels 5 inches and lower.
Ralph Ray, manager of Belk at Hamilton Place, said rising sales seem to show that women like the sexy, dramatic look of the ultra funky shoes. Oddly enough, he said, women are buying the shoes because they're fun to wear.
"Due to the down economy, jobless rate, foreclosures and consistent gloomy news, women want to lift their spirits, and with these dramatic looks through their shoes, they can lift their moods," he said.
Virginia Spangler Polley, owner of Unique Urns in Chattanooga, said heels make her feel powerful.
"They are often a conversation piece, but it seems the perception of my IQ is in inverse proportion to my heel height. But I don't care. Those wild shoes make statements; they do not discreetly enhance a total look, which is my personal goal. I do have limits on wearing megaheels -- no airports, uneven terrain or long walks."
Entertainers Jessica Simpson and Carlos Santana, who double as shoe designers, are marketing the season's latest trends at a cost more affordable to the average consumer. While the late Alexander McQueen's shoes can sell in the $1,000 price range, Simpson's wild-looking stilettos retail for about $100 at Belk.
Some of the dramatic-looking styles have been designed for women who prefer shorter heels. Nine West's Hadrian, a leather style with a bold ankle strap, features kitten heels. It sells for $79 at Belk.
So who's wearing the trendy footwear besides Lady GaGa?
"Women ages 18 to 35," Mr. Ray said, noting that the extreme footwear will carry over into the fall.
Legal secretary Christine Simmons said she likes the dramatic shoes.
"I have no problem with the 5-inch heels, but the ones Lady GaGa wears look like little aliens on her feet -- hardly appropriate for the workplace but maybe for someone younger going out to a club."
Wear at your own risk
Aaron Solomon, a podiatrist with Advanced Footcare Centers, which has five locations in Chattanooga and North Georgia, cautioned that wearing high-heeled shoes is asking for problems.
"Any shoe with a high heel, platform or stilettos ... may look good on a woman's leg, especially since they define the calf muscle, but they're bad for your feet," he said. "The flatter the shoe, the less stress on the feet."
Dr. Solomon said a high heel puts pressure on the front of the foot, which aggravates existing deformities such as bunions and hammertoes. The shoes also can cause problems such as neuropraxia, or the bruising of nerves.