Originally heels were invented by the Persians, modern day Iran, back in the 10th century as a practical way of hooking into the stirrups of their horses. This gave them extra balance and control when shooting a bow and arrow from the saddle while riding.
In the 16th century the Persian shah sent emissaries to Europe and the heels they wore immediately caught the eye of the aristocrat. They saw the heels as a means towards looking taller, more powerful, and as an ostentatious way of showing off their wealth. This is because, in the 16th century, all streets were cobblestone and wearing high heels while walking about was incredibly not practical, so if you were wearing heels it meant you always travelled by carriage, a sign of wealth, and never walked.
High heels as a symbol of masculine power even reached a point where Louis XIV in the 1670s made a rule limiting red heels only to members of his court.
In the 17th century we see the Enlightenment take hold where one of the characteristics of the period was women wearing more masculine clothes such as hats and taking on more masculine activities such as pipe smoking. One of these masculine traits was the wearing of high heels. Over time the women’s high heels became taller and slenderer and the men’s high heels became shorter giving way to the trend we see today.
Shoe heels went through another round of scrutiny when designers, during the 20th century began placing cushions under the heels of sneakers in order to help reduce shock and fatigue. The elevated heel also tips the runner forward supposedly improving running posture. For runners there are valiant points here however for every day walking shoes or dress shoes, these kind of innovations are actually detractors from your natural gait when walking barefoot and lead to many imbalances and posture problems. A good barefoot shoe can help remedy this.