We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What does "Well-Heeled" Mean?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The term "well-heeled" is an American expression that dates back to the mid-1800s. As town cobblers made and repaired shoes, those who could afford the repair service and/or new shoes were considered well-heeled. Well-heeled is the opposite of the American expression "down at the heels" used in the seventeenth century. The heels on the shoes of the poor were often worn down and differed from those of the rich who were able to maintain their shoes or afford new shoes, while the poor could not.

Many people in the United States in the early 1800s went without shoes during the spring and summer and many others wore shoes only on special occasions such as church or school. Some children never even owned shoes until they were teenagers. By the mid-1800s shoe making became more industrialized and wearing shoes year round became more common.

Plimsolls were the first American rubber soled shoes and were made in the United States in the late 1800s. Humphrey O'Sullivan, an Irish-American, invented the rubber shoe heel and had it patented in 1899. Rubber soled shoes were promoted as "sneakers" by advertising agent Henry Nelson McKinney to accentuate the benefit of a quiet shoe as opposed to the usual noisy shoe.

Throughout the centuries, the expression well-heeled became more and more associated with the wealthy, the rich, and the concept of luxury. Well-heeled today means a person with the financial means to afford good quality shoes. Those with high earnings or high incomes can afford to be well-heeled in a variety of well-made shoes, so quantity as well as quality of shoes is often expressed by the term well-heeled.

Designer shoes, with their extravagant price tags, are marketed to the well-heeled shopper. Brands such as Gucci, Manolo Blahnik, and Prada start at about $400 for the most casual shoe and boots could cost up to $2,000 or more. Celebrities and the wealthy can afford the luxury, but designer shoes are out of range for the middle classes and below.

However, with the wide variety of inexpensive yet stylish shoes available today, most people can afford decent-looking shoes. Shoes are considered important to a person's image and job seekers are often encouraged by experts to be sure to have well-maintained, work-appropriate shoes. Second hand stores are often a good source for those who are not well-heeled financially, if the shoes are in good condition and just need a little polishing to make them look new.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By AuthorSheriC — On Apr 14, 2008

According to The American Dialect Society, the expression "down at the heels" referred to the poor's worn down shoes. It was apparently only commonly used in the United States in the seventeenth century.

By ostrich — On Apr 13, 2008

I've never heard the expression "down at the heels" but the other makes sense!

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.