Scary Beautiful by
Leanie van der Vyver


These back-to-front shoes by designer Leanie van der Vyver force the wearer to walk in an unnatural way (+ movie).

Scary Beautiful by Leanie van de Vyver

Unlike a conventional pair of high-heels, the front of each shoe is more elevated than the back. The wearer must place their pointed toes into the heel, then lean forward to rest their shins on the front of the shoe, which is reinforced with a carbon-fibre rod.

Scary Beautiful by Leanie van de Vyver

The only way to walk wearing the shoes is with bent knees and a shrugged posture.

Scary Beautiful by Leanie van de Vyver

Leather envelops the outer body of each shoe, while the insides are lined with soft leather that covers a supporting layer of  orthopaedic memory foam.

Subscribe to Dezeen's YouTube channel for the latest architecture and design movies

Van der Vyver worked with shoe designer René van den Berg to create the pieces for her final project at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, based on the idea that "people are never satisfied with how they look". She claims that "beauty is currently at an all time climax" and explains that this project was an exploration of "what lies beyond perfection".

See all our stories about shoes »

Photography is by Lyall Coburn.

  • Fernando

    This is the most dumb thing ever seen on Dezeen. BY FAR.

  • Looks like it would be easier to walk backwards.

  • Lady J

    Should be used as punishment for girls who totter around in heels they quite clearly can’t walk in (says the old grumpy flat footed lady).

  • TheCritic

    Soon to arrive from the same designer – Arse Hats!

  • Mr Mister


  • Dave Gronlie

    As an idea, fine. For practical purposes…

  • Jes

    Ugg, I know its the point, but I get so uncomfortable and queasy watching her walk distorted like that.

  • Davide

    Best shoes ever for dirty toilets.

  • alex

    This is not for practical purposes, dumbdumbs. It's social commentary.

  • Theresa

    Apparently discomfort and awkwardness lies beyond perfection.

  • Alex

    Silent Hill monster prototype.

  • sam

    For some reason they remind me of a table’s legs.

  • Inkeri

    Where’s the sense in that?

  • yomamma

    Pathetic. Try making life easier, that is what good design should be about, not some perverted rubbish. Dezeen is full of stupid stuff these days (I bet I get censored for that).

  • sixonone

    Beauty’s Vanity. Oh yes.

  • stan

    Your comments disgust me, truly. Judging this piece based upon practical criteria is equivalent to judging a Picasso painting on how “realistic” it looks.

    This is obviously a comment on the absurdity and cruelty involved in feminine apparel, such as high heel shoes, and on the the strange beauty they generate. Love the project; hate the comments.

    • Degs

      Now we all know what you want vs need for Xmas!

    • Michael

      Calm down Stan. You’re right but no need to be “disgusted” by everyone or quite so dismissive.

    • melina

      I totally agree with Stan!

      But Picasso paintings, although unrealistic, were always beautiful to look at either because of the bizarre shape of the object or person or because of the combination of colours.

      In this case I really don’t find anything extraordinary about the piece of art itself; even the message is little bit old. The object is not beautiful, it hasn’t been developed in any special way, and like I said the message is old, even the way of communicating it.

  • Joe

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this popped up on a future episode of Facejacker.

  • Ema

    Okay so the project is social commentary. Except that it’s like a parody of a parody.

  • Donkey

    THIS is dignity.

  • The Truth

    The person who made these should be locked away. It’s clear that if that model had have kept walking she would have easily broken her legs. Project concluded.

  • Mimi

    Ooooh, but do they come in D width?

  • Bhavnesh

    Rather than using products and art for social commentary and to convey a message, why not just say what it is you must say?

    • Tom

      Because of the context in which it was created! Read the article, this is an art school graduate project. Also, nobody likes to read/listen anymore.

      Additionally I wouldn’t classify this as a product: it’s not destined for retail.

    • shigatsu1974

      Because then there would be no art.

  • anonymouse

    Do we know if she made it to the bathroom in time?

  • In related news, industrial designer forces people to walk unnatural by strapping a 100 kg rock to their heads!

  • chants

    Seeing the comments I do think that this piece is quite successful. When people say this project looks stupid, it represents what I think when I look at certain shoes in shops on the high street. So I do like it. Next thing you know Lady Gaga will be wearing them. I have seen ladies walking around in London looking just as uncomfortable.

    • Degs

      Really! You think?!

  • Steph

    Beautifully made video, great project!!! Some people here appear to be quite narrow minded by saying or suggesting things like 'design is about making people's life easier'. It's also about exploring, experimenting and questioning the world around us, our culture and the things that shape us.

  • dude

    Lots of daddy issues with this one.

  • Guest

    Reminds me of a short story titled The Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin. Best heard from the man himself:

  • Taylor

    Because nothing says beautiful like walking around like an 88 year old with severe osteoporosis.

  • Brooklyn

    Poor girl. Those shoes look like death wrapped up into a heel. They’ve got the name wrong. They should be called “They’re Worse Than They Look”. I think walking in these looks like worse torture than The Human Centipede did and my oh my, that wasn’t pretty.

  • Susan

    It’s quite apparent that a piece of art requires criticism not idealism. Put yourself in those shoes and express your thoughts. I would say she is standing barefoot pretending to wear shoes. As commented by a guest, it would be better to walk backwards in those.

    Altruistically, they are not conceptual nor futuristic: they are a study of elements in design. BALANCE! SOH, don’t try this at home kiddies. Ergonomically, they are wrong. Imagine if it were a child, would you wear it?

  • Gerald

    In my opinion there are more similarities than differences in wearing a burqa and wearing high heels.

    We all live under conditions that help define who we become. Some of these are so deeply and invisibly embedded in society (often called paradigms) that we are not consciously aware of them. Good art helps you stop and (re)think yourself and the world you live in.

    With Leanie van der Vyver’s excellent project, maybe now we may want to understand the peculiar forces maintaining this fascinating paradigm.

  • nick

    That’s very beautiful, like bondage shoes. It can be used for this purpose too. I’ll make one of them for me and one for my friend.

  • reza

    Forget the shoes, who is she? :D

  • Biads


    Please READ before you post.

    “She (the designer) claims that “beauty is currently at an all time climax” and explains that this project was an exploration of “what lies beyond perfection”.

    I think the designer was quite successful in achieving her aim.

    These shoes make her point in a far more engaging way than her standing on a soap box and reciting her opinions.

    It’s true; the world is so mad that one day, with the right advertising campaign, I can imagine that these shoes could take off.

    I’m entertained.

  • Karen

    Modern foot-binding… yuck.

  • Shoesforheads

    Easily the best way to demean a supermodel

  • Anders

    Funny how people insist on slaughtering this as ridiculous and impractical design when it is quite clearly an art project where the ridiculousness, impracticality and discomfort is what she is trying to convey by exaggerating an ideal to the extreme. I guess the “this is stupid” reaction is proof that she managed to hit a nerve, which makes it a good project.

  • Aharo

    This is just plain stupid. What's next? Restaurants competing to produce the most nausea-inducing cuisine?

  • Chris M

    This would fit right into a TV comedy sketch show. Ministry of funny walks? Why Dezeen would feature something as a serious article I do not know.

  • Dolly

    Fantastic project. Conveyed her message perfectly, ignited discussion & lots of people further highlighted her point with the kneejerk commentaries! Clever.

  • odobit

    Are they “trainers” for fetish ballet heels? :-)

  • Lex

    It looks like they started creating another creature for Silent Hill or some horror movie. I would love to create such a creature. These shoes now intrigue me even more to see her move in them.

  • zoelle

    A beautiful piece, provoking examination of the modern human posture.

  • RainBowFactory

    Are they for real that they are going to make these shoes? Oh I’m gonna buy them!

  • Hej!

    Shoes always force people to walk in an unnatural way. Not only these shoes.