Fashionistas come to heel

This year's super-heel is for all, but men have the best of it

This is shaping up to be the summer of the super-heel, a trend that, for once, covers both men's and women's fashion, though in different thicknesses: spindly for the girls, stacked for the boys. Furthermore, for women, a heel is now not worthy of the name unless it is almost seven inches high. Of course, it is extremely unusual for a heel to be that high without it also having a platform sole - unless you're talking fetish wear - so it's slightly misleading. However, five and a half or six inches and a flat sole is not impossible. The not particularly outré label Bally has a sandal, the Coralline, which sports a five-and-a-half-inch, spun-sugar-thin heel.

Gwyneth Paltrow was recently lauded for looking gorgeous and wearing super-heels at a film premiere, but was then spotted getting help walking down the stairs. She defended herself by saying it wasn't because she couldn't negotiate stairs that she needed to lean on her bodyguard, but because she had a knee injury and that she is a "very capable heel walker", thereby showing that beauty is no bar to mastery of grammar.

For men, wearing built-up shoes is finally starting to become acceptable after the short French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was spotted wearing them. However, Sarkozy is not "cool" enough to make wearing stacked heels fashionable all by himself. The fact that he has a sexy wife helps, the sub-text being that a man sporting two-inch-high heels can still attract a supermodel.

The fabulously shaggable pop singer Prince (he really is almost preternaturally sexy) failed to make heels on men OK, but that was because he was regarded as too other-worldly. Who could identify with him? Sarkozy, however, is a pretty average-looking guy.

All of this clears the way for a revival of Cuban-heeled Mister shoes and boots. These men's shoes became fabulously fashionable in 1989, after Elle magazine used them (on a woman) over an entire fashion spread. At the time, I used to do the PR for a shoe company that sold them and it could barely keep up with demand. The finish on them was plain leather or patent but - totally gloriously - sometimes there were styles using faux snakeskin and various other adornments. For anyone who lives in London and knows a particular gentlemen's outfitters that straddles Wigmore and Duke Streets . . . you'll know just the sort of thing I mean.

Women aren't so lucky. Cuban heels aren't in fashion for us. We're supposed to be stuffing our feet into shoes with these super-high, thin heels - beautiful to look at, but most women will really struggle to move in them. I'm really not sure what I think of this fashion. Of course women should wear what they want, and I totally see the attraction of wearing heels, but to such vertiginous levels? It all seems a bit competitive. Men have so got the better deal this summer.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.