Who makes the most famous studded heels? The answer is simple, of course it is Valentino! Since its debut in 2010, this brainchild of the creative powerhouse duo of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli has become an instant sensation and continues to capture imagination to this day.  As one of the most recognisable shoe designs, Rockstud heels have been elevated to a near cult status venerated for their timeless elegance which embraces the much-loved, romantic Valentino code while merging it with daring accents revolutionising the classic look associated with the brand. Over the years, the concept of caged, studded heels has been so immensely popular that it has inspired many tribute, copycat attempts by several high street brands. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Like many others, I have also been captivated by the pyramid shaped studs and dreamt of a pair of the caged Valentino Rockstud heels for a long time. However, as much as I loved the look of these gorgeous heels, every time I popped into Selfridges department store in London to finally get a pair I could not bring myself to buying them. Why? It is not that I did not like them, I absolutely adored them. But there was nothing subtle about the loud studs excessively reflecting bright, artificial lights and screaming for attention. Uncertain whether I had enough confidence to pull them off, I kept delaying the decision to buy them.

Eventually, realising that a department store might not be the right environment to gauge whether Valentino’s ankle strap slingbacks were for me, I decided to order a pair online from Flannels and see how I felt about them in calmer atmosphere, at home. The first pair I chose was the 10cm heel in colour Poudre in plain, non-patent leather.  Were they worth the fuss?  Let’s explore individual aspects of the shoes.

Valentino Rockstud heels close-up

Do they run true to size?

There seems to be somewhat split opinion on whether Valentino’s ankle strap Rockstuds heels fit true to size. Some reviews and online retailers recommend going ½ size up. From my experience with the brand, their shoes always seem to run true to size and there is no exception with Rockstud slingbacks. I have in my collection both Rockstud and non-Rockstud heels as well as flats from Valentino and I have never had to resort to purchasing a larger size than my standard 37.5. Maybe this advice concerns someone with a really wide foot? Who knows…

Naturally, because the slingback does not cover the heel there is some room to be flexible so going half a size up or down might still be feasible without compromising the aesthetic value of the shoe. But overall, my personal opinion is that there is no need to choose larger size for anyone with an averagely wide foot. [Back to Menu]

Image of caged slingbacks worn while sitting down

Are Valentino Rockstud heels comfortable?

While there has been some debate regarding the sizing of Valentino Rockstud heels, the aspect of the shoes attracting near unanimous nod from many fashionistas is their comfort. Encouraged by the tales of how incredibly wearable Rockstud slingbacks could be, I had very high expectations ahead of the arrival of my first pair. However, the enthusiasm cooled soon after the stunning heels finally showed up on my doorstep. What happened is when trying them on I discovered that one of the pumps appeared to have some sort of manufacturing flaw putting immense pressure on the arch of my foot, causing severe pain. So much for the uber-comfortable shoes!

Somewhat disheartened by the first experience, I swiftly sent them back and subsequently ordered a new pair in hope that this was just a small hiccup not reflecting the overall quality of Rockstud heels. So when the new pair finally arrived I was overjoyed to find out that that the shoes were in fact incredibly comfortable.

What makes Valentino ankle strap Rockstud heels so comfy? One of their more notable features is the toe box providing generous space hence no need to worry about painfully squashed toes. The roomy toe box also means that there is no requirement for a break-in period and the heels are suitable for a longer wear right away. When compared with e.g. Louboutin’s Pigalle 100, the inner sole in its widest part (just under the toe box) is nearly 5mm wider than that of the red-soled counterpart which explains why Rockstuds are far more comfortable.

On top of that, by virtue of being slingbacks, the shoes have no counter i.e. no heel cap hence there is no risk of heel abrasion or shredding sometimes occurring in brand new shoes. Thanks to the exceptionally soft leather used on the ankle strap in Valentino slingbacks the chance of friction and rubbing against the skin is near zero.

Admittedly, I had some initial reservations regarding the snug, frontal straps (particularly the non-adjustable one) and was concerned that they might start cutting into the arches especially after a long day when the foot is slightly swollen. However, I was pleased to find out that the lower, fixed strap does not feel too tight at any point, not even after a longer wear.  In fact, the studded cage of Rockstud heels adds to the comfort of the shoes because the strips are supporting the foot by holding it firmly in place. Therefore, for anyone concerned whether the caging restricts movement or compresses foot in any way, rest assured, this is not the case.

A further aspect of the shoes worth exploring is the fastening system. In my opinion, the superiority of the 10cm heel ankle strap Rockstud heels over the kitten heel equivalent lies the fact that they only have one strap with a buckle to worry about and, as such, are relatively easy to put on and take off. This attribute may be a small issue for some but for anyone who, like me, likes to carry a backup pair of flats for an easy transition at the end of the day, the single buckle will be heaven sent. Contrasting this with the triple buckle strap in the lower heel version of Rockstuds and the time it takes to fasten the shoes, the higher heel slingback pumps are definitely the winner in terms of practicality. [Back to Menu]

Valentino Rockstud heels view from behind


Valentino Rockstud ankle strap slingbacks are not for the faint hearted. They are statement heels that stand out and demand attention. Aside from the 10cm heel slingback in plain leather, Valentino Rockstud shoes are available in multiple iterations. These include a variety of heel sizes, caged and non-caged options, numerous or fewer studs, patent or plain leather finishes, so there is a scope for everyone to find a pair from the range compatible with their personal style. The vast selection of colours means that it is impossible to get bored with Rockstud heels and it is hard to stop on only one pair.

The main characteristics of the high heel Valentino Rockstud slingbacks, like the ones shown in this review, can be encapsulated, as follows:

  • relatively thin 4inch/10cm heel
  • pointed tip without additional reinforcement
  • medium-cut, caged vamp consisting of two horizontal straps and one vertical, all together decorated with 49 pyramid-shaped, platinum plated studs
  • single buckle attached to the top horizontal studded ankle strap
  • matte, grainy leather on the toe cap and the heel, and smooth leather on the straps

What I like about the Rockstud heels is that the studs, while gleaming, appear more visible in artificial light environment than outdoors. One of my initial concerns was that the studs would reflect too much light and be excessively shiny and garish when worn outside. Thankfully that was not the case. The golden shade of the studs is also quite subtle and resembles the tone of the metallic strap found in Bvlgari’s Serpenti bag rather than the bright yellow gold characteristic of Chanel.

Another of my favourite attributes of Rockstud heels is the fact that the vamp i.e. the cleavage of the pump has not been cut overly low. The additional few millimetres of coverage do not seem like much to fuss over but in reality they work wonders in providing additional support for the foot making the pump very easy to wear. From a visual standpoint, the vamp also strikes the right balance between creating a feminine silhouette but without excessive display of toes, something that in my view can upset the aesthetic value of any high heeled shoes. [Back to Menu]

View of Valentino Rockstud heels full body shot

How durable are Valentino Rockstud heels?

Valentino Rockstud ankle strap slingbacks with the price tag of £650 are up there among the more expensive luxury heels on the market. Having paid such a considerable amount for a pair of shoes one may be forgiven for expecting that they should last longer than a couple of seasons.  The quality of Rockstud heels is superb but the proof of durability is really in the wear. So how durable are they?

Owing to the fact that slingbacks are an example of seasonal footwear, they are unlikely to be worn all day every day and will be spared rain and mud and dirt. My slingbacks only come out of the box on certain occasions so, unsurprisingly, the scuffing is minimal. At the same time, even with rare wear it is quite apparent that certain parts of the shoe will deteriorate at a quicker rate and in Rockstud heels this can be noticed on the tip of the toe. Even though my caged slingbacks have been used less than 10 times, the short, pointy tip already started displaying signs of gentle wear and I expect this to become more prominent with time. If the Rockstud flats are anything to go by, with heavier use the tip of the sole may even start to detach from the toe cap as the sole is worn off. To counter that, the shoe design would greatly benefit from having reinforced tip to ensure longevity. Valentino, have you heard that?

Regarding the heel, while mine is still intact this is because I take special care of it, desperately keeping away from pavement slab holes and escalators. However, realistically this is not going to last forever. As the heel is relatively thin and narrower than e.g. the heel in Louboutin’s Pigalle or Simple Pump, inadvertently will be exposed to scuffing and getting caught in unwanted places so this is another aspect of the shoe most likely to show signs of wear and tear.

As for the leather, the Rocsktud range comes in different types of leather, notably patent and calfskin. While I am a big fan of patent and its durability, in case of high heeled caged slingback I opted for the grainy calfskin because I preferred the matte finish in Poudre colour. Admittedly, I had some concerns that the delicate shoes might end up covered in scratches and scuffs but, so far, I have been proven wrong. Aside from the light wear on the tip of the toe, the grainy leather has actually been exceptionally hard-wearing. I have a feeling that even if the leather was to be scratched it would probably be hardly noticeable because of its granular pattern.

The final point worth mentioning concerns the actual studs. The great news is that Valentino ankle strap Rockstud heels come with a pair of spare studs so no need to panic in case one of them goes missing. Naturally, due to the shiny platinum surface of the studs they will require some level of maintenance to keep them polished and dust-free. However, this seems like a small effort to keep the shoes presentable and can be expected from pumps with a high level of decorative motifs. [Back to Menu]

Valentino Rockstud heels or caged Rockstud flats?

For anyone still undecided whether to invest into Valentino ankle strap Rockstud pumps or the caged flats first, here are a few aesthetic and practical differences to bear in mind.

Starting with the appearance, while both the slingbacks and the flats have a caged front and ankle straps, the flat version has one additional horizontal strap positioned just above the vamp of the shoe. Aside from the extra strap, the flats also have an additional buckle making the fasting of the shoes a slightly more onerous task. However, nowhere near as time consuming as the Valentino Rockstud caged kitten heels with 3 buckles! While the double buckle is not the end of the world, if in a hurry, the caged Rockstud flats may not be the right shoes of choice.

By virtue of having an additional horizontal strap, the flats are also adorned with a greater number of studs. There are 59 of them in the flats and 49 in the high heel ankle strap variety (both in size 37.5). It goes without saying that more studs equal more sparkle. Therefore, the flat version will appear to those who are not afraid of taking risks with their footwear and do not mind embracing the extra bling.

Valentino caged flats close-up

With regard to comfort, it may not be the easiest thing to compare heels and flats as they serve different purposes but some overall principles still apply. As mentioned in the earlier section, Valentino Rockstud heels are exceptionally roomy and well balanced, and thus can be worn for many hours without having to suffer squashed toes or aching foot arches. For 10cm/4inch heel shoes I would rate them 5 out of 5 for comfort, without hesitation.

Caged flats certainly maintain some of the positive aspects associated with Rockstud heels variety such as the wide base of the inner sole and the additional foot support provided by the decorative ankle straps. However, the vamp is cut lower than in slingback pumps. Moreover, the heel in caged Rockstud flats is also quite low, even for ballerinas, measuring 7mm so the shoes feel relatively flat. The less generous toe cap and small heel means that the feet start to feel fatigued after a few hours’ wear of these eye-catching shoes.  While some reviews find Valentino Rockstud flats uncomfortable, personally I find them easy to walk in. However, they would not be my go-to footwear for a longer day wear because after a few hours feet become tired, and I feel slight pressure in the toes. As far as comfort goes, I would rate the caged Rockstud flats 3.5-4 out of 5. [Back to Menu]

Valentino Rockstud heels worn while sitting down

Good investment?

It is difficult not to view Valentino caged Rockstud heels as an investment piece. Since their introduction nearly a decade ago, the statement shoes have become a permanent fixture of Valentino collections and one of the most recognisable fashion designs instantly associated with the classic brand. Hence, when acquiring a pair of ankle strap Rockstud heels, you are investing is a timeless piece which, no doubt, will be around for years to come.

The stunning shoes are not without their flaws such as the quickly wearing off tip of the toe and the slight squeaking noise they make when worn on marble floors (has anyone else noticed this?!). However, these are but minor issues in otherwise exquisite and uber-comfortable occasion footwear.

While rather costly, the good news is that Valentio Rockstud caged heels often come on sale, unlike many other classic designs. Thus for anyone sufficiently patient, these can be obtained at around 30-40% discount from online outlets such as Stylebop or Flannels. That makes a significant difference for a pair of shoes with a price tag north of £600. Valentino brand also has an outlet store in Bicester Village in Oxfordshire but while some Rockstud designs are available there, the more popular ones like the Rockstud caged pump are rare to find. Still, it never hurts to pop in to check what is in stock. Overall verdict: Luxurious classic. [Back to Menu]

Photos by Badiu Photography and Unwrapped.Fashion

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