Victoria & Albert Shoe Exhibit
Credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum

Do you have to suffer to be beautiful, as the old saying goes? Anyone who's spent an evening in sky-high stilettos might be inclined to agree. So it's no wonder an exhibition with over 200 examples of extreme footwear from around the globe at London's Victoria & Albert museum is entitled "Shoes: Pleasure and Pain".

The shoes range from an ancient Egyptian sandal (below) decorated in pure gold leaf through 16th century chopines (lace-up silk mules perched on 6-inch flatforms designed to lift skirts above muddy streets) to the almost-as-perilous Vivienne Westwood platforms Naomi Campbell took a runway tumble from in 1993.

Chopines punched leather kid shoes
Credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum

Along with historic footwear, many of which have never been displayed before, the exhibition will look at how the latest technology is creating the possibility of ever-higher heels and dramatic shapes, as exemplified in architect Zaha Hadid's futuristic Nova shoe (below) with its seemingly unsupported 6-inch heel, created for fellow architect Rem Koolhaas's line United Nude.

NOVA, by Zaha Hadid for United Nude
Credit: Courtesty of United Nude

Also on display will be the most elaborate designs by some 70 contemporary makers such as Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Alexander McQueen, Sophia Webster, Roger Vivier and Prada, as well as classics from the private collection of individuals ranging from Queen Victoria to Marilyn Monroe and Sarah Jessica Parker. Footwear geeks can also gawk at the custom lasts made by British firm H&M Rayne for Princess Diana, which were used when creating bespoke footwear for the royal. But perhaps the most painful thing in this temple of pleasure for shoe obsessives isn't the toe-pinching silhouettes. Instead, it's that none of the gorgeous objects on display are for sale.

See more from the museum below.

Mens’ shoes, gilded and marbled leather, Northamptonshire, England, c.1925
Credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum
Caroline Groves Parakeet shoes
Credit: Photography by Dan Lowe
Nadja Auermann in Vogue Feb 1995
Credit: © Estate of Helmut Newton/Maconochie
Freed of London ballet shoes for Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) in The Red Shoes
Credit: Courtesy
one sandal, gilded and incised leather and papyrus, Egypt, c30 BCE-300 CE
Credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum
Invisible Naked Version by Andreia Chaves, 2011
Credit: Photo by Andrew Bradley
Roger Vivier (1907–98) for Christian Dior (1905–1957). Evening shoe, beaded silk and leather, France, 1958-60
Credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum