The first high heel wearers are believed to have been Persian horseback warriors sometime around the ninth century. The extended heel was reportedly developed specifically for riding, to keep the rider’s foot from slipping out of the stirrups. It also helped to hold the rider steady when standing up in the stirrups and shooting arrows.
A group of Persian diplomats visited Europe in 1599 to recruit allies to help Persia defeat the Ottoman Empire. A craze for Persian culture developed as a result and Persian-style high heeled shoes were adopted enthusiastically by Western European aristocrats.
The shoes became a status symbol and the heels were extended to make the men look even taller. (This is thought by many etymologists to be where the term “well heeled”, meaning “wealthy” originally came from.)