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Shape up those ankles. Practice your balance.

High heels are back in town.After several seasons of low, thick and chunky platforms and lug soles, the pendulum has gone about as far as it can go. And - for evening at least - it has begun swinging back.

As Rita Eisenberg, divisional vice president, public relations for John Wanamaker, observes: "The Bigfoot look is over."

Would you believe pencil-thin stilettos? Four-inch heels? Pointy toes?

Well, perhaps we exaggerate a tad, at least for the bulk of what we'll see at the department-store level this season. (But have you seen the models teetering on what look like foot-high heels in some of the glossy mags?) Although there definitely will be some 4-inch heels around, not everyone will be expected to climb to such dizzying fashion heights. Choices abound - no longer does anybody say this is "the" shoe or "the" skirt length.

However, says Chris Gentry, a fashion director for Blooming-dale's, this does mark the return of very feminine shoes.

"Not every woman will be walking around with a stiletto heel, but some will have ankle straps, Maryjane straps, T-straps," she says. "In their most extreme, there'll be 4-inch heels. But we're talking direction here - a major change in direction from the combat boot."

Jerry Bryer, manager of Mainly Shoes, a designer shoe store in Manawyunk, Pa., sees it as the re-emergence of the sexy look for after-dark. "It's the flip side coming back" in suede, leather and silks, he says.

Heels will be remarkable for more than differing heights. They'll be sculpted, endowed with all kinds of architectural interest. "Not at all the straight spike we used to have," says Jane Carton, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. "These have a shape to them."

Fronts will have interest, too. Besides all those straps, there'll be high vamps coming well up the foot and ornamentation such as buttons, ties and buckles.

For daywear, the changing of the fashion guard isn't quite so marked. Besides the lighter looks, some more-substantial styles will be to the fore, hefty types of loafers and oxfords, often with a high vamp. Heels may be mid-height but on the chunky side. As the Italian Trade Commission succinctly puts it in commenting on the Italian collections, "The new heel shapes and a variety of heights are used to redefine classic and updated footwear styles. For day, heels are stacked and chunkier or refined and curved."

Which means you get a lot of choices. Whether you like low and sleek or high and feminine - or something in between - you'll probably be able to find a fashion shoe to fit your lifestyle.

And then there are boots.

Considering the last couple of brutal winters, it's no surprise that boots are very big news - every kind from ankle boots to over-the-knee, says Mainly Shoes' Bryer. After last winter, "boots are for warmth as well as fashion."

There will be rain boots, snow boots, fur-lined and shearling-lined boots. Not to mention fake-fur fun boots.

English equestrian-style boots are a big influence, says Gentry: "They can be just under the knee - probably the length we will see the most - and there'll be some over the knee," as well as some ankle-length, although she sees those as less important. Also, she says, brown looks newer than black.

"A lot of people are wearing the long boots with the short skirts, and a longer coat over the whole," she says. "This has a degree of practicality to it. It's a rather classic-looking boot and could be an addition to almost any woman's wardrobe."

In fact, she adds, "a new shoe will go a long way toward updating an outfit that you loved last year, and making it very fall '94."