Mooching around a shoe store in Santa Monica with my friend Luisa, she mentioned her doctor recommended she stops wearing flats. “Not good for your back – that is why you are experiencing pain along your sciatic nerve”.
Luisa, who is tall and favors a casual style, wears flats exclusively: not just ballet flats but flat boots, sandals, booties…the whole nine yards. I must have seen her in (2”) heels maybe twice in all the years I have known her.
“I don’t know what to do, I am so used to flats….” she trailed off, picking up a pair of Sketchers.
“You are not buying Sketchers” horrified, I plucked the shoe from her hands and put it back on the shelves.
I love flats too but they are taxing on our bodies – wearing them is akin to going barefoot as far as our spines are concerned. Especially if, like Luisa who is a teacher, most of our working time is spent on our feet. With Summer rushing in, flat flip-flops become ubiquitous and very tempting but, aside for a couple of pairs, I have been resisting the temptation – having worked on my feet for the last ten years, I am very familiar with the type of support I need to endure hard floors and what the wrong shoes can do to my back and hips (and let’s not bring up little spidery veins).
Finding shoes with “sensible” heels or some support that don’t scream “dowdy” can be challenging, especially now that heels have become required attire. How about those (middle-aged) ladies who were turned away from the Cannes red carpet for wearing flats? (and, on an aside, would they been turned away some beautiful and half-naked starlet had she been wearing flats? doubtful. Although, should you be attending Cannes next year, just know heels are now required!).
Like the rest of our bodies, as we age, our feet change, not often for the better, especially if, during the previous decades, we constrained them into funny shapes (remember the pointed toe shoes of the 80s?) or impossibly high heels. Since I started doing yoga about 20 years ago, I could swear my feet have gotten wider – I still like to wear heels on occasion but only if I know I will not be on my feet for over two hours and no fair amount of walking is required. Even my most comfortable Manolo Blahnik do not make for pleasant walking.
For Luisa, and for all of you who are teetering towards comfort but do not wish to sacrifice style, I scoured some of my go-to sites for inspiration.
I own two pairs of these espadrille wedges. They have been so popular, JCrew keeps on bringing them back. Yes, maybe a little bit higher than one would associate with comfort but I assure you that walking in them is very comfortable. And they come in different colors, materials and even the cutest leopard print.
If you can’t live without ballet flats, these, also from JCrew, come in many colors and a tiny heel, that came make all the difference. Ditto for these flip-flops (although, that is what I was wearing when I tripped down the stairs and broke a toe!).
The MGemi site has been launched with quite a bit of fanfare a few weeks ago. Based in Florence, Italy, the premise is that stylish and good quality shoes made by Tuscan artisans are shipped directly to the consumers, keeping the prices low. While the styles can veer towards conservative, it seems like they have a good choice at affordable prices: the evergreen mid-heel pumps come in metallic hues; a simpler knock-off of a popular Valentino slingback is perfect for fancy occasions and I particularly like these chunky heel sandals.
My choice of shoes can be quirky at times. I like to enliven an otherwise tame outfit with a pop of color on my feet or some unusual shape. And every few years I will reward myself with a pair of Prada shoes because I like how Miuccia Prada marries comfort and quirkiness. These I bought at Heathrow a few years ago en route to see sofagirl. And I still wear them proudly. On the Nordstrom site I found some Prada sandals, the tamer ones, from the Summer 2015 collection, heavily discounted. Yes, still pretty expensive. But they are a treat.
And, if all else fails, Birkenstocks are back in fashion, as seen on a number of runways. I read a long article on how Birkenstocks are lovingly hand-made in Germany with secret materials and technology: now they can be had in metallic leather, funky colors and even fur-lined for winter. Not my cup of tea but I am told they are the MOST comfortable shoe ever.
And let me spare a word for clogs. I wear clogs at home and when I work in the kitchen and they have saved my back. You need to get used to how heavy they are but the support they offer is amazing. I am very excited to have scored a fitting with the Clogmaster who is based in Portland but comes to LA routinely to satisfy her surgeons, doctors and chef clients. The clogs are made to measure and they come in a lot of fun colors. I just can’t wait!