Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Funky Shoes and Home Truths

Here's a recent letter from a reader:

I love shoes but I have a terrible time wearing heels because I now have so little padding on the ball of my foot that most heels are a misery after a short while. Inserts help, but I also have very flat feet. All of this is leading up to my search for some cute red heels to wear with long-skinny jeans. I love the kind of clunky round-toe mary janes that are out now. I found some shoes on Zappos:

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They’re a little funky looking, but with the padded platform actually pretty comfortable. However, my 17 year old daughter saw me trying them on and blew a gasket. According to her they are ugly and way, way too trendy for a 45-year old woman to wear. Now, I don’t dress like a teenager. Overall, I successfully avoid the “mutton dressed as lamb” syndrome, but I am chafing a little at its application to these shoes. So, I thought I’d ask an expert. Where do you weigh in? Are these shoes ugly or just kind of funky? And what’s the age cut off for wearing funky shoes? Also, other than the obvious brands I’ve tried (and own) like Naturalizer, Born, Sofft, Clarks, etc., any recommendations for those of us with super boney feet?


I got a follow-up letter from Melissa the next day saying she had in fact decided against them -- the color wasn't right and maybe they were a bit funkier than she wanted. I loved those red shoes, I'm really sorry they didn't work out because I think they would have been fab with some skinny jeans and a loose top. Very Marni.

As far as Melissa's daughter is concerned... well, I'm sure she's a lovely girl, but I don't know too many 17-years olds from whom I'd take fashion advice. Teenaged girls are not exactly known for their open-mindedness or sound judgment, and the horror of being "different" is uniquely potent in someone that age. As for the age cut-off for wearing funky shoes? Phooey! I refuse to acknowledge any such thing. Because there are age-appropriate funky shoes out there, believe you me -- I've got a closet full of 'em!

I'm opening Melissa's question up to the community here -- anyone have advice on what shoes she should try? I'd love for anyone to send some suggestions for specific shoes, because I'm going to be tearingly busy the next few days and won't have a lot of time for surfing the interwebs. (Clever Style Spy, getting her readers to do her work for her!)

And now, we come to the section where Style Spy drops a few Home Truths on you.

The whole myth about comfy high heels is just that -- a myth. Pretty much no one has very much padding on the balls of her feet, and it does degrade as we age. We are just not built to walk around like that, as any podiatrist will tell you. I can scamper around pretty carefree in a 3" heel for a long little while because I'm used to it, but after a point, no matter what the shoe, I start to feel it. (I find a glass of champagne does wonders for this, but that, of course, is not always practical.) The sad ugly truth is that how "comfortable" a pair of heels is actually equates to just how much discomfort you are willing to bear. This is not to say that I don't have some shoes that are better than others, because I do. But the uncooked meat of the matter is that the difference between a High Heel Gal and a Non-High-Heel Gal is about how she works the Pain vs. Fabulous Equation.

If you see it like this:
you're not a High Heel Gal.

If you see it like this:you are. That's pretty much all there is to it.

So, do these look "comfy"?

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(Manolo Blahnik, creator of infinite shoe goodness.)

No, honestly, they do not. Would I care? Oh, HELL, no!!

Up to a point, of course. I don't need to be able to walk
far, but I do need to be able to walk. Limping and bleeding by the end of the night is not chic, no matter how fabulous your shoes.

I'm not saying every pair of heels you will ever put on will be like Torquemada going to town on your tootsies. Some heels really aren't too bad -- and it depends on your foot and the construction of the shoes as to how well they match up.
But. In shoes, "comfortable" is a sliding scale. I don't have the same standard for "comfort" in a running shoe as I do in a fabulous dressy sandal. As I have told many a shoe-gawker who has asked, "Are they comfortable?" while staring at my feet, when you're talking about a four-inch heel, you're setting a whole different baseline for "comfort" to begin with. It also has to do with any given person's pain threshold (Mine is actually pretty high -- I once had a cracked rib for three weeks before I went to the doctor. I just thought I'd slept funny.) and how long you wear the shoes. Almost anyone can get through a dinner party in a pair of heels, but the back & forth of a day at the office in them might be too much for you.

There are steps that you can take -- a myriad of gel insoles and foot pads and arch supports are available these days, and a lot of them really help. I have a client who takes almost every pair of high heels she buys immediately to the cobbler to have half an inch lopped off the heel and a rubber half-sole attached to the bottom of the shoe. This won't work with every heel, of course, and you need a good shoe guy, but it can work wonders. Some people are even getting collagen or Restylane injections into the balls of their feet to plump up the padding, although I must say this seems a bit extreme. (Not to mention pretty spendy.)

So there are certainly things you can do to improve the situation, but I think it's unlikely that we will ever see the invention of a droolworthy high-heeled shoe you could wear to sightsee in New York City in all day long and end the day feeling your feet had been massaged by angels for eight hours. You cannot turn these

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into these

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Then again, why on earth would you ever want to?


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Kimmi said...

Love those shoes! Coming from a 21-year-old, they are not too "funky" for a 40-something. If red's not her color, then she needs to get them in brown suede ASAP.

Don't let a silly 17-year-old girl break your confidence - even if she is your daughter!

Princess Poochie said...

What about Aerosoles
DEMI FINALIST - in red patent

Cole Haan
DALYA AIR PUMP with Nike Air Technology? Not sure if the wine color is too dark


Jen said...

I think those shoes would be fabulous with skinny jeans, regardless of age. Heck, I've seen some 60 year olds rock style like that.

Style Spy, have you tried the new Cole Haan Nike Air high heels? I saw them on TV, and wondered if the use of Air technology does vastly improve the wearability?

Anonymous said...

My Mother who must be in her 70's must wear 3-4 " heels everyday and every-wear to feel dressed . I asked why, here is her answer" I cannot wear a flat shoe or bare feet at all now. My foot is shaped for heels after 40 years in them. they pain if I wear a flat even a slipper ". My gosh her slippers are 2" high LOL " a life time of being the smart tycoon in the office has done this to her foot. As she has a passion for heels the likes you have not seen ! LOL...I think it has given me a terror of very high heels to look at her naked foot . What heels have done to them is not pretty.
A note lady with the letter /I am not fond of those exact shoes( I little clunky for me) but I think you can & should wear a heelas tall as you like ,no question about it .Get them fast as wide pants are back with power .k

Kate said...

Look at Sofft Shoes again. I am wearing a pair of 3" heals from them right now and they are super comfy. Lots of cute heals...more comfortable than most. Check out Regina, they are on the funkier side.

Anonymous said...

God, I HATE Cole Haan with the Nike technology. Putting a quarter-inch of foam in the bottom of a shoe does NOT HELP when the sole of the shoe is so inflexible and hard that you cannot move your foot at all when you walk. They're pretty shoes, so I try them every so often, but every single pair of heels I've ever tried from them is extraorinarily painful. And I regularly wear 3" heels for 12 hours a day in an office.

All I can say is to keep trying. The importance of the shape of the shoe (not the visual design) - the arch, the placement of the heel, how well balanced it is - makes a world of difference.

Coach is my favorite for well-balanced heels, if you can find them without all the hideous logos. I got a great patent pair at Nordstrom's a few weeks ago. I feel steady as a rock in them!!

Joan & David Circa is also very comfortable for me, although a bit lacking in arch support.

Most of my shoes, though, are Charles David. I am not fond of the super-pointy-toe-needle-thin-heel design he keeps putting out, but by and large they are well-balanced, and roomy enough in the toe-box.

A final word of caution: the "girls" lines are often narrower than the regular line. Like, BCBG Girls is usually narrower on me than BCBG. And Charles by Charles David, well, let's just say I'm not a huge fan.

The best thing to do is go to a store and try on different brands!!