If we’re talking about comfortable and stylish shoes, we need to say something right off the bat. The “slides” have to go.
They are fashionable and a bit sexy. And they are certainly easy to get on and off. But they offer no arch support (unless they are an Earth-shoe-like style, if you can call that “style”) and in order to keep them on your feet you have to slightly clench your toes a little bit with each step.
Put that into action for any distance walking and you have a sure formula for plantar fasciitis. Just save them for the poolside or the boudoir.
And, we’re not going to consider the trend toward transparent plastic shoes either. Yes, they are a fun throwback to the 1950s, but they simply make your feet sweat. And, plastic has no “give.” They may be a fashion statement, but I can’t imagine ever considering them comfortable in any sense of the word.
Size – and Shape – Matter
If you want a comfortable shoe, you must first get the right size. Shoe sizes and widths vary with the manufacturer. Depending on the shape of your foot the width can be even more crucial. \\
If you have a neuroma – that burning, shooting pain between your metatarsals – your shoe must have a wide enough toe box so that your toes aren’t jammed together. The same is true if you have bunions.
And if you do have bunions, it’s just best to avoid shoes with a heel higher than 1 ½ inches. Anything much higher, and gravity will shift your weight forward onto your metatarsals aggravating those bunions.
Still, if you care about style and comfort, you are in luck this year, especially if you are planning on doing any spring and summertime traveling, as there are many great comfortable and stylish options.
As a counter to those inflexible plastic shoes, we must mention a terrific new trend in footwear that will make your tootsies sing. And that trend is woven textiles. You’ll find woven materials in every form: sneakers, flats, booties, sling-back sandals, and espadrilles.
The advantage of woven materials is that they breathe. And, they will stretch to accommodate to the idiosyncrasies of your feet. But, because they stretch, you just might need to consider buying a narrower or smaller size than you ordinarily do.
Ask your salesperson, or if you order online, check the buyers’ reviews. That’s where you’ll find comments like “order one size down because they stretch a lot.”
If you don’t mind going in a less aesthetic direction, athletic-type sandals and shoes are very big this year – and in fashion! That includes the Teva-like styles with thick, supportive molded foot beds.
They’re being worn with frayed edge jeans, dresses, pants, wide leg pants, and athleisure wear. And if you like the support they offer, but still want a little more style, check out one of the ghillie-type sandals.
These have leather pieces that meet at the center line of the foot and lace together. That gives you the option to decide how tight to pull the laces and how wide or narrow you want the toe area.
They are great for walking through cities, on cobblestones, or on trails. A great place to find these kinds of shoes is on travel fashion websites.
There’s also what is being called the “sporty sandal.” This is a style that was made popular by Eileen Fisher, but many manufacturers have followed suit with similar designs. Basically, they are a platform sandal with a wide strap over the toe box and a pair of wide straps that cross and connect at the ankle.
They are multifunctional – at least in terms of style – because they can be extremely comfortable for walking distances, but they are dressy enough to spruce up an outfit. They look great with both longer dresses and the new wider leg pants that are fashionable right now.
They also give you a bit of height, which visually works well if you’re wearing those wide-legged pants. Just make sure the heel area doesn’t come up too high in the back. You don’t want any walking shoe to rub against your Achilles tendon.
If you love the feeling of openness that you get from wearing sandals in the summer, but want to go a bit dressier, sling back shoes are very much in style this year.
You’re going to find them in almost every type of shoe: flats, tall pumps, short-heeled pumps, espadrilles, open-toed pumps, and sandals – you name it.
They work well with jeans and either slim or wider-leg pants. And the more formal two-tone cap-toe style is a very classic look that can bring freshness to a skirt, pantsuit, or a dress. Those will also take you well into fall.
For more formal or conservative occasions, pumps are always a safe bet, and heel height is often the key to comfort. Thankfully, the stiletto look has finally been replaced, at least for this year, with more reasonable heels.
Pumps are being shown with lower, squared-off heels, often between 1 ½-2” high. The advantage of these stacked heels is that they give you a wider base of support, thereby making walking and standing for any period of time a lot more comfortable and much more stable.
Embroidery, Feathers and Fringe, Oh My!
Finally, if we’re just talking about style, there are some really fun, playful embellishments that can help you make a real footwear statement this year.
I frequently tell my clients that if they want to be a bit more stylish, but are a bit timid, to try out a footwear trend. These new ones push a pretty artistic narrative.
The Bohemian influence is showing up in two ways. The first is embroidered textiles. These are a kind of romantic throwback to a post-hippie era. You’ll find embroidery on booties, sneakers, hi-tops, loafers, pumps, and sandals.
Because they are mostly floral, they will appeal to those who identify with either a more Romantic style type or a Youthful or Playful one.
Then there is fringe! A little fringe up the center tab of a sandal, a lot of fringe down the side of a bootie, a fringed tassel tie, layers of fringe on a boot, or feathered-fringe on the edge of a fabric sandal. They are everywhere.
Finally, there are lots and lots of feathers. Pumps are sprouting feathers all over the place this spring. They’re on heels, ankles, straps, insteps, everywhere. Now, mostly you’re going to find these in higher heels and mules, both of which are in our not-recommended group.
Occasionally, you’ll find them on sneakers. But if you’re really into their fantasy, well then, go for it. Fantasies – real or imagined – can be delightful. And one can always hope. As Emily Dickenson said, “hope is a thing with feathers.”
What are your favorite comfortable shoes? Where have you worn them? Will you still wear higher heels? Which type of shoes do you like best in the summer? Please share in the comments below.