There comes a time in a woman’s life when standing up for what she believes in can be painful. To her feet, that is. A stiletto-wearing style slave myself, I reached that point as I approached age 50. Footpads decrease in fatty tissue and collagen as you age. That, combined with the pressure high-rise heels put on the ball of your less-padded foot, makes dressy fashion shoes instruments of torture for many.
Many athletic brands you grew up with have stepped up their game, creating kick-ass kicks through collaborations with fashion designers.
The idea of comfortable shoes used to bring to mind foam-cushioned, rubberized white nurses’ wedgies, gripper-soled black restaurant clogs, or the kind of Velcro-closure walking shoes prescribed by an orthopedic surgeon. Today, a plethora of sophisticated comfort-shoe choices awaits you, my Cinderella. And as long as the shoe fits, you’ll walk tall, stand strong, and feel great, all while looking amazing!
The Rise of the Sneakerheads
Comfortable shoes have become so trendy thanks to today’s technological advances and the sneakerhead revolution (sneakerheads being collectors of all ages obsessed with purchasing expensive sneakers). Many athletic brands you grew up with have stepped up their game, creating kick-ass kicks through collaborations with fashion designers. As the late, great Bill Cunningham, renowned fashion photographer for The New York Times, told Forbes.com once, “young men’s sneakers are what elaborate handbags were to women this century.” In 2015, sport shoes generated over $17 billion in sales in the U.S., say analysts, with global shoe sales anticipated to reach $220.2 billion in value by 2020.
Sneakers have become walks of art….uh, I mean, works of art, but you don’t want them priced accordingly. Modern manufacturing and technologic advances have allowed comfortable footwear to fill a fashion need at a price. Take Nike’s Air Max Thea bootie, made of a molded-leather upper, a cushion-y injected midsole, and a padded ankle collar for plush comfort, priced at $140. That external rubber sole makes running for the bus a breeze. For summer, the iconic New Balance 620 sneaker, chic and sleek with gold leather trim, is a men’s style sized down and styled up for women, a result of the athletic great’s collab with J.Crew. Adidas bolsters their trainers with Boost technology, promising a bouncy, comfort “ride.”
Comfy and Cool Too
Sneakers aren’t the sole solution. High-fashion designers today work with advanced technology, adding more padding for better comfort and, ultimately, more style. And while good posture, health, and well-being start at the bottom, with feet, there’s no need to go from bunions straight to Birkenstocks. Even that formerly crunchy footwear has already been re-imagined by designer Isabel Marant over the past few seasons. Birks have gone glam; so have Tevas, a mainstay of utilitarian style. Prada–yes Prada–has come out with its own twist on the classic velcro-sandals. Basic pool slides are also getting their so-chic moment; you can find them decorated with colorful tufts of fur from the likes of Ugg and Urban Outfitters (who, thankfully, use faux). Stuart Weitzman, another go-to god of high-end high heels, now makes chunkier styles, as well as sneakers, with easy-to-totter-in padding. Cole Haan has been using Nike Air technology for years in its dress shoes and a comfort system called Grand.0S for its sneakers. Throw in Aerosoles, Naturalizers, and walking-shoe makers like Merrell and Mephisto — they’ve all put their good foot forward with comfy cool-girl offerings.
There’s no right or wrong way to wear comfort shoes in today’s current climate. Prefer a hipster’s sundress with sneakers? Jeans with Vibram-soled wedges? Leggings with Chuck Taylors in metallic glitter? Skinny released-hem jeans with over-the-top platform Mary Janes? Yes, please. These looks walk the fine line between fashion and feel-good from Paris to Portland, Bushwick to Barcelona, Milan to the Midwest. Today, comfort is completely in step with style.
For your feet, as well as your heart and soul: These companies are big on philanthropy. Wear these; feel extra good!
Toms Harper Wedge. When you buy one pair, Tom’s gives one pair to children in need globally.
Keds x Kate Spade Triple Decker Tassel. Keds’ Create & Cultivate organization empowers women to build dream careers.
Steve Madden ECNTRCQT These quilted slip-ons seem to be the love child of old school sk8tr shoes and a classic Chanel bag. To give back, the company partners with Dress for Success.
Dansko Suede Hilde Sneaker. The oven-baked clog company is big on building houses, cleaning highways, planting trees, and the like.