After Kon-mari-ing my closet recently I was on the lookout for a new pair of shoes to replace several that I recycled. As someone with a mostly Natural style type, and because I live in a town where dressing up can mean donning a new windbreaker, I’m always searching for comfortable everyday shoes, but at least some that have a modicum of style. And of course, new shoes would have to “bring me joy.”
Oh, did these ever. I nearly got whiplash when I passed the shoe store and caught sight of them in the window. Sneakers are my “thing” and marigold is one of the Pantone “colors of the year.” It’s also exactly within the range of my “playful” colors from my custom John Kitchener color palette. They are from Josef Seibel and they just make me happy when I open the closet door and see them there or when I look down and see them on my feet.
Realistically, some version of slip-ons or lace-ups are in just about everyone’s closet these days and for good reason. They last, if they are made well, they are comfortable, and thankfully, they have become classics. One of the biggest trends in these types of shoes right now is textile uppers instead of leather. The great advantage of this is that they will mold to and accommodate the idiosyncrasies of your feet. Here are several including a few new ones that are lesser-known and that I like a lot. A few of them are my affiliates, but I only include companies whose products I actually like. (I would never endorse them otherwise.)
My friend who just passed the NY State bar (it’s apparently one of the hardest ones in the country) took herself off to Paris to celebrate. The shoes she bought to wear throughout the trip were not delicate French-type ballet flats or super chic heels, but these sneakers from Allbirds. Their lace-ups come in a couple of styles, including this cute high top on the right, over 16 colors and have either lyocell (from trees) or – get this – wool uppers! They also have slip-ons and sleek “running” shoes. My friend reported back that they were extremely comfortable, right in style, and worked very well on pavement as well as on cobble stones. And, she felt right in tune with what French women were wearing too.
Suavs offers sneakers with breathable, sweat-wicking knit uppers with a removable and washable insole. They can also be packed flat or rolled up for travel. But we’re guessing that, like the Allbirds, you would love to wear them while traveling, especially because your feet tend to swell when sitting on a plane.
Another one that uses woven materials offers flats, sneakers, and loafers in multiple color and prints with eco-friendly materials (made from recycled plastic bottles) is Rothys. Yeah, I know that sounds weird. But they are actually very attractive and get very high marks for comfort. My friend Adrienne who has bunions, loves them and wears them all the time.
If you’re looking for a comfortable ballet-type shoe to slip on after dancing the night away Tieks makes them in nearly 80 colors and prints, designed to fold and lay flat in a purse. But frankly, I would never fold and stuff a pair of shoes that I had worn out on street pavement into my purse. (Blecch! Maybe folded and put in a plastic bag.) They have a cushioned foam insole and two thick non-skid rubber patches on the outside of the sole, making them a lot more supportive than traditional folding ballet slippers. Also, they have a regular, not elasticized, back. And, they say that they will mold to your foot size. But as they only come in whole sizes, check with them to find what would be the best size for you. You may have to go up or down a size.
Athletic sneakers with huge thick platforms are being seen on the feet of the most extreme fashionistas in Europe and they’re wearing them with skirts and pants. I find them pretty ridiculous, except for the fact that they are likely very supportive and they make a statement by thumbing noses to those who would put us in uncomfortable shoes just to look “beautiful” or sexy.
But you can still get the sneaker look with something more stylish. Colorful lace-up sneakers, like my yellow ones but with an even more sleek silhouette are offered by a company called Plae. They have them in many colors at very reasonable prices. And for the truly Lazy Fashionista™ they have a different style with Velcro closures. They advertise as lightweight and collapsible and instead of a box they arrive in a re-usable packable, compression-sealed bag.
And then I found this company, Pandere. They sell only two shoes styles and their names say it all: Barista and Neo. This is the shoe for the egalitarian, utilitarian, hipster in you. And they look very comfortable. In their own way, they are pretty stylish, in that hip, utilitarian, egalitarian way. But they are not super cheap. Just expect to wear them for a long time and show your street cred in doing so.
Finally I also wanted to mention a few new-ish American designers who make very comfortable dressier shoes. These brands are very conscientious about comfort and construction so they are not “bargain” prices. But they are well made, intelligently designed, and will last.
Marcella Gift is the designer of Emme Cadeau shoes. She was inspired by her mom, a schoolteacher, who stood on her achin’ feet for hours every day. So she lovingly designed these shoes with her mother in mind. They have three layers of foam insoles, good arch support, and are made in Portugal with the high quality leather and construction you can expect from that country. She carries four styles: ballet flats (a portion of those proceeds to go support Trickle Up, an organization helping women in developing countries), a sneaker in four colors and textiles, and pumps in either 3” or 1 ¾” heights, all up to size 14! (I’ll post the interview I recently did with Marcella in a few days.)
Joan Oloff sells shoes designed by a podiatrist. That sure sounds un-sexy, but the shoes are not. And the podiatrist who designed them is Joan herself! After years of seeing the damage done to her patient’s feet by poorly designed shoes she decided to go into what was actually the family business: shoes! The patent pending technology in her shoes offers three areas of comfort: terrific shock absorption, re-distribution of your weight off the typical pressure points of a shoe, and great support. But they look fairly narrow in the toe, so pay attention to that. You can also find these at Bloomingdale’s and shoes.com.
Margaux is one that does offer very extended sizes and widths. In fact, they boast a “made-to-measure” styling, which sounds like made to order, but I think that it refers to a fit questionnaire that will inform you which size to buy in which style: flat, heel, loafer, bootie, sandal. They have 5 mm of “plush foam” padding.
Finally, because, believe it or not, I also have a “thing” for saucy shoes, I’ve been lusting after these heels from Coach. (They also sell them in this flat sandal.) Coach seems to have gotten a new designer and gone from sturdy, predictable and boring to hot, hot, hot! God only knows if they are comfortable but I love them. (Ignore their “Lace-Up Ballerina Sneaker below… I’m sure it was a manufacturing error…or if not, should have been.) Now if only I had somewhere to wear those…
Shopping for the really comfortable you…
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