For most of my career, I haven’t been particularly interested in shoes. Just not part of my DNA, I thought. I could never find shoes that were both attractive and also wearable through all-day presentations and jogs through airports. I eventually gave up the search and for many years settled for dull but comfortable styles.
And the entire experience of shopping for shoes was off-putting, to say the least. Pushy or inattentive sales people, crowded and chaotic sales, time-consuming searches for particular styles that were always sold out in my size—–all these factors made shoe shopping the equivalent of root canal for me. Rather than endure the pain, I avoided shopping as much as possible and ended up wearing my shoes into the ground.
However, nowadays I’m one of those women who are consistently complimented on their shoes and feel great in them all the time. How did this miracle happen? Three great developments in the shoe arena………..
The baby boomers have always been a powerful force in the marketplace due to their large numbers. As boomers aged and their feet needed more coddling, manufacturers realized that stylish but comfortable shoes could be a gold mine. There now are numerous brands that offer fashionable shoes with features that make them comfortable—deep cushioning in the ball of the foot, added arch support, broader heels, discreet platformed soles (which reduce the angle of your foot within a high heel), a greater selection of widths, and other anatomically sensitive designs.
Here are some of the brands I’m favoring now for business appropriate shoes, but I’m sure there are a lot more out there:
Classic styles with a contemporary twist. The female designer personally wears each style to test it for comfort and fit.
The name says it all—attractive styles and a focus on comfort.
Trendier and with fewer classic styles than the first two brands. However, Sofft isn’t expensive, so it’s a good option if you want to try something fashion-forward that you won’t wear forever.
To die for—classic, tasteful styles, handmade in Italy. Gravati styles are expensive (generally $400 – 600), but are worth the investment. They are supremely comfortable, well-made, and last for a long time with proper care.
In addition to the above brands, I generally can find comfortable and stylish choices in well-known upscale brands such as Stuart Weitzman, Ferragamo, and Cole Hahn (which features the very comfortable AIR technology from Nike). I can wear these throughout a long business day so long the heels aren’t too much higher than 1 1/2 inches.
The Taryn Rose brand is designed by an orthopedic surgeon and gets lots of press for comfort. However, many of the styles seem a little clunky to me, and consumers seem divided as to whether the shoes are worth the price. As a result, I haven’t bought any yet, but I’ll give the brand a chance sometime.
Better shoe inserts
Gel soles rock! I can insert the appropriate gel sole into an attractive pair of shoes that in the past would have bothered me by mid-day and instead wear them comfortably into the evening hours. You can even stack gel soles for additional comfort—for example, two gel soles for the ball of the foot. Consider buying shoes a half size larger than your normal size if you’re going to do this.
Dr. Scholl’s now makes a gel High Heel Insole designed to shift the weight from the ball of the foot as well as to provide cushioning. In the evening, I can now comfortably wear heels in the 2-3 inch range (something I thought I would never do again) with a combination of the high heel insole and an additional ball of the foot gel inset.
Better shoe shopping
If you’re one of the few women on the planet who has not yet tried out Zappo’s (at www.zappos.com), please, please do yourself a favor and test them out. The company and site deserves every one of the numerous awards they’ve received. Here are some of the reasons why I like them so much:
- Huge selection
- A fantastic search capability that allows you to quickly narrow the selection to exactly what you want through such lens as shoe style, color, size, heel height, and brand
- Clear pictures of selected shoes from every possible angle
- Numerous and detailed customer reviews that help you decide what size and width will work the best for you
- FREE and rapid delivery. The free option states that delivery will be in 4-5 days, but I always receive my order within 1-2 days.
- FREE returns for a full refund up to a year after purchasing your shoes
- An e-mail alert system that you can activate to notify you when new styles in your favorite brand arrive
What if you prefer to try shoes on before buying them? I used to be one of those people too, but Zappo’s has converted me and thousands of others with its great selection and efficient service. I am more—not less—successful in my shoe purchases, and the fact that I can quickly buy shoes at 10:00 pm is a huge time saver. And the more I order from Zappo’s, the less I return. Once I’ve identified a brand that works for me, then I make a note of my size and width in that brand and I’m good for future purchases.
Another revelation in shoe shopping for me was the discovery of the Arthur Beren store on a business trip to San Francisco. I happened to have a free morning and wandered into the store in unusually unguarded moment. The shoe selection was so well-chosen that in addition to buying a pair, I signed up for the catalog and located the e-mail site (www.berenshoes.com) so I could make long distance purchases.
I subsequently learned that the Arthur Beren firm is well-regarded by numerous female executives throughout the country. I believe Arthur Beren was once of the first US stores to carry the impeccable Gravati brand (see above), and they still often have Gravati choices that you won’t see on Zappo’s. The overall array of styles and brands is not as large as Zappo’s, of course, but because the collection is so well-curated, you don’t have to sift through as much. Do check them out sometime—you’ll be glad to have them as a resource.
I hope this post encourages readers to comment on their favored brands and stores for comfortable stylish shoes. This is an area where lots of us will appreciate additional guidance!