Heel thyself // Style & Error

The Fashionista needs to have a word with you. It’s about your shoes

By Fashionista

On Tuesday June 3rd, 2008


Despite the endless styles of shoes available today, many of you lady barristers and solicitors are wearing the same pair day in and day out. I see you on the subway and walking downtown — your black shoes with the chunky heel are scuffed, the soles worn down, and the leather has lost its lustre. When confronted, most of you offer the same excuse: “I work an 18-hour day and I walk to the subway! I need comfortable shoes!”

Shoes. Shoes. Ohmygod.The traditional black loafer with the low heel is not the only option. You can do better. With a little effort and the patience to try different styles, you can find fancy shoes that are every bit as comfy as your plain-Jane black loafers. Even the shoes you already have, which you may not be wearing because of the pain they inflict, can be made more cozy for your feet (see sidebar).

Wedges, for example, can be extremely comfortable. “Wedge heels provide more stability than a traditional high-heeled shoe because the sole provides greater surface connection with the ground,” says Frank Sanginesi, a Toronto chiropodist.

Leather wedges with heels made of cork or leather are hot right now and work well for the office with pants or skirts. Stick with closed-toe styles if you work in a more conservative environment, or if you have a ginormous big toe (like yours truly) which sticks right through the opening of an open-toe shoe with no room for the other toes.

Flats are also extremely popular. The comfort aspect is obvious. However, be aware that completely flat shoes may not actually be comfortable because, according to Sanginesi, they lack proper heel and arch support. Instead, look for flats with at least a quarter-inch  heel. Avoid wearing them with footless leggings unless you are 18 years old or have a show on Nickelodeon. Please.

Sanginesi recommends wearing shoes with a heel that is greater than one-and-a-quarter-inch only for a short time (e.g., not all day at work). I concur: not because I care about your feet, but because you should not be wearing two-inch heels to the office.

Regardless of its height, be prepared to pay more for a comfortable high heel. Remember how Sarah Jessica Parker’s Sex and the City character was able to run up and down the streets of New York in her Manolo Blahniks? Expensive shoes are made with higher quality leather that can move and stretch with your foot. And quality shoes are all leather — not just a “leather upper,” which can be found on less expensive shoes.

But even Manolos have their comfort limits. As Parker is famously reported to have said, “You have to learn how to wear his shoes, it doesn’t happen overnight … I’ve destroyed my feet completely, but I don’t care. What do you really need your feet for, anyway?”

Word of advice

Espadrilles, with heels made of rope or similar fibre, are a more casual version of the wedge heel, and are great for summer under skirts or capris outside of the office.

Shoe Aid

A visit to your local shoe repair shop can result in an infinitely more comfortable shoe:

Leather shoes can be stretched width-wise if they feel a little tight across your toes. Keep in mind the style of the shoe and the quality of the leather. A pointy-toed shoe may lose its shape if you stretch it too much.  Fat feet are not going to look so hot in a pointy shoe, no matter how much you stretch the leather. Poor quality leather may not respond well to the stretching process.

Rubber tips
Most high-heeled shoes come with a wooden or plastic tip on the bottom of the heel. Replacing it with a rubber tip that can better absorb the shocks will make things easier on your feet.

Non-Slip Pads
These are more about safety, though slipping down the stairs with arms flailing and your dress over your head can result in some comfort issues as well. These thin pads adhere to the bottom of your shoe and have a rough texture, keeping you from slipping on smooth surfaces.

Gel Insoles
The mother of all insoles. These are not the old-school generic brands that disintegrate after two wears. The new gel insoles are great because they act as real cushions for your feet and also absorb shock as the gel can be redistributed within the pad to where you need it most.

Source: Moneysworth & Best Quality Shoe Care

Style & Error is written by Precedent’s resident Fashionista — a Toronto lawyer who wants her colleagues to look and dress their best.