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Shoes: comfort vs looks


Last updated 9/8/2021 at 4:41pm

Recently my husband asked me if my new pink lace ballet slippers were “comfortable?”

Blink. Blink.

“Pardon me?” I replied.

As you might imagine, I am still laughing myself into hiccups.

Was there ever a pair of pretty lady’s shoes designed for comfort? Certainly, none I ever bought. Actually, thinking back, I forgot. There were two times.

The first time I purchased sensible footwear was when I moved from California to work in New Jersey. Just days before a record snowfall in January 1995, I bought a pair of black-lace-up boots that are so ugly they’re cute. They look like lumberjack boots and are perfect for tromping around in all kinds of weather. Their bottom tread appears to have been made by Michelin. They have rivets up the front and tie above the ankle.

They are now my Alaska boots. I feel like a resident when I wear them to the Yukon.

The second pair of sensible shoes I purchased came from an orthopedic shoe store. Wait, you’ll understand why. I bought a pair of black walking shoes to use during our one-month trip to Paris in 2012. They are black penny loafers with all kinds of arch support. Naturally, they matched all of my daily black walk-around outfits. They were not pretty and have not improved with age. Unlike Californians, everyone walks in Paris.

It comes as no surprise I’ve not worn the loafers since then. Although they are in a clear box labeled “walking shoes” just in case I ever get the chance to return to the City of Lights.

Here is the big question. Ladies, do we buy shoes for their looks or for comfort? Not counting the shoes specifically designed for activities, i.e., golf, tennis, ballet, track, hiking, aerobics, and baseball, whatever; be honest, aren’t most of the shoes purchased because they are cute vs practical? Admit it. You know we all look at each other’s shoes!

Back during my long working career, my go-to shoes were Louis Jordan pointed-toe, four-inch-high heels. I wore them because they made me look slimmer by making me appear taller, and we all have heard that tall people are more successful than less tall people. Or as the song goes, “short people got no reason to live.”

First impressions count in sales. By looking like a business professional, my customers accepted that I was.

Wearing 4” heels every day was such a habit, it didn’t change my Wednesday date nights with my 15-year-old grandson. We always played hoops on the school court even though occasionally one of my heels would sink in the hot asphalt.

Other times I have been known to run a 50-yard dash to snag a Manhattan cab, or when necessary, even hiked my skirt to take the stairs two at a time to keep from being late for an appointment. All in those same 4-inch-high heels.

Like many gals who hoard shoes, I have several exquisite pairs of Bally dressy heels and even a gorgeous pair of boots. They are all shined and ready for date night. And secretly, I still hoard a pair of Michael Kors red-spiked heels for dress-up night when on board ship.

But mostly now, I wear flats. My husband is one-eighth of an inch taller than I am, therefore, I have among my many favorites multiple pairs of penny loafers in various colors and designs. Some like my comfy Ralph Lauren alligator loafers and two pairs of matching tassel Cole Haan penny loafers date back to the 90’s.

Along the way I have collected too many flip flops from designer labels to the dollar store. And a few pairs of tennis shoes for non-sporting activities, naturally.

Years ago, fearing I would trip and become a burden, no doubt, my daughter bought me a pair of white-walking-tennis shoes with soles wide enough to land a 747. They are ugly. Ugly. Ugly. While orthopedically they are comfortable, I say, what’s the point?

Here’s the thing. Now I am paying the price for my years of vanity. Hardly a night goes by that I don’t suffer from leg cramps and foot pain. It’s payback, no doubt.

So those of you who wore functional footwear, you can smugly tell yourself you had it right. Birkenstocks and Naturalizer brands might have saved your arches but let me tell you what you missed, back in the day, lots and lots of wolf whistles.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected]


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