Thursday, September 19, 2013

Women in Comfortable Shoes

You will never see me teetering around in stiletto heels like some newborn calf on stilts.  I just can't do it.  I actually REFUSE to do it.  High heels have never been a thing for me.  I hit five foot seven inches in eighth grade.  I was already towering over all of the boys.  Extra height is not something I ever wanted.  And now, even though I've become the incredible, shrinking woman at five foot six, I don't feel the need to make myself artificially taller.

I love shoes.  My shoe addiction has not reached Imelda Marcos' level, but I do love shoes. More specifically, I love comfortable, funky ones. I read with great interest an article entitled "Women Only Need Six Pairs of Shoes to Get By".  I chuckled most of the way through it.  I have WAY more than six pairs, but of the suggested list, I only have one pair that meet the "must-have" criteria.

Stylist Wendy Mak suggests the following belong in our wardrobe:  
  1. a classic black heel
  2. a nude or tan wedge
  3. a strappy heel
  4. a ballet flat
  5. a dressy thong (not to be confused with nice, rubber flip-flops)
  6. a knee-high boot (yeah, this is the only one I have...and they're motorcycle boots)
Her list seems to be lacking in practicality.  Where are the athletic shoes?  Where are the hiking shoes?  Where are the sensible shoes for every day wear?  What about the flip-flops?  My issues arise when comparing MY wardrobe requirements with a STYLIST'S wardrobe requirements. Perhaps her list was for runway models.  Perhaps it's for business women who never have to walk farther than down the hall at work.  Perhaps she assumes our number one priority is looking good.

Looking good would be fine, if it also felt good.  You see, I have some problems finding shoes that FIT, and then, when I find a pair that FITS, I have
a further requirement that my feet must feel comfortable in the shoes.  My biggest problem is that I have large feet; I take a women's size 11, a men's 9 1/2.  MEN'S???  Oh, yes, I wear men's shoes, too.  They tend to offer the wiggle room my toes crave, so I've been known to shop the men's section, too.

There are times I have bought shoes simply because my feet slid into them easily.  You may be thinking I should just wear the boxes they came in.  Don't tempt me!  As an awkward teenager, I had worn shoes several sizes too small, just to avoid the stigma of having large feet.  Now I tend to overcompensate by buying shoes a little on the large side.  The problem with making sure they're roomy enough is that sometimes I don't detect that my feet are actually sliding around in them, which causes problems of its own.

There is simply nothing better than bare feet, but when shoes are required, my next best choice is an open-toed sandal, like Birkenstocks. My New Balance and Merrell hiking shoes are always comfy, and my chunky Bjørn and Dansko shoes feel great, too.

After reviewing the list, I can see why occasions for semi-formal wear throw me for a loop.  "I got nothin'."  This spring, before I retired, I vowed to only have clothes and shoes in my closet that were COMFORTABLE.  Yes, I've reached that AGE where comfort comes before fashion.  I purged my closet of any shoe that didn't fit perfectly, or any that were what Oprah calls her One Hour Shoes. (Look nice, but you can only stand to wear them for an hour.)  I had a darling girl in my fifth grade class who wore the same size as I do, and I gave them to her.

I gave her a few pairs during the school year, and I ended up making two deliveries to her house this past summer.  "Does your husband think you're the shoe queen?" she asked me.

"He can't say anything; his closet is full of shoes, too," I told her.  "At least I'm giving away the ones I don't wear any more."  She was so grateful.  It freed up lots of space in my closet...for more shoes!  I was on a mission to find only comfortable shoes I loved.

Fashion is a strange thing, isn't it?  I like to think I have a classic style, but that's just because I don't catch on to the latest trends until they're on their way out of fashion.  Since I tend to wear what's comfortable, my style runs somewhere between resort casual to yoga class dropout.

Here are my shoe staples:
  1. a Birkenstock in a cheerful color
  2. a Merrell sandal in subdued tones
  3. a sturdy Teva water sandal
  4. a minimalist hiking shoe in a bright color to locate me, in case I'm ever lost in a rock slide
  5. a nice hiking shoe with more support and protection for hiking rocky trails
  6. a knee-high boot, which happens to be Harley-Davidson brand
  7. comfortable shoes (like Dansko or, in my case, Bjørn)
Now that summer is winding down, and the cooler temperatures of autumn are approaching, I am painfully aware that I need to start wearing my closed toe shoes.  And I am also recognizing the need for something nicer to wear with skirts and dresses.  I need help, folks.  Any ideas?  

My bucket list has one strange item on it. I want to own a pair of Cole Haan Nike Air dress shoes. These are pumps and sandals that have the Nike athletic shoe designer's touch built into them. Cushioned insoles with comfort in mind. Have you ever priced these little (or in my case, big) shoes?  They can run $300-500.  You can see why they're on my bucket list.  I keep checking the Nordstrom Rack, Nordstrom's off-price outlet store for them.  Until I break down and buy the Cadillac of dress shoes, do any of you have suggestions for comfortable non-casual shoes that would meet my criteria?  I would like to look nice, and not have to sacrifice comfort.  Is there anything out there for budget-minded folks like me?

Until I find the perfect little dress shoe to go with the little black dress, I'll be forced to wear what's in my closet.  Help me before the fashion police knock down my door and force me into a pair of stilettos that will have me in tears within minutes!

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