In praise of flats (shoes, that is)
I'm currently reading 'What Would Virginia Woolf Do? And Other Questions I Ask Myself as I Attempt to Age Without Apology', a book that's part memoir, part hand-book/guide for women in their midlife, by American writer Nina Lorez Collins. It's a no-holds barred account of her experience of crossing the rubicon from youthful mid-age to being an "older woman" and covers everything from health and work to sex and relationships.
An early section is devoted to fashion, and in it she recounts the experience of having to (mostly) give up wearing heels, telling the story of a friend who was "commanded to wear orthopedic inserts" by a doctor who presented her with a brochure "full of the ugliest bejeweled old-lady shoes known to womankind".
In her marvellous book Know Your Style, my former Good Housekeeping colleague and friend, That's Not My Age blogger Alyson Walsh devotes a whole chapter to flat shoes. It starts with the rousing statement: "I take a zero-tolerance approach to sore feet". Can you hear me cheering?
Thanks to a delightful combination of a bunion and arthritis in my toes, I had to part company with heels over five years ago. And I've been wearing orthotics to combat flat arches for longer than that (honestly, it's a miracle I can stand on my feet at all). Any heel I can still wear has to be good and solid. Wedges even better. Very definitely no more teetering on 3 inch stilettos (see aforementioned foot ailment list). I can't pretend I didn't feel a fleeting pang of regret in consigning my high heels to the charity shop, but I can also honestly say that I haven't missed them for a moment since.
You see, whilst fashion retailers are still only slowly waking up to what it is that older, but still fashionable and stylish thank you very much, women want from their clothes (yes, that does include dresses with sleeves please), shoe fashions have brilliantly played right into the hands, or rather feet, of those of us who want Alyson's uncompromising comfort combined with the sort of fashionable footwear that is a million miles from Nina's friend's ugly old-lady shoes.
I have never had any trouble finding flat shoes that are fun/funky/elegant/stylish/smart (delete as appropriate. Or not at all) I have a long-running love affair with brogues (seven pairs so far and no plans to stop collecting), a building collection of sneakers, and boots in a wide variety of colours but no variety of heel height. I have slip-on's, lace ups; shoes with pointed toes, and shoes with open toes; red shoes, pink shoes, silver shoes and embroidered shoes. Shoes for the summer, boots for the winter, shoes for the day and bejewelled, sparkly shoes for the evening (note this pair from Dune were so good I bought them twice. A favourite tip when I find a specially great pair).
What they all share is that they not only reflect my mood on any given day and complement whatever outfit I choose perfectly, but I know when I put them on, they will make me happy, and that, far more importantly, my feet will remain as resolutely, and gratifingly comfortable by the end of the day as they are at the start.
If you're someone who's resisted flat shoes, I urge you to think again. If, like me, you're a committed flat shoe fan, please do let me know if there are any brands you particularly love and recommend?
PS - none of the shoes in my pics are new (I'm sure you can see how well loved/worn some of them are), but if you want to know where they came from, let me know in a comment and I'll point you in the right direction
This week's other new post on the site is chock full of inspiring thoughts about the art of ageing In really great shoes, obviously!