Shoe shopping is always a good time. No anxiety about weight or bulges, just lots of mood-boosting cheer. Even a pair of fresh $35 ballet flats can make grownup women feel more powerful, confident and sexy as a supermodel. But there’s one hitch … foot amnesia. That’s when in the bliss of the moment all our bunions and blisters, sore soles and swelling ankles, corns and calluses fade away. That is, until we actually wear the new shoes and memories of Band-Aids come flooding back. Is this year’s crop of fashionable shoes and boots really feet-friendly? The answer is yes if you tread carefully. Here are the ones to look for:
1. Calf-loving tall boots
Let’s start at the top now that knee-high boots have returned to A-list status. There’s no debate about their fashion creds — tall boots look posh worn with midi dresses and over leggings or skinny jeans (yes, this is exactly why you saved the latter). So, here’s the one hitch. Those with generous calves and/or thick ankles and anyone with swelling or circulatory issues can feel squeezed by the leg-hugging fit and have difficulty getting them on and off with ease. Wide-calf boots have been around for years, but they often looked frumpy compared to their slimmer sisters. This year, style and comfort have teamed up with stretchier faux leathers and suedes, flexible gores at the sides or rear, full-length zippers and specific circumference information for consumers. This is important since a 16+-inch “wide” boot is very different from one that appears wide online but may be only 14 inches. Try these updates: a riding boot with low block heels like the LifeStride Brooks Wide Calf Boot in Black ($90, dsw.com/en/us), a sleek kitten heel style like the Naturalizer Deesha Wide Calf Tall Dress Boots in Cafe Brown Suede or Cocoa Brown Suede ($186, macys.com) or a Western-inspired style like the Frye and Co. Women’s Selah Stacked Heel Cowboy Boots in Cognac, Cream and Black ($75, jcpenney.com). Still concerned about calf fit? Try the DuoBoots Haltham Standard Knee High Boots in Black Leather ($295, duoboots.com/en-us), a basic but fashionable flat knee-high boot that comes in eight calf widths.
2. Pillow-y loafers
You can’t go wrong with loafers. This once-preppy shoe is now a genuine fashionista. Though many loafers appear sturdy, they’re not problem-free. They often require a “break-in” period to soften the topline and heel, and drugstore inserts to help mature bony feet feel comfy. Not anymore if you choose carefully. Styles with modified lug soles like the Madewell The Bradley Lugsole Loafer in Leather in True Black ($158, madewell.com) and Dr. Scholl’s Women’s Nice Day Loafers in Black/Black Faux Leather ($70, macys.com) have the crucial cushioned footbeds and ridged soles for traction (despite what you may have heard, lug soles are still “in”). For a more refined or polished look, try soft supple loafers with delicately squared-toes and hardware details at the instep like the A New Day Women’s Laurel Loafer Flats in Black or Light Taupe ($33, target.com) or the New York & Company Women’s Harleigh Square Toe Loafers in Black or Cognac ($60, jcpenney.com).