Wednesday, 26 November 2008

One woman's crusade against impractical footwear

I'm not one of your trendy types with glamorous shoes. I almost never wear heels as a matter of principle - they're bad for the body. I like to walk a lot, since it's pretty much the only physical exercise I get; and since I'm late for the train almost every morning, I also need to be able to run from time to time. So I'm forced to wear untrendy shoes - the sort that your nana might wear, only a step up the fashion ladder from orthopedic ones. I can stride to work with great swiftness and purpose, but I look kind of gammy.

I'm not the only woman whose life is somewhat blighted by shoe-related issues. When I'm commuting each morning, I notice that many women wear running shoes, which they presumably change when they arrive at work. A friend of mine recommends this approach strongly. Late for the train one morning, she broke into a run, only to trip over her own trendy shoes and end up face first on the platform. There she lay, hoping that a) no one would notice, or b) she would quietly and inconspicuously die. It was not to be. Another punter grabbed my friend's shoe, which had flown off and landed some two metres distant, and brandished it helpfully at my friend, while berating the train conductor shrilly for no obvious reason. The other commuters looked on in amusement at the dishevelled Cindrella sprawled across the asphalt. In a far less amusing story, another friend of mine sustained an awful compound fracture, running to catch up with the parade to her own graduation. Ouch.

To me, wearing comfortable shoes to work - only to exchange them for impractical shoes - is as annoying as wearing uncomfortable footwear all day long. The idea of hauling a stinky pair of shoes about with me during the day is downright unappealing. What if I wanted to go to the pub after work? I'm hardly going to want to take my Plan B shoes with me. Clearly, I'm a bit of a throwback to second wave feminism, because I can't help but ask, why wear uncomfortable shoes in the first place? Heels still look to me like tools of the patriarchy - false consciousness for the feet - and no amount of third wave reclaiming makes them easier to run in.

I don't expect to gain enough sympathy to start a mass movement around sensible shoes, even from those many other women who have sustained needless and embarassing shoe-related injuries. So it looks like I'm going to be wearing dowdy shoes by myself. I'll look kind of funny, but I'll pace confidently past you on Lambton Quay as you tap along in your aesthetically pleasing heels. Just as well I'm not the Prime Minister's wife, or the media would be mocking my fashion sense even as I type...

13 comments:

stargazer said...

i'm with you anna. i totally wear dowdy, heel-less shoes. or if i have heels, they're the thick wedgy ones that are much more comfortable. i just can't be bothered with sore feet. i'm thinking that i have to be in pain to look good then i just ain't doing it.

in terms of work, heh, i take my shoes off as soon as i get to the office and put on a pair of old slippers, which i pad around in all day. the only time the shoes go back on is when i have to see clients or it's hometime! luckily, i have a very understanding and relaxed boss...

lovestitches said...

I used to totter around in some of the hottest looking, most impractical boots and heels you've ever seen. After my tendons in my calves actually shortened I started wearing much more sensible (and comfortable!) shoes. I have never regretted it!

Random lurker said...

Good luck with the crusade. I've never understood women's footwear.. but then I'm a guy..

Deborah said...

I'll join the throng. I do have some high heeled shoes, but they're Kumfs (those gorgeous 1930s reproductions they made for King Kong). But my favourites are my purple Mary Jane Docs, and my slip-on flat black Kumfs.

I get the sheer fun of wearing outrageous heels, but for a special event, not for ordinary, everyday work.

The ex-expat said...

I've been happy that ballet flats have been in for as long as they are in. I don't regularly wear over sized heels as I am tall enough already without adding a few inches!

Azlemed said...

I am a shoe girl.. I have over 20 pairs.. but nothing too high and no stilletos... I love my shoes, esp when i put on heaps of weight they were one thing I could still buy easily... my fav ones are minx... cute, funky and really comfy...

Alison said...

Another wearer of flats, and low chunky heels. I work for a very casual small company, which is great, but I spend many of my lunch hours on Lambton Quay fighting the feeling that I'm a frump in my jeans or skirts and non-cool flats (I've tried the cute ballet flats, but with feet as wide as mine, they're just as uncomfortable as narrow heels, since I have to buy a bigger size, which slips off the back of the foot). I'm comforted to know that there are others fighting the same quiet battle. I'm also pretty skeptical about how many third wave feminists actually reclaim heels purely because they like wearing/walking in/living in them.

Azlemed said...

buy minx... they have very cute ballet flats, that are wider... or buy kumfs which do a wider fit too... better for us kiwi girls.. Anna do you remember in 99 when we protested outside the Dom about the french amassadors comments on kiwi women wearing boots....

Julie said...

I'm sitting here in bright red Minx Mary Janes as I type, they are pretty damn comfy.

I made a new year's resolution a few years back to wear sensible shoes and it has paid off. Sadly though Kumfs are very expensive for me, far more costly than anything at the Number One Shoe warehouse, and I'm on a pretty good wage so I don't know how women who struggle financially could possibly afford good shoes.

I have a friend who trained as a podiatrist and she told me about the 75% 25% rule. Basically if you wear shoes with a heel less than 2.5 inches 75% of the time you can wear crazy things the other 25% of the time without doing much damage to your feet, legs, body, etc (I assume this doesn't include tripping injuries!).

I do like to wear heels from time to time, it helps me feel a bit sophisticated, and I quite like the noise they make as I walk ;-)

M-H said...

I am a grannie, so I'm not sure that my opinion counts. :) Although I really resist 'middle-aged' clothing, I only wear comfy shoes, even more so since I ruptured my achilles tendon a couple of years ago, and I think that things are looking up. You have been able to get much more cool-looking shoes with low heels in the last couple of years, and when I visit NZ I am always bowled over with the range available. Funky stitching, assymetric styling, interesting colours. Campers and Naot are two brands that come to mind.

Deborah said...

I hear what you say about the price of Kumfs. I have three pairs, one flat, one black with heels, one brown lace-up yummy 1930s with heels (I should post a piccie), which are 5, 4 and 3 years old respectively. I got all of them on sale. I bought my Mary Jane Docs in 2002, and they are still going strong.

But I have realised that one of the benefits of being a bit more established is not so much that we don't need to budget, but that it's not a problem to pick up a bargain, provided that we don't then go and spend more on other stuff, or in this case, buy both the sale-price shoes and something else as well.

Alison said...

If money were no object, I'd live in Minnie Cooper shoes. They last like no other, I can walk any distance in my MC boots, while still looking stylish, and they're made in NZ. However, actually having money to outlay on shoes and boots like that is a rare luxury, even though I know over their lifetime they'll probably break even with cheaper boots.

As I'm about to go back to study, it's back to No1 Shoes for me, as much as I hate to buy shoes that are designed with such a short lifespan.

Lay-by is handy for the right pair of well-made shoes, but I find it increasingly hard to predict whether a pair of shoes will last or not - they can look great but wear out quickly. All my clothing and footwear purchases this year have been made with longevity in mind, but I'm finding that companies who made and sold high-quality products just a few seasons ago have switched down in quality of materials, while keeping the same prices or increasing them, so some of my purchases are already looking tired after a season or two of wear.

Oh to be able to walk into a shop and find good quality products that will last years in terms of wear and style, as my husband does.

Anonymous said...

I hear you Alison. I have owned 3 or 4 pair of Minx shoes over the years and they have never really lasted that well, and I noticed recently that they seem to be manufacturing in China now?? I love Minnie Cooper shoes too but I can't seem to ignore the fact they seem to be designed for tall skinny people (which I'm not). I used to go out of my way to buy NZ made shoes but lately I have been buying Camper and Ecco heels because they are so incredibly comfortable and it is quite possible to buy them at a reasonable price in Newmarket during the sales (I would never pay full price!).