For the past four months, my feet have been parked exclusively in cozy slippers, with small, daily excursions into my trusty New Balance trainers or Birkenstock sandals. “Real shoes” (the kind of shoes you would strut into a professional setting or restaurant with) have absolutely no use for me right now. Yet somehow, I cannot stop shoe shopping.
Let me explain. Maybe this is a part of getting older and wiser (#thisis30). Maybe my feet have simply gotten too pampered during this strange homebound existence. Whatever the reason, I don’t think I can ever go back to real shoes again. Instead, my quarantine obsession has been phasing out my old, uncomfortable shoes (looking at you, Jack Rogers sandals that feel like walking on wooden planks) and slowly replacing them with walkable alternatives.
Don’t get me wrong, style is still a chief priority. I’m not thaaaaat old, after all. However, if it doesn’t have at least a few millimeters of foam padding, and/or anatomical arch support, I’m simply not interested. Getting 10,000 steps in is really my main source of entertainment these days, so I can’t sacrifice function at the expense of form.
From the looks of my Instagram ads, I am not the only one on this journey. Margaux flats, Birdies loafers, and Sarah Flint Perfect Sandals (my future wedding shoe, pending any upcoming plagues or pandemics) have all made their way into my closet over the past 6 months or so. And that is only the beginning.
How does one find comfortable shoes, you might ask? Obviously, walking into a department store and trying on a bunch of different shoes just for the heck of it is probably not considered an essential activity these days. However, there are definitely a few tricks for making comfortable shoes easier to find online. (I am a hopeless millennial so online shopping is more my speed anyway.)
Unbeknownst to me, retailers like Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, and DSW all have an entire department of “Comfort Shoes.” However, this is where you really need to commit to the search. The hidden gems aren’t going to reveal themselves amongst the pages and pages of orthopedic trainers, so you’ll need to do some digging. Once you see a few pairs that spark your interest, google the brand name and see if they make other styles you might like. I like to read a description of the shoe (and ample reviews!) to be sure that it specifically lists padded footbed, padded heel bed, anatomical arch support, foam padding, and/or something of that nature.
Last but not least, trust your feet! If 1,000 reviewers are raving but the shoes don’t spark joy for you, then that totally defeats the purpose of this exercise. Also, just because you think you are a “true 7” (ahem, guilty) does not mean that you will be a 7 in every single brand across the board. Sometimes you’ll have to size up, and occasionally, you may even have to size down. Ordering from retailers with a generous return policy is key here, as a too-tight shoe completely negates any special “comfort” features.
In an effort to Konmari my wardrobe and cut down on fast fashion waste, I’ve prioritized shoes with thicker, sturdier soles that will have a longer lifespan, as well as versatile (mostly neutral) colors that will get more wears and go with more outfits.
Personal Recommendations (Shoes I Own and Love)
- Sarah Flint Perfect Sandal 85mm in Blush Nappa ($385 – I know, I know, but they were a wedding splurge that I intend to rewear // size 37): anatomical arch support; 6mm extra footbed padding, expanded toe box
- Birdies Starling in Cheetah Calf Hair ($140 // size 7, although I also have a 7.5 in a different color on the way to compare): high density memory foam, shock absorption, heel and arch support. These are SO comfy!!!
- Sofft Gwinith Bootie in Black (sale $130 // size 8 to accommodate thick socks): extra padding at ball, heel, and arch for extra support; nonslip outsole; best of all, they are WATERPROOF!
- Aerosoles Kathy Wedge in Gold (sale $65 // size 6.5): comfort foam footbed and memory foam padded insole; diamond flex soles to disperse friction away from foot and absorb impact. In my opinion the footbed is not quite as cushy as Margaux or Birdies but the diamond flex sole definitely is noticeably when walking.
- Cole Haan Anica Braided Thong Sandal in cheetah print hair calf (sale $60 // size 7): Fully padded leather sock lining; Suede buffed outsole with a cushioned GRANDFØAM footbed. The area over the big toe where the straps crossed rubbed at the first wear but after adjusting the straps and breaking them in the issue seems to be resolved. The footbed is SOOO cushy!
- Margaux The Pointe in Black Nappa ($195 // size 37): 5 mm of plush foam padding
Heels and Wedges I’m Eyeing
- Margaux The Uptown Sandal in Almond Suede ($275) 5 mm of plush foam padding, smartly placed straps to avoid pinching/rubbing
- Aerosoles Grand Central in Tan Croco (sale $90): heel rest design to rest weight away from ball of foot; comfort foam footbed and memory foam padded insole; diamond flex soles to disperse friction away from foot and absorb impact
- Sarah Flint Parker 85 in Black Polka Dot Mesh ($395): anatomical arch support; 6mm extra footbed padding, expanded toe box
- Gal Meets Glam x Margaux The Espadrille in Blush ($175): 5 mm of plush foam padding
- Aerosoles Wardrobe in Mid Brown Leather ($150): heel rest design to rest weight away from ball of foot; comfort foam footbed and memory foam padded insole; diamond flex soles to disperse friction away from foot and absorb impact
- Aerosoles Bird of Paradise in Black (sale $50): heel rest design to rest weight away from ball of foot; comfort foam footbed and memory foam padded insole; diamond flex soles to disperse friction away from foot and absorb impact
- Vionic Rosie Heeled Sandal in Coral (sale $83): advanced comfort features like a deep heel cup and enhanced forefoot contour
- Vionic Allison Leather Ankle Boot in Chocolate (sale $82; also available here): advanced comfort features like a deep heel cup and enhanced forefoot contour; water resistant!
- Ugg Wittley Wedge in Black ($150): PORON® and foam footbed
FLATS AND FLAT SANDALS I’M EYEING
- Cole Haan Flora Thong Sandal in Provence-Blue-Ivory (sale $40): Grand 360 comfort footbed technology with arch support
- Gal Meets Glam x Margaux The Mule in Navy Suede ($195): 5 mm of plush foam padding
- Birdies The Starling in Black Velvet ($95): high density memory foam, shock absorption, heel and arch support
- Cole Haan Fairen Slide Sandal in Brown Leather (sale $30): Luxuriously cushioned GRANDFØAM footbed with arch support
- Gal Meets Glam x Margaux The Pointe in Blue Toile ($195): 5 mm of plush foam padding
- Keds x Rifle Paper Co Tapestry Textured Kickstart Sneaker ($75) cushioned soles
- Aerosoles Homerun in Nude Leather ($89): flexible sole, comfort foam footbed and memory foam padded insole; diamond flex soles to disperse friction away from foot and absorb impact
Have you had any luck finding cute, comfortable shoes? Do tell!