If there’s any topic that I feel qualified to speak about, it’s shoes. And like many illustrations in life, it is best made through a story. When Kevin and I got married, we took two pictures with his fraternity brothers. One showed my amazing bejeweled Sergio Rossi mules. The others showed his friends.
Which one do you think ended up in the wedding album?
Don’t feel sorry for him, though. He knew exactly what he was getting. One of the very first presents he bought me was a pair of black lace Rene Caovilla shoes. They are gorgeous and wildly impractical.
That’s how I knew he was the one. 🙂
I’m not saying this just to show you that my feelings about shoes run deep, although they do. I’m saying this because I want you to know that my feelings for shoes run deep.
And that’s why it breaks my heart to have to tell you that not all shoes are your friend.
Some of them are out to get you. Seriously.
I am not paranoid, but how else could you explain a pair of innocent-looking slipons that can add weight and years while simultaneously subtracting inches off your height, all the time distracting you with buzzwords like “comfort” and “arch support.” Pshaw.
They know exactly what they are doing.
They’re making you look old, and I’m not going to sit by and let that happen.
And while the sheer variety of stylish footwear out there can’t be easily categorized, I’ve been able to come up with some clever categories for the sneaky style killers that double as comfort shoes. And I’m going to spell them all out for you right here.
All of the shoes in this post can be found in this catalog.
The Quintessential Frumpster
This is the frumpy shoe of all frumpy shoes, and it was so kind of them to make it just so I can use it for an example. Seriously, though, it serves as a checklist of what not to do when it comes to picking a pretty pair of shoes.
- Thick chunky beige rubber sole
- Wide velcro straps
- Full foot coverage
- Nondecript color
- Perforated detail
This shoe is unapologetically, blatantly bad, and because of that, you might have steered clear of it already. But some of the others in this post are a little bit sneakier.
The Clunky Sandal
Yes, they’re in style. But that doesn’t mean they’re flattering. I’m not wearing crop tops and bike shorts, and they’re in style too. The thing about a chunky, bulky sandal like this is that it cuts off your leg line and makes your legs look shorter and wider.
When styled properly, with an outfit that is flattering, a chunky sandal can be a hip and fun look. But when worn with something conservative or even classic, it can look stodgy.
Here, a Wear This, Not That of Clunky Sandals.
Clunky Sandals to Avoid
Chunky Sandals to Consider
The Frump Pump
The pump is a classic for sure, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get tweaked and updated from time to time. With the dramatic shift that has happened in fashion for the last couple of years is a return to block, kitten, and other potentially stodgy styles of pumps. Some of these are chic and flattering and contemporary, but many are not.
The difference, as always, is in the details.
I used to encourage you to look to the brand as a clue, but that is no longer foolproof as the ugly shoe trend has infiltrated the selections of nearly every shoe manufacturer.
The combination of color and heel and toe shape and other details can take a pump from stylish to stodgy.
Pumps to Dump 🙂
Pumps to Try
The Lazy Loafer
The right loafer is a magical thing. It can give you that hip, effortless style that so many women strive for. Or, it can make you look like a man.
I’ve looked for a middle ground, and I can’t seem to find one.
I know I say this all the time, but the difference is in the details. Case in point, the Emiline Loafer from Naturalizer, which has the dubious honor of being the only shoe to make it on to both lists. In brown leather, it’s lazy. In cobalt suede, it’s chic. Here, how to differentiate a sleek loafer from a stumpy one.
Loafers to Avoid
Loafers to Try
The Sassy Slip-On
This is kind of a broad category that covers everything from loafers and ballet flats to mules and slides, but it’s a term that tends to come up a lot in the comfort footwear category. Comfort slipons are often what used to be referred to as orthopedic shoes, and while orthopedic details may be essential, there is no reason that these shoes can’t also be stylish. Sometimes, it’s as simple as switching the color. (See the Emiline loafer, above).
Slipons to Skip
Slipons to Try
The Artsy Fartsy
Fun, funky, embellished shoes can be cool and quirky, or aging and awkward. (Sorry. Once I get started with alliteration, I can’t seem to stop). These styles are all about the unique details, so finding a pair with contemporary details is the key. If you want to train your eye to spot the contemporary styles, try looking at the offerings of stores like Anthropologie and J. Crew, or brands like Aldo and Sam Edelman. You’ll get an idea of what’s on trend when it comes to fun and fancy shoes.
Artsy Types to Avoid
Artsy Types to Embrace
The Stodgy Sneaker
I’ve suggested a sneaker as a substitute for comfort shoes in many of my previous video. After all, what’s more comfortable than a well-made pair of sneakers? But like with everything on this list, there are chic sneakers and not-chic sneaks.
I’m a poet and I don’t even know it.
The perforated, boring-but-not-sleek, and clunky dad styles sneakers are not flattering to anyone, even if they’re trendy. They’re also less versatile and harder to style. Stick with a sleek pair of white or black sneakers for maximum mileage.
Sneakers to Skip
Sneakers to Style
What do you think of these shoe categories? Were the frumpy vs fashionable distinctions clear? Let me know in the comments!
Nada Manley says
Absolutely! I do have some picks for wide shoes in my catalog! Let me know if you find that helpful!
I would love to see some picks for those of us with wide feet. I’d be eternally grateful!!
Nada Manley says
Thank you so much Carolyn! I really appreciate the comment!
Carolyn Brooks says
I really liked the shoe guide. Very helpful and informative!