Recently, I toured York in my killer Spanish loafers. They're sharp, shiny and, pointy toed. Also very flat.
A few hours later, after the shops, museums and the fabulous York Minster, not only were my feet burning from pounding the pavements on those flat leather soles, but my back and my hips were none too happy either.
Leave the ballet flats and leather soles at home. Ditto the stillettos. Instead, look for shoes that are city smart but pamper your feet.
I like these a lot.
Can I just say that I cannot say enough good things about these shoes from Danish maker ECCO. I bought a pair on London's Kensington High Street recently (I am wearing them as I write) and I love them so much, I have sought them out on line to share with you. There's plenty of science behind them - anatomical footbed; "direct-inject", one-component polyurethane midsole and outsole for lightweight,flexible shock absorbing; soft leather uppers, removable and soft leather insoles. But here's the bottom line - from the minute you put them on, with no breaking in at all, they feel like someone with soft, warm hands is hugging your feet. Wonderful.
I've been a fan of Clarks sandals and flats since they saved me from a pair of crippling, killer wedgies, with no breaking in required. The 2012 crop of Clarks sandals are true to form, well-padded and cushioned, with Velcro straps so you can customize the fit. They come in a useful range of colors - black, tan and a metallic pewter that's nice against bare skin in warmer weather. I particularly like the the extra cushioned pad that protects the Achilles tendon - a sore spot if ever there was one for tired feet.
If it looks like there are a lot of strappy little flats on my list this season, that's because they make such great travel shoes. They have just the right profile for hiding loads of cushioning, inside and out. They're casual enough for jeans and trousers but they're also smart enough to team with a skirt.
These, by Clarks Privo, feature stylish stitching that is actually part of the comfort cushioning construction. They're a packable and versatile travel choice and a cinch to slip off for airport security. In a black (more like charcoal grey), or olive nubuck and leather combination.
Well I did say I liked Mary Janes. Every year they make a come back and they also seem to be sneaking back in style so it was only a matter of time before someone decided to make them ultra-comfy for walking. Arcopedico makes totally comfortable travel shoes in Portugal and these are set to become classics. They are anatomically designed and feature Arcopedico's patented "Foot Mattress" for all day support. Dreamy for your feet. They're smart enough to wear with skirts and all but the glitziest outfits and they come in lots of sophisticated colors. I want a few pairs!
These look just like ballet flats. But if you've ever pounded the pavements in those, you know they can be murder on your feet. The designers have actually managed to sneak a bit of a wedge onto these so they're not real flatties at all but sit on slight lift. And that makes all the difference in the world. Their made of synthetic leather and mesh - so they're waterproof yet cool, and their spider rubber outsole gives good traction on wet slippery surfaces - like those polished marble hotel steps on a rainy day, perhaps. A soft shock absorbing pad gives them all-important, all day long wearability. And you can just kick them off at airport security, then slip them on in a jiffy. I like the cheery range of colors too - black, light brown or an almost neutral light green.
A higher heel can, surprisingly, make shoes easier to walk in for many women. We aren't talking stilettos here - but a modest (and sturdy) 1 1/2 to 2 inch heel. They also make them more versatile for urban travel - stylish enough to go from day to night. This shoe has a shock absorbing outer sole and the cushioning of a foam insole and a contoured footbed. The cross-over straps are comfortably stretchy. And the whole package is pretty enough to wear out to drinks and dinner yet relaxed enough to team with trousers.
These offer comfort and style on a 3/4" heel - just enough lift to prevent that burning instep sensation you can get with real flats after a long day pounding city pavements. For an added reassurance of comfort, the soft lining and cushioned footbed feature Adiprene by Adidas. Now, I have to admit, I am a sucker for this Golden Rod yellow color. But, they also come in a range of sensible light grey, light green and dark blue nubuck.
Okay, I have to confess that I used to steer clear of Naturalizers because I thought they were for either nurses or grannies. But there's nothing granny-ish about these cute denim-look flats with an elastic instep strap - though I bet a lot of nurses would appreciate the comfort of their smooth lining, cushioned insole and 3/4 inch heel. They're made of leather and mesh or velour suede and mesh and come in imaginatively named Spring Denim, Ocean Green,Stoney Delight or Black. Light, easy to pack, and funky fun for sightseeing all day and or casual dining out
Sometimes you just need a pair of plain black pumps. If you are going to spend your day shopping in smart shops - on London's Bond Street, say - followed by a smart dinner and then theatre to follow, you don't want to shuffle around in a pair of flatties, no matter how cute and comfortable they are. Leave to those clever comfort techies at Clarks to come up with a classic patent leather pump on a two and a half inch, leather wrapped heel, with their OrthoLite cushioned footbeds, hidden inside. Another comfort feature is the 1/4 inch inset platform in the midsole. You have to squint to see it but that little extra lift near the ball of your foot makes wearing these little heels much easier. It comes in any color you want as long as it's black patent.
I'll be honest here - I'm not a great fan of flat shoes for walking around and sight-seeing. Without arch support, they can lead to really painful feet after several hours of walking around. But these cute casuals, in pebble grain leather in a host of colors, hide a clever secret. They only look like flatties. Inside they're full of Naturalizer's shock absorbing, stress relieving cushioning. They have super flexible thermoplastic rubber soles that suppress shock and removable "memory foam" insoles with extra padding in the heel. Plus they come in scads of delicious colors including champagne, lemon yellow, summery nude and all the usual suspects.