Spring And Summer Shoes: Can Comfort and Cute Coexist?

May 1 2014, 9:17am CDT | by

This is a guest post by Wendy S. Goffe, a trusts and estates lawyer with Stoel Rives in Seattle. For more about this year’s summer fashions, see her post, “The Case For Less Transparency.” You can follow her on Twitter.

You are ready to ditch those winter boots, which it seems like you have been wearing continuously for months now (blame it on the relentless Polar Vortex), but aren’t sure what styles to consider. The mission: To find something that will be cute and comfortable and will transition well into summer. Ideally the shoes should still be relevant next year, and not cost the equivalent of a mortgage payment.

Sure it’s a tall order, but we did some legwork for you. Here are options to consider.

For a summer fling, it’s hard to resist Sarah Jessica Parker’s new shoe line, that’s sold exclusively at Nordstrom and is getting a lot of play in magazines and online. They resemble the confections Parker wore in her role as Carrie on “Sex and the City,” but they may not suit boomers looking for comfort. I might still buy a pair for events where I know I won’t be standing a lot. But I will also be considering a number of other super cute and comfortable (or simply comfortable) options to add to my closet this spring and summer.

At the other end of the fashion spectrum is the Normcore trend, otherwise known as frumpy chic. Macklemore and his hit music video, “Thrift Shop” have made Goodwill and even dumpster diving for a new outfit chic, or at least hip, among Millennials. While comfortable, Normcore is intentionally style-free. It’s not anything I will be shopping for. If I look hard enough I probably have a few grunge pieces hidden in the back of my closet from the days when Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love made it popular.

If you never thought about which “Sex and the City” character you most resemble and latter-day grunge doesn’t make you want to whip out your credit card, here are a few ideas gleaned from scouring Seattle’s best shoe stores, with my phone’s camera to record the hits and misses.

Warning: Some of this season’s styles are going to take time for the eye to adjust to, or may turn out to be a taste you never acquire. But before you diss the designers, take a walk in their moccasins – so to speak. You may find more comfortable options than in seasons past.

For example, consider the return of the Birkenstock as a fashion statement. You can go for the traditional pair, blow your budget on imitations from Prada, Marni and Givenchy (to name just a few high-end designers), or check out more affordable but still stylish kicks. You do need to be careful with this look, though, because no matter how much you spend there is a risk that the colorful versions on rubber tread soles will be mistaken for plastic shower shoes.

One of my shopping companions and I both bought the same pair of Sam Edelman black pony fur “Adoras” ($90). These have a narrower profile than the traditional Birkenstock. On warmer days, I plan to wear them to work this summer with cropped pants. Sure, the white sole is going to start looking grungy quickly. But it’s a style that is likely to last only one season anyway.

Last year’s gladiators are still popular and range in height from a single strap just above the ankle to multiple straps all the way up to the knee. The right pair will give an old outfit a new edge; the wrong height can make the leg look shorter.

Metallic details – cap toes, heels, studs and buckles – dress up otherwise more traditional flats and mid-heel shoes this season. Valentino’s iconic patent rockstud pump, which comes in a range of bright colors, will set you back about $1,000. But Vince Camuto, Kate Spade, Steve Madden and even Nike make equally fun and affordable styles.

A short bootie is also a trend continuing from last year. Wear them with tights until it gets warmer. If you aren’t comfortable with bare legs and a dress or skirt, pair them with fishnet tights during warmer months. A pair made of perforated leather, such as Aquatalia’s Fawn boots ($425), and several styles by Camper, Kelsi Dagger and Franco Sarto, will allow your feet to breath on hot summer days.

Other styles to look for include open-toed mules, color-blocked sandals (think spectators in colors that resemble a bag of Skittles), and heels in architectural styles – square, round or chunky – made of unusual materials such as cast acrylic and metal.

Fashion sneakers continue to be popular. Again, if you want to spend $1,000, Chloe makes a fabulous sky-high platform, but plenty of styles are available at all price points. Try wearing a metallic pair in place of a flat. If that pushes your personal limits, consider a metallic brogue or wingtip. Or, if injection-molded shoes aren’t your thing and you still want to stick with tried and true flats, check out this season’s pointy-toe trends instead of the usual round toe (which will always be a fashion staple).

Designers in all price ranges are doing painterly and graphic prints. Mary Katrantzou does covet-worthy graphic print dresses that sell for $1,500 to $2,000. For a fraction of that price, you can find many shoes and even rubber boots on a similar theme. Hunter sells “Nightfall,” a lovely black and white pair for $190, slightly more than their traditional styles. No question you will be making a statement this summer with any of these items, but by next year they may look hopelessly out of date.

Finally, lug soles such as the San Miguel sandal by Vivanz ($109), are not only hip this year but also very comfortable. This is different from things we lug around in our souls, which cause us great discomfort./>/>

Archive of Forbes articles by Wendy Goffe


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