Practical and pretty footwear


Real quick — The Summa Domestica: Order and Wonder in Family Life — my new set of books — is 30% off along with everything else at Sophia, until February 9th!

I might as well go on with this wardrobe basics project, right? In the comments the question of boots came up, and so let’s talk about all things footwear!

Not boots. Just the comfiest sandals ever, RIP

We will skip lightly over the reality of today’s footwear market, which is an insult and a travesty. If those stupid clunky heels don’t go away soon, I quit. They are not just ugly; anyone walking in them clearly cannot walk! It’s like someone decided to make a metaphor for life today and evilly wants to make people pay for it and wear it on their feet.

Instead, let me tell you what I have found to suit myself. Keep in mind that I’m getting older, and with age, apparently, comes a certain obsession with having one’s feet be comfortable, with an inverse possibility that they will be. Also that I have collected these over years! Don’t panic.

For so long I was trying to keep my kids in shoes, sneakers, and boots. There was hardly any time and even less money for me to have just the right thing for myself.

So what you see here (especially in the boot department — anyone can afford flipflops!) is what I’ve pulled together over time. Just to say: I understand the problem!

An IG post that I took in haste or obviously would have moved the clothing on that chair and the donation bag out of sight first!
But these were my very dressiest patent leather mary janes. Now I can’t wear them, they make me too tired. My clothes are thrifted, FYI! Pantyhose from Marshalls.

So the emphasis here will be on comfort. But I love me a cute shoe, sigh… As we go along I will describe my feet so you can determine how yours differ. People are constructed differently; one kind of shoe might work for one person and not another. Some people swear by Clarks — I have never once had a pair that felt right. You have to try different things. But above all, do try to get footwear that enables you to get out there* and do what you have to do! And be cute doing it!

*for that matter, that enables you to walk around the house! These slippers (affiliate link) have great traction and support, and these (not an ad), with a shearling insert, are super warm. In summer I wear flip-flops, see below

So let’s do boots first, since it’s still winter here in the frozen north. One thing you should know about boots: your toes need to have room in them. You will not be able to get away with them being tight, because in the cold your circulation will be cut off and you will never feel warm. You need room to wiggle your toes wearing thick socks. Be sure you get boots for your kids that have plenty of wiggle room in the toes!

Another thing you need to know is that there should be a certain thickness of the sole, or the cold of the ground is too close to your footbed. I tend towards wanting to be up off the ground anyway, at least a little, but in boots it’s a must.

Over the years I have collected this boot array for all my boot needs. I am not one of those ladies who wears boots as a fashion statement (you know, like just after Labor Day there they are with their classy boots — I’m not like that). Overall I would prefer to wear shoes due to not wanting to spend the time bending down and tying/zipping etc. But I will tell you the kinds:

$8 Timberland full-grain leather hiking boots and homemade woolen socks (worn over a pair of thin cotton socks) — these plus my clogs got me through many a winter!

Hiking boots that I got at a rummage sale a long time ago. They are a good brand and fit me — just needed an insert for arch support. For many years I wore them in snow too, until I found something better.

The dressiest boots I have (affiliate link; I bought them 8 years ago and they were not this expensive!).

I am somewhat hampered in the boot department by having thin calves. With the advent of online shopping, the very great boon of having calf measurements in the listing came along, and I put in all my criteria and found these. I wear them when I have to be dressed up but it’s wicked cold and possibly also snowing (otherwise I would wear shoes); the soles have good traction, the uppers are suede and fleece-lined so they keep my legs warm and look fairly dressy even so, and they are comfy. The heel is more dressy for me, but doable, even in my new developmental phase of not wanting to wear heels at all. Since all my dressy things are in the black family, they go with everything.

I finally splurged a few years ago (using the deep discount offered in early Fall) and got these shearling-lined LL Bean boots in this color, for snow. (not an affiliate link) — and note the brown is on sale now!

They are pricey, but at I think 40% off I went for it as my early Christmas present. Perfectly warm, virtually waterproof, breathable. I like that they can be worn low, folded over, above, or up high, like this:

They work with my rather high instep (top of my foot) which makes something like Boggs (affiliate link) not a choice for me — too tight across the top. I had to get shearling liners (affiliate link) for them — these are great because they also have arch support built in. The one drawback of these boots is that their soles are not thick enough for my taste, to keep me up above the cold ground, but the shearling liners take care of that. At this price they should come with that lining but this is the world we live in.

This Fall I added these Taos boots (affiliate link) to my lineup. They are on sale now!

The pros: super cute; thick sole; a zipper and laces, so you can get them fitted to your own shape, but then not have to mess with the laces again; lined with a thin, soft fleece so the tops are warm but not bulky; did I mention super cute with skirts as well as jeans? Also virtually waterproof — the full grain leather is wonderful, and I have put them to the test via long tramps through inches of slush and mud.

This brand has beautiful form-fitting footbeds that are the closest to Dansko clog soles I have found (well, nothing else comes close). So they have great support and feel super cradling. Once I got them laced to my Princess-and-the-Pea standards, they were excellently comfy.

Cons: the laces could be nicer I suppose, but that can be upgraded I assume, and note well: this color, which is absolutely brown and appears brown on the listing — and I wanted brown! — is called “Grey” so don’t be misled. I took a chance and was happy to find that they lied.

I wanted brown to wear with my corduroy and denim skirts and jeans. They are honestly nice enough to wear to Mass when the weather requires it, but also good for, as mentioned, tramping around the countryside. I can see them lasting for years.

On to shoes!

That time Will, Bridget, and I turned up for an event all wearing our wingtips! Mine and hers are Naturalizer and mine have, after 5 years of service, bitten the dust. Sigh.

Right now I am having trouble finding nice dress shoes; my nice ones have worn out and we are not going to talk about current fashions as per our agreement above.

Maybe I’ll look for the ones I have loved in the past on one of the second-hand clothing sites. Naturalizers seem to work well with my need for arch support. I have shorter toes too, so not every sandal works and not every flat stays on. I am determined not to do any weird gripping action with my feet as I walk, so having my shoes stay on is a must, and I encourage you to look into it!

These rather fancy Italian slingbacks that I found at Salvation Army for $4 served me well for a good long time for dressy occasions!

My go-to is clogs. I just love Dansko clogs! However, their regular style is too tight across the top for me.

This style is perfect (Phoebe), but they have discontinued them. For me, Danskos are supportive and incredibly comfy. I can walk miles in them. I like that you can slip out of your slippers and into your clogs without bending down! Fits my hasty lifestyle.

They are cute with skirts and everything, and they are pretty waterproof and keep your feet well off the ground; before I got my snow boots I would wear them when it snowed! I know they are not for everyone.

I like these flats (affiliate link) — stylish yet comfy, with soft leather that wears well, and they stay on during a brisk walk. They are not the most supportive ever, but I’m comparing them with Danskos when I say that.

They come in lots of nice colors. I did put in a cork innersole (affiliate link) so that I didn’t slide around wearing tights. It feels nicer with bare feet in summer too. You used to be able to get cork innersoles even at the grocery store, but now you have to order them. These are sold as leather innersoles but I just flip them over and use the other side! I like that grippy feeling.

In my heart of hearts I like the way a ballet-style flat looks better, but I haven’t found any that stay put on my foot.

These are nice too — they are golf shoes (affiliate link)! I did splurge on them a couple of years ago when I was despairing of ever finding comfy shoes again in the stores, and they look put-together with tights and a neat skirt. I don’t know why companies put slippery insoles in their shoes. Used to be they’d use suede, which was much better. It’s amazing how tiring it is to feel you are slipping inside your shoes every time you take a step.

I do think that you could easily spend $25-30 every few months in hope of workable shoes, and fail; if you can save it up, it might be worth spending $80-140 for a pair that last a few years. Once you know what works, you can find them on ebay; I have found Danskos there as well as Madewell sandals and all sorts of things.

Sandals — I love sandals!

Birkenstocks: These are the prettiest ones, I think, in a not very pretty kind of shoe.

They took me a while to get used to, and then suddenly they were good. You are very stable in these sandals. Naot has a similiar sort of idea in narrower styles, but I have never found a pair that worked with my short-ish toes.

Taos: For dressier wear but still being able to walk.

Nicely supportive — like the boots, that footbed is beautifully sculpted, and the straps stay on no matter what (they are velcro).

Breaking my heart: the Dansko Madeline sandals of yore that I wore all across Italy, Paris, and London (as well as Central MA of course), with the clog footbed, that they have discontinued — why. Nothing, but nothing, can beat them for comfort.

I even ordered a newish-looking pair from eBay when this pair fell apart, but they too fell apart, literally. I think the sole was old enough — had been manufactured long ago enough — that it just disintegrated.

I pulled all these images from my Instagram! Just me in an apron and flipflops, in that distant land we call summer!

Flipflops: I find them very comfy! Every time I see an article about how bad they are for your feet, I can’t help thinking that Big Shoe can’t take the competition! I get mine at Old Navy. But do know that they really are super dangerous on wet surfaces — I am pretty sure I broke my arm slipping and falling one day…

(Buy an extra bottle of nail polish remover and have your manicure utensils where you can find them, so you can keep your toes looking nice, a must for sandal-wearing!)

One last thought: Do tinker with your shoes by trying different innersoles, arch supports, heel lifts, and so on. Often you can make a pair that are so-so quite useable!

So that’s my roundup! Of course I’ve had a lifetime of shoe-wearing and think fondly on some sweet pairs I’ve had in the past (I mean, I really care about shoes), but these are the ones that are getting me through today.

bits & pieces

  • An important interview: Brooke Taylor with Leila Miller about her books on divorce and marriage — an interview to share as widely as possible. Leila expresses the issues so well. Our culture is suffering from divorce in so many ways, and we need to tell the truth about it.




from the archives

  • I have a whole series on getting your children to write well without the agony recommended by curriculum experts. Here’s one of the posts (and it’s all in my book!): Playing, Writing.

liturgical living

The Seven Sundays of St. Joseph have already started (sorry for not giving the heads up last week — I only remembered myself on Sunday afternoon).

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