Sciencewomen

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgI need some new teaching shoes for fall semester. My trustworthy, if utilitarian, Keens always look incongruous with the feminine tailoring I prefer for my teaching/meeting outfits. Plus, my black Keens are a bit too big for my feet, since they were purchased late in pregnancy. So I’ve been looking for some new shoes – somewhat feminine, somewhat fun, but still they must be comfortable. I need to be able to walk around campus in them, even if I switch to Keens or Chacos when I go to pick up Minnow.

Like all good shoe-lovers would, I started with Isis’s weekly shoe selections. But many of the heels were so high I would fear for my safety. And others, well, Isis and I don’t see eye-to-eye on some patterns and details. Nonetheless, I set out to find a pair of shoes that would make me happy and would keep Isis from cringing. I considered it a challenge (and much more fun than perpetual abstract and grant writing).

After spending way too much time on shoes.com and zappos, I settled on a couple of possibilities, vetted them with Isis via email, and ordered a pair. They were cute yet professional, subtle but fun, with a heel but not a tower, and they were reasonably cheap.

Punkrose Kera shoes.
Figure 1. Punkrose Kera shoe. $42.80 on sale at shoes.com.(I found a coupon code that made them even cheaper.) Free shipping both directions.

The shoes are just as cute in person as in the pictures, and I adore the rounded toe. I could totally picture teaching in them, with most students noticing nothing but a pair of black pumps, but me and a few observant shoe-lovers delighting in the splash of color at the heel.

They arrived Tuesday night, and I immediately tried them on. See?
Punkrose Kera shoe on me
Figure 2. It is surprising hard to take a picture of your foot from the side.

They squished my toes and shifted all of my weight to the balls of the feet. I could barely walk around in them and took them off after five minutes. The next morning, I resolved to give them a second try with some padding on the balls of my feet. So I hied myself to Walgreens and bought the appropriate pads.

The padding helped, though my toes were still a bit squished. I sat at my desk and worked with them on for about 35 minutes. They actually nicely compensated for the too-high office chair (necessary for the too high desk).

I tried the bathroom test. Could I walk down the hall to the women’s restroom without falling over, looking silly, or hobbling?

Nope. While I didn’t fall over and the padding did help the balls of my feet, my walking was totally unnatural (and I do routinely wear low heeled boots) and my heels kept lifting out of the shoe. Plus, the walking accentuated the toe squishing. While on the potty, I admired the cuteness of the design and the adorable rounded toe. But walking back to my office confirmed that I could never hope to wear these on even the mildest work day or across the church parking lot with toddler in tow.

I got back to my office, went to shoes.com and printed out the return label. I slipped back into my so-well-loved-that-7-years-in-they-are-finally-falling-apart Chacos, breathed a sigh of relief, and got back to the real world.

End of story.

(Or is it? I’ve got a box from Zappos on the way. Y’all will have to wait and see what it contains.)

Comments

  1. #1 Scicurious
    July 31, 2009

    Should have gone with the ruby slipper ballet flats!!!

  2. #2 Kate
    July 31, 2009

    If you are looking for heels that are low, sturdy and comfortable, I would suggest Clarks and Born. I own these and something similar to these (can’t find the actual ones) from Clarks. These are adorable from Born, as are these. Oh dear, now I want those Born shoes. I also have owned Dansko and Earth mary janes, and Frye boots. All good brands that last a long time (the Dansko mary janes eventually wore out but every other pair I’ve mentioned are going strong).

  3. #3 Jennifer
    July 31, 2009

    I’ve been really happy with my Ariats (http://www.zappos.com/womens-ariat-shoes) – though the model I like isn’t made anymore. They’re pricey but they fit (me) really well and they’ve lasted for 3.5 years, as my only major shoe (fall, winter, spring and part of summer). They were so comfortable, I bought two – one in brown and one in black. I’ll probably get 1-2 more years out of them. I even do light hiking in them (stay out of the sticky gooey mud!), basic yard work, chasing after a preschooler, etc. For the summer, I wear a pair of Ariat sandals (again, model is no longer made).

    That said, I also tried on a pair of Danskos (http://www.zappos.com/womens-dansko) and found them comfortable too – but the Ariats won out.

    If you’re brave, you can buy them online through Zappos. If you’re not so brave, I know that The Walking Company carries both brands – the nearest to me is Indianapolis though there is also one in Chicago. Locally for us, one of the higher end shoe stores (also carries Keens and Vibrams) – you remember, the ones that actually help you and measure your feet?! – they carry both brands as well. So I’d suggest looking in your area for one of *those* types of shoe stores.

  4. #4 D. C. Sessions
    July 31, 2009

    Salaam, Madam.

  5. #5 Field Notes
    July 31, 2009

    Have you tried Clarks brand? They are my go to shoe co. for ultra-comfy footwear. I’ve never had a pair that let me down. Their sandal selection is big and runs the gamut from flats to heels, albeit short ones (they don’t do high heels).

  6. #6 Emily Ohland
    July 31, 2009

    I am not a professor but am married to one. I highly recommend the dansko line as they are little cute and a lot utilitarian. I work on cement floors as a paint your own pottery and glass fusing studio owner and I can wear my danskos day in and day out without ever worrying about squished toes OR sore feet, hips or back. They are heavily subscribed to by the medical world and Lord knows those folks spend a TON of time on their feet. Try a pair out…betcha you’ll love ‘em!

  7. #7 Ace
    July 31, 2009

    Those shoes have a cute shape – sorry they didn’t work.

    I’m quite a shoe collector, but it is very rare that I have found cheap cute shoes that were also comfortable. It does happen but it’s rare…

    If you are going to actually function in these shoes (as opposed to wear them to a party or a date occasionally) I suggest looking into some of the more “comfort shoe” options. More expensive but they can be a great value considering how long they last, plus there are sales.

    I have a pair of chunky Dansko Mary Janes (orig price over $100 but bought for $49 on sale) that I wear 2-3 days on average per week since 2003! They show no sign of any wear anywhere! I can’t believe it either… And I frequently get compliments on them. They don’t make that model any more but they have similar styles.

    My “interview shoes” are Clarks – they cost about $70. A quirky, low heel model. They do require insoles but can be on them all day. Clarks are worth a look – some of their styles can be cute. I bought this amazing fushcia leather peeptoes on eBay that you’d never guess are Clarks!

    Good luck!

  8. #8 ScienceWoman
    July 31, 2009

    Thanks for the suggestions. I have a narrow heal and wide ball/toes –> a terrible time finding cute shoes that work for me. (Clarks are generally too narrow in front.)

  9. #9 Academic
    July 31, 2009

    I definitely approve of the Keens and Chacos. Glad the Chacos were there to save the day. I might not be a fashion diva, but my feet don’t hurt at the end of even the longest of days.

  10. #10 fizzchick
    July 31, 2009

    You may have to try several shoes before you find some that work. FYI, my sister swears by her Danskos, and we can usually trade shoes, but I hate them. The arch hits my foot in a really uncomfortable spot. Also, you know that Chacos will resole and/or re-strap your shoes, right?

  11. #11 Kim Hannula
    July 31, 2009

    Chacos rule. (I’m wearing mine right now.) But I’ve also got a pair of Earth shoes (Inhale model, black microfiber) that I wear for teaching and conferences. (Honestly, I bought them because they were the only thing in the store that didn’t pinch or slide off my feet – the name was just a bonus.)

  12. #12 Kim Hannula
    July 31, 2009

    (Oh, and I’ve got a narrow heel/wide toes, too. My trail running shoes are Montrail Hard Rocks, if that gives you a feel for the shape of shoes that normally work for me.)

  13. #13 ScienceMama
    July 31, 2009

    Don’t give up! It’s too bad that these shoes didn’t work because they are, in fact, adorable. But there are plenty of workhorse pumps out there that are well-designed, feminine and comfortable. It just takes some work to find them.

    I almost never have success buying pumps online because too many shoes are GORGEOUS but perfectly horrible to walk in. I almost always buy my pumps at Macys or Nine West where I can walk around in them before I buy.

  14. #14 Kate
    July 31, 2009

    Tried to comment earlier but it got eaten. Here’s what I wrote:

    If you are looking for heels that are low, sturdy and comfortable, I would suggest Clarks and Born. I own these and something similar to these (can’t find the actual ones) from Clarks. These are adorable from Born, as are these. Oh dear, now I want those Born shoes. I also have owned Dansko and Earth mary janes, and Frye boots. All good brands that last a long time (the Dansko mary janes eventually wore out but every other pair I’ve mentioned are going strong).

  15. #15 Comrade PhysioProf
    July 31, 2009

    Those shoes are fucking hideous! The canted heel angle makes them look defective, and the pattern looks like a fucking paint spill.

    Whoever suggested those obviously doesn’t know jack shit about shoes.

  16. #16 ScienceWoman
    July 31, 2009

    Thanks CPP. I picked them myself.

  17. #17 Mrs. Chemist
    July 31, 2009

    Shoe inserts can be life savers, but only if you get the right kind. The only ones I’ll use are by Foot Petals (http://www.footpetals.com/) but they’re a little pricey – they have a cheaper line at Target (exclusively) that work just as well (I can’t remember what they’re called, but it says “by the makers of foot petals” in the corner). They’re made for heels, and work amazingly well (I’ve tried everything else and usually they just make the problem worse). These ones saved my feet in strappy 3″ stilletos for the last wedding I was in! Good luck :)

  18. #18 Patchi
    July 31, 2009

    I bought a pair of Dansko’s Sally Mary Janes in Cordovan. They are comfortable but pricey, and the red coloring spices up my work outfit. Dunsko are great, and not just the ugly clogs.

  19. #19 DRD
    July 31, 2009

    If you must have a pump, you must go try them on, even if you order the final pair online. Pumps, depending on the design, can go from awful to doable.

    I suggest, however, that you ditch the pumps for every day life. I lived in cute all black leather Merrell Plaza Bandeau style (www.merrell.com) for a full rainy season in the PNW… pregnant and car free! $100 isn’t cheap (I think they were only 90 at the time), but I got my money’s worth. Merrell is also has a wedge heel line that is pretty cute. Check out Petunia.

  20. #20 Kate
    July 31, 2009

    This is my third time trying to comment, argh.

    If you are looking for heels that are low, sturdy and comfortable, I would suggest Clarks and Born. I own these others from Clarks. These are adorable from Born, as are these. Oh dear, now I want those Born shoes. I also have owned Dansko and Earth mary janes, and Frye boots. All good brands that last a long time (the Dansko mary janes eventually wore out but every other pair I’ve mentioned are going strong).

  21. #21 Kate
    July 31, 2009

    Fourth time trying to post here. Aaaaargh.

    Try Born and Clarks. I had a bunch of links to particular shoes (not all Clarks are narrow through the toe) but I think that might be what is causing the problem with the comment.

    Born has some supersuper cute t-strap heels right now. You should check them out.

  22. #22 a
    July 31, 2009

    I have a large collection of shoes and maybe could offer some advice. I recommend EZ spirit (expensive but worth it). I don’t buy shoes online as it is impossible to tell just by looking at a picture how they’ll feel. I like to try them out and make instant decisions. If a shoe (especially high heels) isn’t comfortable right when you put it on, don’t buy it. I’ve never found a shoe more comfortable when broken in that wasn’t comfortable when I first tried it on. I know others disagree, so must be something about my mis-shapen feet.

  23. #23 Comrade PhysioProf
    July 31, 2009

    You should let me be your shoe consultant!

  24. #24 unbalanced reaction
    July 31, 2009

    Naturalizers can sometimes work, and Bass are always comfortable. I like a good wedge, and sometimes they carry them. Zappos stocks a decent selection of Bass shoes, and they also have stand-alone stores, often in outlet malls.

  25. #25 Lab Lemming
    July 31, 2009

    I vote for the sandals you were sporting a few months back, or the boots you have before that.

    I’ve lived out of the sandal/ steel cap combo for months at a time.

  26. #26 Christina Pikas
    August 1, 2009

    I like Aerosols – better than Easy Spirit. I have feed shaped like a duck, more like flippers actually, and I find that they fit. For stability, one of the most important things, IMO, is that pumps don’t flex or wobble in the middle. Aerosols has some that flex at the ball very nicely, but the heel doesn’t wobble. When I got married I splurged for some Stuart Weitzman – those were very stable but >$300 10 years ago! I now wear Dansko clogs a few times a week, but they’re hardly sexy.

  27. #27 stephanie
    August 2, 2009

    My teaching job requires that I spend a lot of time on my feet and I have three go-to brands when it comes to comfy but professional looking shoes. Merrell and Clarks (which seems very popular) are great flats. When I need something a bit more feminine I wear a pair of Indigo shoes, which are made by Clarks. This line is cuter than your average Clarks shoe, not quite the height of fashion though. But you get a bit of height, femininity and supreme comfort.
    Indigio at Zappos.

  28. #28 kt
    August 2, 2009

    For some stylish shoes that served me *really* *well* this summer, I went with Sofft. I usually wear Chacos all summer and hiking boots for much of the winter, but it’s the summer of weddings and nice parties so I got some 2.5in heels from Sofft… and they were more comfortable than the “sensible” Dansko sandals I bought with them. That certainly surprised me. I even wore them for a whole day at a conference in a cobblestoned city in Europe and was pretty happy with them. I have a wide, short foot (somewhat narrow heel) FYI.

    (The Danskos would be great except they curve up at the edges of the ball of the foot, and my foot is so wide it rests on those curving-up edges and that squishes my little toe.)

  29. #29 Mom
    August 2, 2009

    SW: Protect your feet! Wear sturdy, comfortable, well fitting and utilitarian shoes. MOM

  30. #30 ScienceWoman
    August 3, 2009

    Don’t worry, Mom. I returned them. :)

  31. #31 Comrade PhysioProf
    August 3, 2009

    MOM, tell SciWo that I should be her shoe consultant!

  32. #32 soil mama
    August 3, 2009

    I recently got some new shoes for “dressing up” (conferences and interviews) and tried on MANY shoes but finally ended up with these. http://www.onlineshoes.com/womens-aravon-mia-black-leather-p_id125486. they seemed much more comfy than any of the other shoes I tried on and they are super cute. Aravon is a division of new balance and they have very sturdy footbeds and lots of support.
    I gave them a go at a conference last week and still found that I got blisters from all my weight being on my toes. I didn’t feel like a fool walking in them, but I didn’t feel as comfy after wearing them all day. I like the company and may check out some of their other styles w/o heels.

  33. #33 Hope
    August 4, 2009

    I think it’s folly to buy shoes online without having tried on that particular style first. Even when I find a brand that I like, the fit can vary greatly depending on the particular shoe. For 2+ inch stylish heels that I can walk in all day, my favorite brands are Gentle Souls (by Kenneth Cole) and the French line, Arche. I always insist on style *and* comfort, and these two deliver like no other. But you get what you pay for … the cheapest pair I own was almost $200. Still, I would rather have 1-2 pairs of shoes that I love, than 4-5 that I think are just OK.

  34. #34 Hope
    August 4, 2009

    @a (#22) – If a shoe (especially high heels) isn’t comfortable right when you put it on, don’t buy it.

    I agree with you completely – I don’t believe in “breaking in” shoes either. And I have pretty average feet.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.