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Friendly Footwear

I often find myself in yoga class or in the locker room next to women whose feet bear the tell-tale traces of long-term affairs with fashion footwear. Their bumpy bunions, stubby hammer toes, or more serious problems seem way too high a price to pay for walking in style.  The good news is that many elegant sandals and shoes radiate sex appeal while treating your feet with care.  What’s more, some ingenious manufacturers up the healthy footwear ante by using recycled materials to make environmentally sustainable and chic footwear.

A comfortable case in point is Splaff designs. These classic sandals radiate hipster cool, and their strong soles fashioned from recycled racing car tires; straps made from recycled bicycle inner tubes and supportive, breathable hemp footbeds glued together with water-based solvent and hand-stitched carry you in style. While the all-black Lazy Boy Flip Flop ($20.00) looks great with jeans, shorts, or a swimsuit, the Lazy Boy Flip Flop in natural un-dyed hemp ($22.00) is sweet and innocent enough to wear with a sundress.

On the opposite end of the retail spectrum are sandals and shoes by Taryn Rose. Formally trained as an orthopedic surgeon, Rose recognized that many patients developed serious foot problems from by high heels and pointed-toe shoes. Because Rose’s feet also ached from wearing heels, she decided to start designing sexy yet supportive flats, heels, wedges, and pumps to wear with fine clothing.

Inspired by high-end designer footwear, Rose’s collection uses luxury leathers and other materials. Markedly unlike designer footwear, however, Rose’s Italian-made shoes are expressly styled to support and cushion feet in comfort,while looking highly stylish and feminine. Nearly three hours of hand labor goes into each pair. Rose’s elegant styles are so well made and so great at dressing up jeans and t-shirts that it’s worth investing in a few pairs.

Any discussion of chic, foot-friendly gear must include the healthfully innovative and groovy-looking Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) sandals. While they’re a tad expensive (they retail for $235.00), these artfully styled, high-performance sandals feature a multi-layered sole that reconfigures every flat surface (think sidewalks, streets, the interior of your home) into uneven, earth-like surfaces, thus simulating the relatively more natural terrain that our barefoot ancestors covered.

Unlike most athletic training shoes, MBT sandals are fashion-forward and are chic enough to wear out to dinner or to work. More important, their construction encourages foot and leg muscles to experience more torque, which is good for bone growth as well as dynamic activity. MBT manufacturers say that this kind of muscle action and healthy torque increases shock absorption in joints and discs, improves posture, strengthens circulation, and promotes more efficient breathing. The sandals can be worn for gentle running, as well.

On the more affordable front, Earth Shoes offer the most reasonably priced, eco-sexy, and healthy shoes anywhere on the planet. Earth styles are famed for their negative heel technology, which positions heels lower than the toes, as if you were walking barefoot in sand. This position allows your feet, legs, and spine to stand and walk in a more body-friendly fashion. While Earth excels at casual shoes, sandals, boots, and classic professional styles, Earth also boasts a versatile vegan collection fashioned from vinyl and other man-made materials. Choose from charming sandals, girly shoes, dress-up styles, and avant-garde boots.

Specializing in stylish, healthy, vegan, and cruelty-free footwear, Shoes with Souls offer trendy styles with a youthful slant. Here you will find classic and adventurous wedge sandals, sporty slip-ons, flats that come in basic black and vibrant stripes, as well as retro pumps for wearing with jeans or to the office. Shoes with Souls’ prices are also relatively low. While pumps go from around $40 to $69.00; casually chic, high-legged boots cost anywhere from $99.00 to $129.00.

For those who love solid footing along with sexy design details Calleen Cordero is a must-visit. Cordero’s shoes are made of thick, rich, supple leather uppers, styled in a kind of 21st century, rich hippie spirit, and exceptionally well-sewn onto flexible leather soles. Cordero also offers leather flats and pumps with supportive foot beds, accommodating heels, and alluring motifs such as tiny brass studs swirling in paisley designs and antiqued painted leathers. (Some of the pumps are vampy retro beauties, and all of the boots are sexy yet substantial—never straining feet or legs.) Other chic choices: vibrantly hued wool clogs, gold or silver leather metallic clogs with sturdy soles, and antiqued leather Mary Jane flats delicately embellished with studs. Visit her website for a stock list near you.

So, take the time to find footwear that supports your feet like two good friends, while grounding you in style.

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By Kyle Roderick

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