Shoes Oh My God Shoes: The Case for Comfort

If there is one thing I am sick of, it is articles about famous-ish women bragging about how many shoes they have. It is flabbergasting to me as to why you would want to brag about something like that—I have a lot of shoes, but to me it merely embarrassing, a token of my hoarding tendencies.

This from a woman who is starting her online organic baby line to “get rid of all the plasticy packaging” of real stores.

That aside, the real issue that gets my goat is how the majority of these huge, expensive shoe collections are made up of ridiculously high heels that the women themselves often admit to never wearing. For some reason, expensive footwear that women can’t even walk in has become the new badge of womanhood in our society. I know that the women in these articles (ahem, Kardashian sisters), think of themselves as being beacons of style for all women to look up to, but to me, they are like this:

But with less fire dancing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I can salivate over a beautifully made, attractive pair of heels any day. Like any item of clothing, a shoe that is artfully designed and made of luxurious materials can be appreciated for what it is. I’m just totally over the notion that, being a woman in this culture means that you lose your mind at the sight of red flashing beneath a stiletto heel.

McQueen took it to new heights.

I recently read a piece outlining how heels have been getting higher and higher in high (ha) fashion over the years. Now, while there seems to be a tendency towards hoarding, and not actually wearing, these beautiful shoes, at least in the pages of magazines, there is little questioning of the fact that, for the most part, mobility of the wearer is significantly decreased the higher a heel is.

Ew! (And this isn't even the highest heel!)

Maybe this isn’t an issue for the women of Hollywood, who just get schlepped from one car service to the next and then spend the evening sitting at the V.I.P. table, but restriction of movement in the “real world,” is insulting. Why are we embracing something that’s effectively forcing us to “sit and be pretty?”

No heels here!

In the most recent issue of NYLON, Chieko Kato did an article on Yama Girls, a movement/trend in Japan where women are heading to the mountains to hike and have created an entire fashion subculture around it. The main point of Yama Girl fashion? To be able to be physical!


She's a jerk, but I love her style.

My dream man.

Now, I know that there is a lot of hating out there surrounding the subject of “comfort shoes,” but I am here to make a case for them. Though I admittedly would like it if more people took a cue from Our Idiot Brother and started dressing like they worked on a farm in upstate NY, there are ways to work comfortable footwear into your wardrobe without looking like a “hippie.” Which by the way, I would really, really appreciate it if people would stop ragging on how ugly hippies dressed when they have no knowledge of the actual historical context of the subculture, nor do they actually know what hippies dressed like (hint: it wasn’t leggings and butterfly necklaces from Claires).

So here it goes, my favorite comfort shoes!

Now, THIS is a drool-worthy shoe!

Boots are the mother of all comfort shoes because they are just that awesome. Given the popularity of boots, there are many options to choose from. Do yourself a favor and invest in some Fryes. They last forever, are super well made (in the USA!), and look killer. Even with a small heel, you can stand in them for hours.

Be still, my heart!

Danksos are the footwear of those in retail, the service industry and art teachers. I got mine more for the art teacher connotation, even though I work in retail. I think about the bad connotations surrounding Danksos (helicopter mothers of children in private Waldorf schools) and then I think, would I rather be that, or Kim Kardashian?

These are fancy Keds!

Remember when Keds tried to relaunch their brand and make it all “cool” by having Mischa Barton model for them? That was weird. What isn’t weird, however, is their basic colored canvas lace-ups. Urban Outfitters has been copying these for a while now, but you should do yourself a favor and just go with the original.


I got really, really depressed when I heard that TOMS supported Focus on the Family. I did some minimal Internet research and it appeared as though the company was not aware of the organization’s gay-hating core values. Though I admit I have purchase two pairs of TOMS in my day (and I wear them a lot), I am not sure that I am ready to give a full endorsement of the brand, as my first pair completely wore out in three months. While the whole “giving a child a pair of shoes” thing is good, I suppose, I’ve also heard of a similar company called Paez shoes that makes their shoes in Argentina (the birthplace of the TOMS style) under fair trade conditions. If you give a man a fish….

Someone used these Kmart numbers for a fun DIY project! The possibilities are endless!

You can also get Basic Edition canvas slip-ons at Kmart for like $7. A pair lasts me a whole summer, and I wear them almost every day. Not as ethical, but if you have low funds, this might be your best option.

Purple ones! Just like Prince!

Birkenstocks are classic. There is no question about that, but yet, there are so many negative connotations surrounding them for unenlightened people. They think, “Ew hippies! Ew Germans!,” which, given my hippie German heritage, I take great offense to. Loving the Birkenstocks is all in the eye of the beholder, as is true with most comfort shoes. When I was in Mexico a few years ago, they were everywhere in hip shops, and it reacquainted me with my eighth grade self who loved the Birkenstock, but was only able to afford the Shopko knockoff.

These look just like mine…and they are called “Heidi sandals!” Hurray for being so very German!

On the search for Birkenstocks, I came across a pair of sandals in the traditional two-strap Birkenstock style at a rummage sale for $1. I wore them constantly and called them my “fake Birkenstocks,” assuming that they were some sort of Shopko-like knock off from my past. Little did I know they were actually Mephistos, an even more expensive comfort shoe brand! This is why it pays to rummage sale in progressive neighborhoods. They have the best comfort shoes!

Finally, some words of advice: most of these brands are a little steep in price for the average shopper. I have gotten all of my pairs, however, thrifting, at resale shops or at rummage sales. With a little bit of patience, your perfect comfort shoe will come to you. If you don’t have patience, consider it an investment, because what is better: spending your rent on a pair of heels you wear once and complain about all night, or spending a fraction of that on a pair of shoes you can bike, walk, and dance in as much as you want?!

Know that there will be haters out there, but most likely they are just jealous because their feet hurt. The key to rocking comfort shoes is to wear them proudly—make them your own and no one will be able to pull you down!


About hollyhilgenberg

A freelance writer specializing in vintage, thrifted and resale fashion and critical media studies. Professional whim chaser and self-proclaimed Gemini. I blog over at Operation Sparkle ( and run the creative women zine C.L.A.P. (Creative Ladies are Powerful).


  1. I had to give a big fashion shout out to my faves: Worishofer. These German orthopedic nursing shoes were built for those peeps on there feet for over 12 hours.Who is more sensible then a German nurse right? They understand the need for comfort. You can even get them in silver, gold, leopard or patent leather. Hills in San Francisco? Bring it. Walking form the Whitney to The New Museum? Not a problem. When it comes to my go to shoe, this is it. Dankeshane, baby Dankeshane.

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