How annoying that my boyfriend was right
Eating my words is my least favourite diet
It may not be wise to admit to this in the woke times we live in, but I’m guilty of pandering to stereotypes. Now, I’m no sexist, nor have I ever judged my fellow human by the colour of their skin. Just… the shoes on their feet. For a long time, I thought the world was divided into two types of people: those who wore Crocs, and those who would rather do taxes for their extended family than buy the ambiguously amphibious (fine, let’s call them) shoes.
Then, as Karma divined, I happened to enter into a relationship with someone who loved Crocs. “Function over form”, he’d declare, as he tried to convince me to swap my sling bags for backpacks, my tasseled slides for Crocs. The campaign intensified when, much to my horror, fashion designers began to take an unironic look at the footwear that’s been deemed ‘100 percent effective birth control’. It began with Christopher Kane in 2016, then the baton was passed to Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga. Ugly shoes became a Vogue-certified trend — had the world had gone mad?
Post-pandemic market research shows a steep decline in sales of our once-beloved heels and dress shoes, while slippers and clogs are up in the same category by 70% and 22%. It’s the casualization of footwear, as loungewear continues to reign supreme in our fashion landscape.
With powerful global forces at play, I realised if I couldn’t beat them, I could at least pick which team I was forced to join. I chose Birkenstock, not least because I trust German engineering. Once the uniform of hippies and tree-hugging liberals, the cork-soled sandals were recently christened “maybe, the sexiest shoes ever” by designer Rick Owens. I don’t know about sexy, Mr Owens, but by God, are they comfortable.
That patent-protected ‘foot bed’, anatomically shaped to offer optimum arch support and cushioning to tired feet… I rediscovered the spring in my step. It helps that Birkenstock took an acid trip to the paint factory and their formerly sensible sandals now come in trippy colourways.
My decision to explore the world of comfortable shoes for women was expert approved by physiotherapist Prachi Lotlikar, who’s worked with the BCCI. “Wearing flat sandals and standing for long hours can lead to heel spurs and plantar fasciitis, due to the constant strain on your heel bone,” she cautions. “Both high heels and shoes that are too flat can lead to pain in the knees, because the body is trying to adjust its centre of gravity. When the knee is affected, the muscles on the side of the hips have to work harder to maintain your balance, which causes tightness and lower back pain.” (here’s how to rejig your home office to be kind to your back).
When recommending comfortable shoes for women, Lotlikar insists on first measuring your feet, and trying shoes on in person so you’re assured of the right fit. “Some people have high arches, and some have flat feet. So you need to buy shoes according to your arch type. And avoid going shopping in the morning, because your feet are likely to swell by the end of the day. You need a pair that accommodates this comfortably, so look for options that are roomy especially around the toe area.”
8 pairs of comfortable shoes for women you won’t regret copping to
When your product description features the word 'semi-exquisite', you may raise your eyebrows. But raise your glass too, because Birkenstock knows what it's doing. The German brand still manufactures their anatomically shaped cork-latex footbed in family-owned factories so big brother can keep an eye on quality.
Admittedly, it took a while to get over our initial aversion and deep dive into the amphibian's lair. Consider this your Crocs starter pack, until you're ready to cross over to the dark side entirely.
When is a sneaker not a sneaker? When it's basically grandma's knitted sweater for your feet, if gran was into saving the environment from the tyranny of plastic bottles. These shoes will save you precious seconds and the risk of lower back pain, since you don't have to bend over to tie the laces. They're lightweight, washable, and dare we say it, perfectly comfortable without socks.
There's something about a sensible shoe that makes you feel like you're ageing in hyperspeed. Then again, if you're spending hours on your feet, leading presentations, hopping in and out of traffic, climbing stairs instead of taking the lift like you promised your Fitbit... you'd do well to inject some sense into your shoe fetish. This ballet flat from Clarks features leather lining and a cushioned footbed that won't have you hobbling in pain at the end of a long day.
Skechers is known for their athletic footwear that is most often spotted on sextagenarian walking buddies on their evening strolls. Thankfully, they also have casual shoes that feature a memory foam sole. You read that right.
When desperate times call for desperate measures, and a pair of Asics sneakers is too inconvenient to keep lacing up and unlacing if you're just running down to the corner store for dal and cheeni, give Fitflop a shot.
When you need to hit the sangeet circuit, a pair of embroidered juttis could take over from where your Birkenstocks left off. This pair from Fizzy Goblet comes with cushioned soles so your heels won't be making direct contact with the floor on every matak.
A homegrown shoe studio based out of Mumbai, House of Prisca allows you to customise each of their designs, including heel height and shape. Lotlikar reminds us that heels "over 5 cms are bad for your feet". This pair was inspired by your second favourite way to drain a phone battery after online shopping — Candy Crush.