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Today’s reader mail has to do with the quest for comfortable heels…
I was wondering whether you had heard of Tsubo shoes. I recently posted on Facebook about my quest for comfortable heels, and instead of the usual “get the Cole Haan Nike Air pumps” suggestion, two people posted about Tsubos. I checked out the site, and the shoes really do appear to be very well made and at $100 to $150, a reasonable expenditure, even for me. Thought it might be worth a post. Many of your readers certainly must be walking to the courthouse regularly, and are probably looking for fashionable yet professional footwear that won’t cause them to limp by the end of the day.
Seriously, forget the Holy Grail — this is one of my lifelong quests. As one might expect from all the Mary Jane and other comfortable-type shoes I post (what? I wear ’em with pants) this author has problem feet — it’s incredibly difficult to get shoes that both feel and look great.
Not only does it seem like there are variances within each brand (e.g., some of our Cole Haans we love, others we want to throw across the room), but shoes that were favorites in previous seasons become hated things in newer ones (and never get better).
Whine, whine — perhaps I just need a higher tolerance for pain. In terms of pain, I actually read a book about feet a while ago that contained some helpful exercises to make your sore feet feel better, such as drawing the alphabet with a pointed toe, or spending a few minutes, barefoot, trying to pick up a pencil with your toes — but that doesn’t help with the comfort of shoes to begin with.
Regarding Tsubo: I’ve heard of them, but have never owned a pair — one of the pairs we considered buying on Zappos several months ago seemed to have a number of comments about the leather stretching. But that doesn’t mean we’d never try the brand in general.
The brands we’ve heard most often touted as comfortable ones can be broken down into these sorts of categories:
- Designed by master craftsmen, incredibly comfy, but incredibly pricey: the usual suspects: Manolo, Louboutin, Choo, Salvatore Ferragamo (we’ve read that the Manolo team thinks 3″ is the highest heel a woman can comfortably walk on, whereas the 4″ Louboutins are worn by all the celebrities because the stacked platform makes them very comfortable)
- Designed for comfort and mid-range pricey ($250-$500): Cole Haan, Stuart Weitzman, Taryn Rose (the brand was founded by a podiatrist!)
- Funky or clunky, depending on your taste, but comfortable investments: Eileen Fisher, Fly London, Dansko, Paul Green, John Fluevog, Frye,
- Lower-cost comfortable (but also often clunky): Børn, Clarks, Sofft, Geox, (we’d put Tsubos in this list)
- Mall stores that bring trendier shoes to you at a more reasonable price: Aerosoles, Naturalizer, Rockport
These are some of our favorite heels as of 2023, but check out our entire Guide to Comfortable Heels!
With that said, we still find that luck — not research — nets us our most comfortable pairs of shoes. In fact, our favorite 3 pairs of shoes right now are from the following brands:
- Clarks — a simple pair of black boots (the “Luna Reef”) for wear with pants — comfy, walkable
- Sacco – black leather and suede pair of 3″ pumps that we keep at the office (got several seasons ago)
- Naturalizer — a wee bit embarrassing, but we have a pair of pointy-toed kitten heels from years ago that we can walk for miles in. The sole is actually wearing out on these babies (in a non-replaceable way), so we desperately need to find a new “I’m wearing a suit, standing for 3 hours, and then walking a mile” pair of shoes.
But perhaps I just need a better breaking-in procedure — a friend told us that the trick was to wear the shoe barefoot and then saturate the leather with perfume — something about the alcohol shrinking the leather to your foot. I’ve never tried this (and actually, if memory serves, one of the main points to the book was that there is no such thing as “breaking in” shoes; they either fit or don’t).
In general, check out brands like Clarks, Naturalizer, Trotters, Cole Haan, Vionic, and Lifestride if you’re seeking affordable, stylish comfort heels! If you definitely want a stable base, check out brands like FLY London, Dansko, Eileen Fisher, Børn — they’re great as commuting heels (because you can maintain height for pants hemmed for heels), but they may also be just the ticket if you want something more comfortable.
What are your favorite three pairs of shoes right now (if possible, post links!)? Which brands are your go-to ones for comfort? Do you do anything to break in your shoes?
Psst: here are our favorite comfortable flats, too!
(Curious for our other roundups of black pumps? In addition to the several specific shoes mentioned in our Guide to Comfortable Heels, here are our roundups from 2021, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2016, 2015, 2013 (interview pumps AND our low heel roundup), 2012 (under $250) and 2008, as well as our comfort-focused roundups of 2016 and 2010 and our posts on extended sizes for professional women’s shoes.)
Social media picture credit: Deposit Photos / © sbotas.