Possibly the earliest advice on footwear comes from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu nearly two-and-a-half millennia ago. Lacking self-reflection is like trying to “cover the world with leather” to avoid foot pain, he said. “It is much easier to wear shoes.”
We can’t always control where we tread, but we can pick the right shoes to do it in style, comfort, or both. As we enter sandal season, two local shoe stores offer advice on how to pick out the perfect footwear for the beach, outdoor festivals, formal events, and everyday use.
Cartan’s Shoes has continuously been in business since 1932. The current location on West Magnolia Avenue opened in 1982. One recent afternoon, I met Cartan’s co-owner Rick Baggett. Outside his office, the large sales floor was bustling. A dozen seated middle-aged women were being attended to by staffers, some of whom have been in the shoe business for decades.
Baggett said customers are beginning to expect comfort from any shoes they buy.
“When I first started selling shoes, women would pay $80 for a dress shoe, but they didn’t want to pay more than $40 for a shoe they would wear every day,” he said. “That made no sense to me. Today, it’s the opposite. They want to buy comfort, they want to be fitted properly, and they are willing to pay for it.”
A poorly fitted shoe, he continued, can cause pain in the feet, knees, hips, and back.
“They might not realize that it’s their shoe that is the problem,” he said. “A good pair of shoes will make a lot of difference — how you feel, your perceived weight, how tired you are.”
Baggett reached for a nearby pair of sandals and handed them to me.
“Feel how light these are,” he said. “After 12,000 steps, a heavy pair of shoes wears you down.”
Baggett noted that we’re approaching “sandal season.” Sandals, wedges, and flats will see upticks in sales, he said. The vast majority of the brands Cartan’s sells (Aetrex, Clarks, New Balance, and VANELi, to name a few) use built-in orthotics (custom foot supports made from cushioning material). Another trend in shoewear is the incorporation of microchips that monitor the number of steps the wearer takes during the day. That data can be tracked via a smartphone app.
While big-box stores and online vendors have cut down on offering a wide range of sizes (like narrow or double wide), Cartan’s has invested in less common shoe sizes. Baggett offers this final tip for trying out sandals.
“Make sure that the widest part of your foot comes to the widest part of the shoe,” he said. “That tells you that your arch is fitting correctly. That distributes your weight equally on your shoe so you don’t get extra pressure on your heel.”
Follow Cartan’s Shoes on Instagram @cartansshoes.
When it comes to trendy footwear, “boho chic” (which pulls from bohemian and hippie influences) is in. Lacy Cantrell, salesperson at Stanley Eisenman Fine Shoes, gave me that tidbit as she brought me up to speed on which shoe brands and designs will be turning heads this summer. Of the five women’s shoes she highlighted, four had large, thick soles.
“It’s a 1970s retro look that’s in right now,” she said. “Your mom may have photos of herself wearing something like these with bell bottoms.”
One style that has sold well at the store is espadrille, a wedge shoe that is characterized by a jutt (woven rope) casing along the outer sole. Marc Fischer is a popular maker of this style, she said. The shoe we looked at appeared to have a tall wedge, but there wasn’t a lot of pitch, the term that defines the incline of the upper sole.
“It’s an all-day shoe,” she said. “All the women who work here have at least one pair of these. It goes well with shorts and sundresses.”
Another wedge shoe was up next, this time by shoemaker Pedro Garcia. The suede and leather bands that the sandal sports are designed for comfort.
“This would be cute to wear after a pedicure,” she said, noting the large open-toe design.
An elegant pair of high heels by Alexandre Birman offered a more formal option for summerwear. That was followed by a cork-draped wedge shoe from Italian shoemaker K. Jacques. The last shoe Cantrell brought out is a new style from See By Chloe called “flatform.”
“This is somewhere between a platform and a wedge shoe,” she said. “This is a big trend right now. All the young girls are looking for this. It has a white-bottom sneaker [tread] and detailing to offset it.”
As for color, yellow is always summer-friendly, she added. Wedges, flatforms, and espadrilles can be worn with dresses, rompers, or shorts.
Follow Stanley Eisenman Fine Shoes @stanleyeisenmanshoes.