Stride “Right”

Spring 2014 Carolina Herrera easy striding in flats
(click on images for larger views)

I think many women simply refuse to believe that being fashionable is not somehow inextricably related to heel height (the higher the heel, the more fashionable?) By the same token, they think that flat, moderate, or low heeled shoes AND having great style, is mutually exclusive. They mistakenly believe that being in pain is part of the equation, and that they have to suffer for beauty (and fashion). They don’t appreciate how injurious (to one’s feet, posture, etc.) it is to wear shoes with precariously high heels on a daily basis  — which is why high heel devotee, actress, and mom Sarah Jessica Parker recently gave up wearing them constantly, and is now seen around town in flats.

 Fall 2013 Dolce & Gabbana velvet ankle strap
with low heel

During Fashion Week, I witnessed a veritable parade of women (including well known social and fashion fixtures) wearing shoes that not only looked uncomfortable, they were literally unable to walk in them. Hunched over, they teetered precariously, and many holding on to their companions so as not to fall down. That is just so unnecessary, so modern, and so ‘objectifying’ (they look as though they are in bondage, which falls into that time old male fantasy). Yes, high high heels are sexier (in an obvious way), they make you taller, they might be more ideal for certain proportions and lengths, and for certain occasions. But they are not a pre requisite; there are options, and thankfully more and more influential designers are proposing and offering great alternatives. And not just for daytime, which is more predictable, but for evening.

Spring 2014 Calvin Klein closeup of black & white
woven brushed calf moulded sandal

The avante garde Japanese designers (Junya Watanabe, Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, etc.) never or almost never show high heels, and usually accessorize with “sensible”, comfortable, athletic, grounded footwear. The duo at Dolce & Gabbana has long been enamored with elegant, pointy toed kitten heeled shoes, and ditto for the team behind Valentino. Marc Jacobs’ graphic black & white block heeled pointy toed pumps and sling backs, (for his eponymous line and for Louis Vuitton, spring 2013) were eye catching, distinctive, and statement making. For fall 2013, Alber Elbaz showed black men’s’ style oxford lace up flats with his short one and two piece evening dresses. More recently, for spring 2014, Narciso Rodriguez and Carolina Herrera both showed pancake flats (Carolina also used an espadrille like canvas and rope soled wedge). Marc Jacobs showed nothing but flats throughout (sandals, athletic type slip-ons, and boots). From the look of things, there has been a trend for footwear to get a bit heavier with platforms and sturdier heels almost ubiquitous on runways, (such as Calvin Klein). They may not be low heeled, but the platform and heel make them far easier to walk in than spindly stilettos.

Spring 2014 Narciso Rodriguez

The best quote I read about flats vs. high heels, is courtesy Ines de la Fressange from her book, “Parisien Chic”. Yeah, I know she is not only drop dead gorgeous, she is at least 6 feet tall, so she is always taller than almost everyone and can easily make a case for just wearing flats day and night. Regardless, she is one of the all time chicest gals around and wisely dispensed with these words of wisdom: “Many women think they look better in heels but this is quite wrong. Just ask any man. No man would ever say “I’d love you more if you were four inches taller!” Nothing looks worse than a girl tottering about on unmanageable heels! The key to sex appeal is a feline walk, not a precarious wobble.”

I could not agree more. The women who look the absolute chicest running around the city, are those wearing shoes comfortable enough to allow them to gracefully and effortlessly stride down the streets and sidewalks of New York (gee, what a novel idea LOL). For mobility, efficiency, comfort, and ease of movement, a more moderate, lower heel or a flat, is the way to go. I actually think many women don’t realize that they have become slaves to their high heels, and their lives are impacted by this habit. They basically can never walk and always need a cab, a chauffeur and limo or town car, to transport them from place to place.

Tieks Assortment

This past Tuesday evening, I was sitting near Stan Herman and Fern Mallis at the Thom Browne show, and the topic of MBFW and Lincoln Center as a location, came up (it was THE topic of the week it seems). I asked her what she thought other good options would be, going forward, and she mentioned the Chelsea Piers. When I noted they were deemed unpopular, she shot back that it was actually a great space with a lot going for it. The reason so many women bellyached about it, she thought, was that they had a hard time navigating on their high heels. Earlier that day, as I have already mentioned, I bumped into Michael Gross at the Tents, after the Vera Wang show, and he noted the sourpuss unsmiling faces on so many fashion people. I was subsequently on Facebook, and saw an advertisement for Tieks,,  billed as the “Most versatile designer flats in the world. Made of the finest Italian leathers and designed to fold and fit in a purse. Wearable all day, every day.” Ranging in price from about $175 – $295, they come in a wide variety of appealing colors and materials, and there was a picture of a happy looking model kicking back with her feet up wearing a pair.

Kushyfoot Flats to Go Assortment

A light bulb went off over my head. Aha! Maybe the reason so many show goers look miserable is that they are in constant pain owing to their uncomfortable shoes! I would be miserable if I was in uncomfortable shoes all day long, and I know firsthand how foot pain and uncomfortable footwear can alter one’s mood. The first day of shows, I stubbed my toe on the steps going up to the Tents, and was in immediate pain, with swelling to my foot. I was only able to wear certain pairs of shoes during much of the week, and what saved my life were my foldable, packable Kushyfoot ballerinas (, which I always stowe away in my bag just in case. (Their only drawback is that they don’t offer much support for really extended walking). They are available online and at Duane Reade, and are available in a leopard print, black ‘patent’, gold and silver metallic, black and white snakeskin and zebra, and are only $9.99.

CitySlips black contrast toe ballerinas

Along those same lines, but a step up is CitySlips ( which offers a good looking, fold able ballet flat in an expandable carrying case at $33.95. They are available in a leopard print, gold leather, silver leather, and ivory leather with black cap toe. And I’m a huge fan of Yosi Samra ( and their portable, fold-up style Samara Ballet Flat that started it all. Available in more colors and textures than one could imagine — including always chic white with a black cap toe, they range in price from about $66 – $79.

The bottom line is, these portable styles are great, and handy, especially for a quick change; when you can’t bear one more moment in your high heels. But as I have already pointed out, the comfy flat shoes I saw many women changing into, were often times better looking than what they were changing out of, and hopefully, more women will get the picture, that they can just simply opt for shoes that are great looking, AND comfortable at the same time. And save a lot of discomfort.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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