Want vs. Need: The Shoe Chronicles

Shoes really don’t make sense.  On the one hand, to the true fashionista, shoes are not about practicality.  Shoes are where the most irrational and reckless passions lie — the more outrageous, sexy, and impractical, the better.  Let’s face it: stilettos are never about need.

On the other hand, shoes are very practical items.  Doctors “prescribe” them, at times.  We log mile after mile on them.  We walk through puddles and city streets and globs of muck that are, at best, unidentifiable and, at worst, disgusting.

I understand that the world of high fashion thrives on this mismatch between what is perfect and what is real.  They want us to envy the fashionistas.  They want us to imagine and covet a perfect lifestyle, in which well-heeled beauties flit from party to party, club to club, relying on valet parking to ensure that they never have to walk through the slime like the rest of us.

But this is not how the rest of us live.  So it shouldn’t be surprising that we feel just a little bit conflicted.

What do I want?  Fabulous, shiny, pointy-toed, high-heeled, kickass sexy shoes to stride around in.  What do I need?  Shoes that can survive my lifestyle.

And what, exactly, does my lifestyle entail?  During the work week, I walk up and down four flights of stairs approximately 10-15 times a day, usually lugging at least one (but often two) heavy bags full of books and papers.  When I’m not doing that, I’m walking in between buildings, outside,  in rain, snow, sleet and everything in between.

On the weekend, I sometimes stay close to home, resting, which does not require cute footwear in my neck of the woods.  If I’m lucky, I’m going out for a night on the town.  If that night on the town is in the city, which it often is — because otherwise, why bother? — we are talking about multiple subway transfers and/or walking on cobblestone streets.

Valet parking does not figure in.

And oh yeah, I forgot:  I also need shoes that cost less than $100 and work with multiple outfits.

So there’s a bit of a disconnect between the shoes I want and the shoes I need.  For example:

Boots —  The Ideal:




Boots– The Real:

Now, they may not look that different to the casual observer, but trust me:  I own these boots (Clark’s on the left; Aerosoles on the right), and I see the difference.  They have served me well, and they get tons of wear.  But when I look down at my feet during the day and see round toes, no shine, and a sensible heel, part of me just feels a little sad, inside.

The best middle ground I’ve ever found were these boots by Joan & David:

which, of course, lasted about half a season.  I’m not saying they weren’t well made — they were, and very comfortable — but a heel like that on all those stairs?  Not gonna last.

But let’s continue:

Work shoes, to wear with skirts:

The Ideal:

The Real:

I like these shoes.  Don’t get me wrong! (And interestingly enough, these are also by Clark’s and Aeorosoles, respectively). I highly recommend them!  But this does not mean that they are, in any way, shape, or form, the same as the Dream Shoes above.  They just aren’t.
And finally,
Sandals:  The Ideal:

Sandals:  The real:
(Clark’s — once again!)

And so it goes.  What to do?

I desperately need to replace my knee-high boots this year, and I would so love to up the style quotient of my choices.  While I’m at it, I’d love to enhance my work shoe wardrobe with a classy pair of peep toes or stacked heels (or both!).  And why stop there?  Those ankle boots are getting really scuffed and sad.

But who am I kidding?  One pair of knee-high boots is going to kill my entire budget.  And no matter how much I try to find a stylish, struttable pair, I know that I’ll be thinking only one thing when I try them on:  “Will these make it up and down all those damn stairs?”

Sigh.  I guess Dream Shoes are best left for dreaming.   But I will continue to dream, and to search for the perfect shoes that blend the ideal and the real.  Have you found them yet?


About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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16 Responses to Want vs. Need: The Shoe Chronicles

  1. Silke says:

    Luckily I don’t have to run up and down all of those stairs every day, but on the other hand it’s a nice way to tone those calf and butt muscles. No need to go to the gym. πŸ™‚
    When it comes to your shoe selection, there are lots of sexy shoes out there with a more sensible heel. For instance, I’m wearing a pair of high heeled pumps right now that I bought many years ago on clearance for under $20. They are very sexy, have a 3″ heel and I still get compliments on them after all these years. These pumps are so comfortable I swear I could run in a marathon in them if I had to.

    • You raise a good point: better-quality shoes can be comfortable even with heels. The heel on those Circa Joan & David boots was taller (2″) and thinner than I often wear, and they felt great! The ice and snow were still a problem, though…. plus the heels wore down kind of fast. Maybe some hold up better than others?

  2. I had to laugh; one of the “real” shoes I have and I wore them at the airport. I overheard someone say, “those are the ugliest shoes I have ever seen”….I was the only other person there!
    Santana boots from Canada are great–many practical styles–most are waterproof with rubber soles–a little pricey tho but I have had mine for almost 20 years—

  3. Candy says:

    Ever notice how we never have enough. We always want something else something different. Following from over 40. Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

  4. Trudy Callan says:

    I share your frustration. The shoes that I would rather wear are not comfortable and practical, but I also don’t wish to have hurting feet; so, therefore, practical it is. So much for being a fashion diva.

    Thank you for visiting my sewing blog. Hope you enjoyed your visit. You’ll have to let me know if you find the pattern to Vogue 1329 that I blogged about here:

  5. Jo Frances says:

    Thanks so much for the follow; I found myself nodding in agreement with the difference between the ideal and the real.

    (following you back!)

  6. BigD says:

    New follower from Over 40 Friday.
    I think we’re in the same boat!
    I have the EXACT SAME shoes as your real life work/skirt shoes!!!
    My daughters tease me about not having enough pointy-toed slingbacks.
    I don’t do as much walking or stairs as you do, but I have two other issues: size 11 (makes finding something other than purple python on the clearance rack nearly impossible!) and bunyons (translation: everything hurts!).
    Needless to say, discovering Clark’s has been a life (foot?) saver!
    I’m always a season behind, because I capitalize on end-of-season sales to justify my acquisitions.


  7. And this is why I have a closet full of clothing and shoes that I LOVE, but hardly ever wear..so I just call it my collection, and live in my jeans and walking shoes!

    Thanks for the wonderful comment you left on my blog by the way! ❀

  8. Grace says:

    Oh, baby, I feel ya. About three weeks after I filed for divorce, I treated myself to an unbelievably gorgeous pair of Pradas that were half price. And those suckers made me cry every time I wore them because they hurt my feet so badly. I finally gave them to my sister, who’s a size smaller than I am, and the first time she wore them, she called me and said, “I’ve never had a pair of shoes hurt my feet worse.”

    But still, they made me feel soooo good when I bought them. So while I talk big and say I go for comfort, sometimes the pretty shoes get me.

  9. Love this post, Anne. Nothing better than a gorgeous pair of shoes that actually fits and feels comfortable. Rarer than gold. But we keep searching, don’t we?
    Good wishes, Monica

  10. Gail says:

    You’ve really hit the nail on the head. How I sigh longingly at pictures of 6 inch heels in the fashion magazines. But I never buy them because they’re not practical. Like you, I end up with a compromise – and even then I sometimes carry a fold-up pair of soft shoes in my bag just in case I need them.

  11. Pauline Wright says:

    We have GOT to go shopping together. There are always ways to get what you want and what works. It may sometimes cost a little more but not always. DWS has ALL kinds of shoes at reasonable prices so you can get a pair of dream shoes and a pair of more practical ones. Please don’t despair (oops, no pun intended). Let’s set up a shopping date with Jean and the 3 of us will have fun. I’m a great shopper. You have a fab figure and I’d love to dress you. By the way, don’t forget your checkbook/credit card. Do it now before you’re old and fat like me! Love P.

    • Oh, Pauline, you are too funny. I am honored that you want to dress me! And I would LOVE to go shopping with you and Jean. Name the day!

      (We will be getting drinkies afterwards, right????) πŸ™‚

  12. I have started spending more on shoes and not because I am some fasjionista who cares about names. I care about comfort. However, just because I AM a grandma (a YOUNG grandma!) I don’t want to look like one, lol! So I go after the newer aerosoles and clarks, as well as sofft (?). And I don’t buy 50 pairs so it is okay to splurge a little. I mean, I only get one pair of feet, gotta take care of them!

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