The weekly Commandress feature ‘Fashion Flashback’ by Amy (Bergsma) Schwarzenbach features the author’s 1980s fashion retrospectives as a new way to understand – and inspire – contemporary fashion styles.
Thank goodness for the evolution of comfort shoes!
You may have noticed that I’ve been gone for a while. Last month, my family vacationed in Colorado Springs. That trip was promptly followed by my annual pilgrimage to summer camp. Both forays involved a lot of walking. For this chick, a lot of walking requires comfortable shoes, a.k.a. “comfort shoes.”
These days, it’s easy to take for granted the plethora of brands manufacturing comfort shoes designed to accommodate activities ranging from hiking to strolling through water.
Nordstrom alone has over 2,500 women’s comfort shoes on its website! We will take a look at some terrific options momentarily, but first a fashion flashback.
Comfort Shoes Then
In the 1980s, when the comfort shoe concept was still in its nascence, the pickings were slim.
Take a look at this vintage Dr. Scholl’s “Exercise Sandal” with its wood platform. Walking on a flat wood surface with no arch support is not something most adults can do without immediate and long-term consequences. Just looking at this image makes me writhe in pain.
Dr. Scholl’s also offered some less barbaric footwear in the 1980s. After all, it was and is a brand dedicated to foot care. Who can forget the company’s Dr. Scholl’s Wedge Sandal that was so ubiquitous back in its day?
There were signs of the forthcoming comfort shoe enlightenment in the 1980s. Birkenstock (with origins dating back to the eighteenth century), Mephisto, Naot, and Ecco were all making inroads. Merrell and Teva were founded in the 1980s.
But these brands and the concept of comfort shoes had not yet reached the masses. Then, if you asked the typical person what shoes they wore for casual comfort the answers would probably have been limited to Top-Siders, Keds, and Dr. Scholl’s.
Comfort Shoes Now
Since this was my seventh summer going to summer camp with my two sons, I have become proficient at finding shoes for my high-maintenance feet. My “comfort shoe mentors” and partners-in-crime are my camp besties, Marie and Paige.
Without fail, during one of our nights off we hit the metropolis of Cookeville, Tennessee to shoe shop. Before you smirk, let it be known Cookeville is dead-center in Tennessee’s fabulous hiking country so there are excellent stores to visit.
Paige and Marie usually have better luck than me finding footwear. But this year, I found two pairs of sandals that I love.
Between the three of us, we acquired nine pair of shoes on this year’s annual shoe shopping expedition.
I’ve included a snapshot of this year’s summer bounty.
My Top Four Comfort Sandals
I hate taking off my stylish new Merrell Hollyleaf Wrap Sandals in Dark Purple ($85 from Zappos in seven colors). Their shock absorption makes them so, so comfortable. The mesh fabric lining is treated with Aegis antimicrobial solution to keep your feet cool and dry – an excellent feature!
On that note, it is important to change your shoes to give them – and your feet – a break. I know a woman who wore only one pair of shoes on a vacation and she got a stress fracture as a result! This is no urban myth. Always pack several pair of shoes of different types to keep your feet happy and healthy.
In the spirit of following my own good advice, I also bought a pair of Clarks Leisa Taffy Sandals in Pewter ($45.00, regularly $75.00 from 6pm.com in four colors). The best aspect of these super cute and comfortable sandals may just be their adjustable hook-and-loop straps at the vamp and ankle for a customized fit.
Words cannot express how much I loved my Naot Kayla Sandals. I wore them out and need to replace them, but in the meantime I will share with you that these leather sandals with memory-foam padding feel absolutely wonderful ($129.95 from Nordstrom).
Another shoe worth every penny – and more! – is Mephisto’s Agave Sandal in Light Taupe Perl Leather. Mephisto is known for its anatomically designed footwear, and I can attest to this design’s success ($199.00 from Zappos).
Top Three Closed-Toe Comfort Shoes
While at camp, Marie, Paige, and I spend much of our time in the kitchen and dining hall, where we need our feet covered in the event of mishaps.
The New Balance 1080 Running Shoes profiled on Commandress last week fits the bill perfectly.
And, because I conscientiously rotate my shoes, this year’s line-up also included Skechers Flex Appeal – Limited Edition Walking Shoes ($51.99 on sale; regularly $65 from Zappos). The hot pink tie die is perfect for camp and fun to wear throughout the summer.
Camp bestie Marie, who turned me on to Clarks, bought a pair of TOMS Classic Canvas Slip-On Shoes this year ($47.95 in seven colors from Nordstrom). She proclaims that their comfort is divine. I also like TOMS’ philanthropic commitment.
Top Three Water-Friendly Sandals
If you need shoes that can withstand repeated dousing, I highly recommend Keen’s Whisper Waterproof Sandal ($90 from Zappos in twenty colors). The webbing is antimicrobial so they will not smell. Also, they offer extensive foot coverage, which can prevent a nasty injury if you slip or step on something inadvertently.
When it comes to water sandals, camp bestie Paige loves Chacos and Tevas. Chaco’s Z/2 Yampa Sandal – shown in Pixel Weave – has an adjustable strap and is known for how quickly they dry ($100 from Zappos).
Finally, Teva’s Original Universal Sandal is so popular that its following is cult-like ($39.95 in four colors from Nordstrom).
Disclosure: this post includes affiliate links for 6pm.com, Nordstrom, TOMS and Zappos.