Before we launched 52° LDN, we made it our mission to get inside the heads of as many women as possible. An elegant but comfortable shoe brand was our idea, but we had to find out whether it had legs. So, we plunged feet-first into the realm of footwear and the relationships that women have with their shoes.
Sure enough, we began hearing the same stories on repeat: anecdotes about that gorgeous pair of loafers that cost a fortune, but need to be “broken in” before they can be worn comfortably.
Why don't you return them or give them away? - we asked.
They'll fit eventually, came the reply. I’ll just wear them around the house for a few days to stretch them out.
That pair of boots that always pinch in the same spot.
Why do you keep wearing them? - we asked.
They're my favourite pair, came the reply. It's alright - I always remember to put a pre-emptive plaster on whenever I wear them and take extras in my handbag.
We love shoes as much as anyone, but enough is enough. We shouldn’t need to sacrifice a few days of pain, and potentially layers of skin, in order to wear the loafers we love and we should be saving our plasters for cuts and scrapes. Uncomfortable shoes worn every day could end up doing some real damage. From squishing our toes into unnaturally pointy shapes, to the aptly named "pump bump" - that hard lump which forms on the back of your heel from wearing shoes with rigid backs - the results of uncomfortable shoes can be unbearable.
Women are turning with increasing frequency to trainers for reliable comfort. There’s certainly been a rise in trainer-fashion, but what if you don’t want to wear trainers all the time? What other options are there for comfortable but stylish shoes? As it turns out, not many, and the comfort shoe brands that do exist don’t have the best street cred. Images of velcro straps, bulbous shapes shoes and sensible rubber soles come to mind, and style conscious women who don’t always want to wear trainers aren’t left with much affordable choice.
So, we were left wondering, why, in this age of female empowerment are women still willing to put up with painful footwear for the sake of style? Why has almost nothing been done to bridge gap between style and comfort?
Well, it doesn’t help that we were raised on stories like Cinderella. What kind of maniac wears glass shoes to a ball? And who can forget that image of the ugly sisters trying to squeeze their gigantic feet into Cinder's dainty glass slippers - practically breaking their feet in half for the sake of a handsome prince? Ridiculous. But it does nicely demonstrate the archaic notion that uncomfortable shoes are just part and parcel in the narrative of life as a woman. Top tips for how to walk in heels and stretch out your shoes with a damp newspaper and a hairdryer have been passed down from generation to generation until, for many women, dealing with uncomfortable shoes, has just become a part life.
We're not saying you shouldn't continue your footwear love affair. We're saying you deserve to be comfortable in the shoes that you love. Lisa Armstrong, the Head of Fashion at the Telegraph, in 2015 described comfortable fashion in the context of footwear as the "final frontier". And she was right. But that was four years ago and, in our view, there hasn't been enough progress. Space is no longer the final frontier, comfortable and fashionable footwear is. So, do your feet a favour and put them in 52. It’ll be one pain-free step for you and one giant leap for womankind!