A firmer footing

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Why are elegant LOW-heeled shoes so hard to find? Yellow stilettos

I’ve been giving up a lot of fashion things over the past two years, it strikes me.

It’s not deliberate, but as you get older you increasingly realise that fashion and beauty – at least in terms of trends – are really for the young.

One of the things I gave up recently was shoes with three-inch heels. I can still manage a boot with a three-inch heel, worn with my orthotics, but shoes are now a no-no – they just don’t give enough support, and now that the padding is virtually gone from the soles of my feet I can’t even walk barefoot any more, let alone in heels.

Red stilettos

I have tried the lot: Boots insoles, Scholl insoles, Footpetals, which I ordered from the US and which turned out to be rubbish, gel insoles, rubber insoles. None of it helps.

What does help is my 90-euro orthotics, courtesy of the French national health service, and wearing flats almost exclusively, preferably with nice thick soles that don’t leave you feeling every pebble in the pavement (does the average man have ANY idea how rubbish most women’s shoes are?). At home, where comfort reigns supreme, it’s either Crocs or Uggs, and with jeans I tend to wear Ecco trainers or walking shoes, but that still leaves the question of what on earth a girl is to wear with her skirts. 

Pink silk shoes

Flats, as anyone will tell you, quite truthfully, make your feet spread. In other words, your feet assume their natural shape rather than being squeezed into pointy little shoes, and I do – in summer – favour Fly Flots. But I note that the pointy shoes are still something I can’t quite give up just yet, at least for posh. Because if a shoe isn’t going to benefit your look by giving you some lift, the least it can do to pay its way is to be pretty. This is the see-saw between beauty and utility. 

I have therefore been buying myself some elegant low-heeled shoes on Ebay for times when I don’t have to walk too far, and I must say they do seem terribly hard to find. It was not always thus. Perhaps I was lucky to grow up in the era when Diana Spencer made low pumps fashionable but in the 1980s, elegant leather low-heeled shoes were easy to find. Now, however, the manufacturers seem to be led by designers who may have heard of shoes but have clearly never actually seen any.


Boden are still very good, if you can splash the cash, and Roland Cartier, Bally and Hobbs all still make the odd shoe you can actually walk in, but most other manufacturers have succumbed to the idea that a four-inch heel is really something women can’t do without, wedges are cute, and platforms are comfortable. None of these things is true. It makes me sincerely wish I had never passed on my well-cared-for vintage pumps in navy and black leather, brown suede and green kid. 

What I am really looking for is a 2-inch Louis heel, which lends some stability, but failing that, I like a classic Roger Vivier-style low stiletto  – very elegant and pointy, 1950s-ish. I can’t abide mules, in which I cannot balance, I loathe peep-toes, which make you look like Minnie Mouse, toe cleavage (ugh) and even slingbacks are something I find problematical. However, for car to bar, my little batch of recently acquired kitten heels seems just about right: brown tweed from Boden, red suede from M&S, interesting yellow ones from No Doubt – a label I’m not familiar with – and daft pink ones from Dolcis that I bought because they were just too cute to pass up, dressed as they are to go to a party.

Navy loafers

On a more practical note, and having assessed my wardrobe needs, I’ve also treated myself to a pair of navy leather and suede loafers from Lands’ End. I’d bought a couple of other pairs online that had turned out not to be right, but the LE ones are just about perfect, with an elegant line and plenty of internal padding. Lord, I haven’t worn shoes this shape since I was at school.

Navy ballerines

So, feeling slightly more confident, I have also ordered myself some ballerines – another thing I haven’t worn in nearly 30 years, and again in oh-so-practical navy. It remains to be seen whether I can actually walk in them, of course, as they are very flat indeed, where a 1-inch heel is much easier. But try finding THAT in today’s stupid shoe market…    


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