Essays

Pain and Pleasure: How Far Will You Go to Look Good?

I bought a pair of the new Valentino Garavani flats on my last trip to Boston, and I wore them for the first time a couple of weekends ago.

They are super-cute, black with a crisis-cross ankle strap and silver metal grommet details. The man who sold them to me at their store on Newberry Street raved about them as an upgrade to the Rock Stud flats that I already own in multiple colors. “These are so much more comfortable than the old version,” he assured me as he lovingly put them in their red box.

Well, after just two hours of wear on a weekend jaunt to Palm Springs with my spouse, I begged to differ. They are adorable, and my husband says they make my legs look good, and two people on the street spontaneously complimented me on them. But I had blisters on both of my heels and I was barely able to walk. After just two hours. And these are flats!

Am I going to stop wearing them? Of course not. Did I mention that they are adorable and that my husband said they make my legs look good? How many pairs of flats do you own that fit that description? This is how Dr. Scholl’s makes its money – you buy some shoe pads and you keep on walking.

And I am not alone in this decision. A recent survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association found that 38 percent of women would wear a shoe they liked even if it caused discomfort. I think that number is surprisingly low. I would have made the market at over 50 percent.

How much pain will you absorb in order to look great? We all have our personal thresholds. I once wore a pair of pointed-toe 4-inch heel black Gucci pumps for an 18-hour day at work where I was walking for at least two-thirds of the time. My toes went numb at some point and I lost a toenail as a result. But it was an important day at work, and those shoes were fierce. I was working in the fashion business at the time, so how stylish I looked had a great deal to do with how effective I was in my job. So what’s a girl to do?

I don’t buy the argument that there is a direct trade-off between style and comfort. But there is definitely a correlation. Note to the luxury business: there is a huge market for items that make us both look and feel good.

To name-check one brand that has figured this out, I recommend that you have a look at Aquazurra shoes. Fashionable? Check. Affordable? In the scheme of luxury footwear, check. And comfortable? Oh, my heavens, yes. They have a new store on Madison Ave in New York. I suggest you get yourself there, ladies. We need to reward them for having figured this out.

Recently, I attended the Manhattan launch party for Thesis Couture Shoes. Designed by a brilliant woman, Dolly Singh, who used to work with Tesla founder Elon Musk, these are stilettos designed by rocket scientists that are both sky-high and comfortable, based on the latest technology available. At $1,000 a pop, stylish comfort doesn’t come cheap — but such is the demand for these shoes that there is a waiting list to obtain them after they become available later this year. Luxury tech at its best . . .

I love you Valentino, but you’re causing me pain. Let’s end this tortured “Fifty Shades of Grey” romance and start over. I know you have it in you to be less cruel. (But in the meantime, I am still wearing my new shoes. ‘Cause dang it, the pleasure is worth the pain).

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