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Swift: Elegant footwear is great for sole

Europe ruined me for pretty shoes. I know, I know. The Europeans make some of the most beautiful shoes on Earth. Prada ankle boots in buttery leather. Christian Louboutin pumps with skyscraper heels and those coy red soles. But when you're just a...

Europe ruined me for pretty shoes.

I know, I know. The Europeans make some of the most beautiful shoes on Earth. Prada ankle boots in buttery leather. Christian Louboutin pumps with skyscraper heels and those coy red soles.

But when you're just a middle-class American tourist slogging from country to country, you're not interested in stilettos. You're wearing whatever shoes won't beat your hardworking feet into a bruised and bunioned pulp.

In my case, that was a pair of black, padded Merrell walking shoes. Like many sensible shoes, they made little effort to be attractive. They had a vaguely orthopedic vibe that reminded me of the shoes my 79-year-old dad wears. And yet, once I tried them on, I could wear nothing else.

It was like slipping my aching feet into containers of goosedown and warm pancakes. "At last," I could hear my arches sigh. "You understand me."

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And so, long after I'd come back from Europe and returned to the workplace, I found myself clinging to my Merrells.

"They're European!" I chirped to anyone who stared at the inappropriately casual footwear, as if a European pedigree somehow made them more appropriate to pair with a sundress. (In fact, the Merrell headquarters are located in Rockford, Mich.)

And so it went for an entire year, with me clinging to my heavenly but ugly walking shoes like Linus clutched onto his security blanket.

They say shoes tell you a lot about a person. Well, for more than a year, my shoes seemed to imply I was the spinster head counselor at a crocheting camp.

But then something happened. I fell in love. I was walking through a shoe store - just browsing, really - when I saw a pair of Steve Maddens I couldn't resist.

They were red. Their heels were very high. And with the ankle strap and patent leather, they had a very groovy retro 1940s vibe. Even the insides of the shoes - lined with a floral fabric - were pretty.

They were anti-Merrells. They would almost certainly lead to hammertoes and bunions and problems that would help my podiatrist retire to Lake Havasu someday. But I had to have them.

And so I bought them, brought them home, lovingly unwrapped them and ... left them in the back of my closet. "I'm not a red shoe person anymore," I told myself. "I don't even have anything to wear these with."

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Then, a few weeks ago, a sassy, 20-something colleague showed up at work in pointy red shoes. They looked fabulous, and she seemed to strut all the prouder for wearing them.

"That's it," I thought to myself. "I'm breaking out the red shoes."

And so I did. I found the appropriate black-and-white outfit, then finished it off with my bright red heels.

Almost instantly, I felt transformed. I walked a little faster, stood a little taller and acted a bit sassier.

Finally, I had discovered what Cinderella, Dorothy and Carrie Bradshaw already knew.

The right shoes will feed your sole.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525

or tswift@forumcomm.com

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