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I have donated or thrown away five pairs of shoes over the last six weeks – none of the shoes pictured, mind you. These are stalwarts: my trusty gym shoes, my oh-so-comfortable short boots and my somewhat comfy dress heels that see the artificial light of holiday parties two to three times a year.

The ones that went away were relatively nondescript:

  • A pair of low brown work heels that should have been super comfortable given their brand and my experiences with it, but were instead torture after four hours of relatively low-key daily wear.
  • A pair of Clark’s mules, with just enough of a heel to feel dressy, but also with a fatal seam that threatened to rub a blister on my inner right foot if I dared to walk too much. A quick stroll to the grocery store next to my office was a no-no.
  • A pair of pricey black flats bought last year specifically for conferences, where I do an interminable amount of walking. They proved to be pretty much MADE OF SEAMS on the interior, and if I didn’t have Band-Aids strategically placed at various locations on my feet after three hours of wear, I was in trouble. They never “broke in.”
  • A pair of casual leather sandals that proved blister-happy after too much walking.
  • A pair of uber-sexy burgundy boots that made me look like a superhero, albeit a superhero walking unsteadily on 4-inch heels. They were, frankly, way too sexy for everyday wear, and I constantly felt in danger of imminent ankle collapse. Zooming up from 5’8 to 6’0 means that you’re not only instantly taller than 90% of the population, you’ve also got farther to fall.

Several months ago, I organized my shoes into these handy stackable boxes from the Container Store. One of the features (and, perhaps, consequences) of placing your possessions in clear containers that can reside in one small space is that you actually have to face the things you own. Like five pairs of black heels (all of which I wear, at some point or another, during the year, FYI).

The funny thing about owning the requisite average of 20 pairs of shoes, however, is that sometimes you STILL don’t have the proper footwear. After realizing last summer that I needed a nice pair of black dress flats to wear at a couple of upcoming fall conferences, I began a fruitless, infuriating search. I found sparkly ballet flats, flats with huge bows and flowers, and clunky loafers that screamed “I give up on looking cute, now get off my lawn.”

After a ridiculous amount of browsing, online and in stores, I finally found a promising, if expensive, pair of black flats that turned out to be horribly uncomfortable. When I wore them to the office for a few days to break them in and test them, they seemed OK, but the minute they sensed that I was away from home, without a backup pair of shoes and without an extra minute to find another pair, they turned into super-tight, seam-wielding torture devices.

That’s right: I owned the only pair of shoes in existence that broke out instead of in.

I finally found a pair of comfy flats on a quick trip to New York, during which I was decidedly NOT shopping for shoes simply because I didn’t want to have to stuff them into my carry-on for the trip back. Alas, there they were.

flats

They proved to be so comfortable, in fact, that I ordered two more pairs in black and one pair in gold, since they were on sale because they were being discontinued.

I won’t be caught without proper conference shoes again for a long time.

But back to my point (and there is a point): Why do women settle for uncomfortable shoes? How on earth are we convinced year after year that toddling around on high heels, unable to walk quickly or even comfortably, somehow puts us in a position of power?

I’ve known older women whose feet were completely reshaped by years of wearing heels every day. Bones shift, tendons shorten.

I’m on an all-flats shoe rotation at work – I put together a standing desk and got myself a decent gel mat. Heels are for parties and nice dinners out (provided I don’t have to walk a half mile to the train station).

These are only two feet I have, so I’m done making them uncomfortable.

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