I wouldn't want to be in her shoes
So it remains a mystery to me why – according to the latest Mintel survey – more women now choose to live in a pair of trainers or Ugg boots. It's not just that casual shoes are ugly (which they are), it's the image they project to the world. A woman in casual flats is like gin without tonic, jam without toast, George without Mildred. You might be able to walk for miles in a pair of Nike Air Max, but, take it from me, they won't get you far in life.
Because what all women in baseball boots forget is that high heels aren't just about a couple of extra inches. They are about lifting the soul. A woman in high heels is powerful, confident and in control. She looks good and she knows it, and it comes across in her attitude. High-heel wearers have better posture, better legs and, according to another recent study, better sex (something to do with how they 'exercise' the pelvic floor muscles, apparently). Aren't those three-inch courts looking more comfortable already?
And comfort really is a poor reason for not pulling on a pair of heels at the best of times. What's a little suffering, after all? Unless you are planning on running a marathon, or scaling the north face of the Eiger, a heel, even just a small one, should be an essential element of your wardrobe. Casual shoes rarely enhance an outfit. Uggs, Converse, Doc Martens, etc all look ridiculous with a skirt, and even the most tailored pair of trousers can seem to grow out from the ground when teamed with a clunky, flat lace-up.
Let's not forget that women wearing sloppy, casual flats behave differently from those in smart, structured points. The image of a drugged-up Amy Winehouse trailing around London at three in the morning in a pair of blood-stained ballet shoes should be enough to put you off those soft fabric pumps for life. You'd never get a woman in heels doing that.
Why is it, too, that the most popular comfortable shoes look like they've been designed by a sea-lion with an Etch A Sketch? Uggs? Should change the 'gs' to 'ly'. Birkenstocks? Like snowshoes made out of cork. And Crocs? Give me a break. They're like rubberised neon hooves. I'd rather wear clogs*.
High heels, on the other hand, are exquisitely designed. Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo – these are men who have devoted their lives to creating high-heeled works of art especially for our feet. And with high street stores from New Look to Dune earnestly churning out tributes to the top designer looks, high-heeled shoe shopping is now a delight that can be tailored to every budget.
Ultimately, though, what it comes down to is that I will always be uncomfortable in casual, comfortable shoes. Heels give me a confidence I'll never get from a trainer or a pump and I feel undressed without them. Comfort isn't about a pinch in the toe, it's about how you feel inside. With a pair of high heels on I feel fabulous, and what could be more comfortable than that?
*Only during a genuine shoe emergency.
'What exactly is smart or sexy about blisters and bunions?'
"I DON'T know who invented the high heel, but all women owe him a lot," Marilyn Monroe once said. It makes sense that she would assume the style was created by a man, since surely no female would willingly inflict such discomfort upon womankind. However, what it is I owe the designer of the vertiginous shoe I'm not so sure.
Certainly there's something very beautiful about a high heel, and arguably Monroe probably wouldn't have had such mesmerising appeal had she wiggled her way through the steam in Some Like it Hot in a pair of Converse trainers. However, I'm a sister doing it for herself in the 21st century. I've got places to go and I like to use my feet to get there. I agree with Germaine Greer, who once made the point that "if a woman never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?"
Certainly running in heels is a mystery to me, as is walking, talking or generally enjoying myself in those instruments of torture. I do own a couple of pairs and I'll wear them to formal occasions or those times I know that I'll be walking from car to bar – and no further – but I honestly believe that flat shoes look much more chic.
Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn, two of the 20th century's most stylish women, were both advocates of the flat, comfortable shoe. Even today, actress Mischa Barton always wears flats, no matter how formal the occasion, yet usually outshines everyone else at the party sartorially. Keira Knightley is another famous fan of flats and has been spotted everywhere wearing her metallic python Chanel sandals.
Comfortable shoes say that you care more about having fun than looking immaculate, and that you don't feel the need to conform to a bizarre and painful trend for the sake of fashion. Anyone who has worn heels for an entire day knows that we're not talking mild discomfort; it can be excruciatingly painful, and very distracting, to walk on the balls of your feet for a prolonged period.
That any woman would want to restrict herself this way is a mystery. The ancient Chinese practice of binding a woman's feet is viewed as barbaric in the modern western world, but, in many ways, high heels seem almost as bizarre – fetishising feet in a painful manner in order to appear more attractive, vulnerable and restricted to the opposite sex.
Despite my views on heels, however, I can't bear ugly shoes, and I simply don't believe that style needs to be sacrificed when it comes to comfort.
Wearing unflattering Ugg boots (which at best resemble an elephant's lower portions) or clumpy Crocs (inelegant hooves of bright, moulded plastic) seems pointless when you could be equally comfortable in a dainty pair of ballet flats, which are far more stylish and not some inexplicable fad.
Some people seem to be under the impression that ugly shoes are some sort of statement of their academia, as if attractive shoes are for vacuous people. This, as any intelligent person knows, is a belief held only by the stupid. If life is a journey, you might as well be walking it in style as well as comfort.
I believe that you don't have to choose between style and comfort when it comes to footwear. My favourite shoes are a pair of black Ferragamo Vara pumps with a one-inch block heel. They're more chic, smart and sassy than any of the glossy stilettos I see pounding Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night (or, as the evening wears on, in the hands of their barefoot owner) and yet I feel completely comfortable in them.
I've always believed that to look truly stylish, you must be completely comfortable in what you're wearing. After all, what's smart or sexy about blisters, bunions or a gal who leaves the party early because her feet are too sore? As American writer Sue Grafton said: "If high heels were so wonderful, men would be wearing them."