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Can Heels Be Comfortable Enough for Work?

The tedious walk from boardroom to boardroom cannot be underestimated - here are brands that are recognising that fact.

As any podiatrist would tell you, running in heels is probably the fastest way to form new bunions, which is why practical fashionistas the world over heaved a collective sigh of relief with the rise of athleisure fashion.

But for high heel die-hards, wearing this season’s palazzo trousers with a pair of sneakers is style suicide – even if the footwear in question is a pair of Miu Miu cork-platform sneakers.

“No, I do not think sneakers will ever replace high heels,” says the holy man of heels himself, Manolo Blahnik, whose shoes are available here on the second level of Takashimaya department store. “Sneakers have their place in life and high heels fulfil a completely different function which is when you want to look elegant and chic; when you want to feel glamourous and feminine. Women have so many sides, moods and needs that now there is a shoe to suit all of them.”

Which is why the latest in stratospheric shoe designs combine elevation with a certain degree of comfort.

  • Each heel design in the Ecco Shape collection has a foot bed that lowers the heel of the foot within the shank. This enables the heel to appear an extra 15mm higher, without the discomfort.

One of this year’s top designer footwear brands to watch is newbie Malone Souliers. The London-based brand has already cultivated an enviable list of followers, including Bella Hadid, Blake Lively, Amal Clooney, Diane Kruger and Solange Knowles. Described by its founders Roy Luwolt and Mary Alice Malone as “bold and unapologetically feminine”, the shoes are constructed with their heels optimally placed for added balance and support, as well as soft sole cushioning to reduce the impact on joints. It is available at On Pedder On Scotts.

“It is all about construction and a primary empathy for the woman who must rest her weight on an elongated, elevated device, often all day long and into the night,” says Luwolt, a former luxury brand strategist and managing director of the brand. “As a result the locus of the heel is architecturally situated to offer the optimum posture for comfort.”

The label’s meticulously handcrafted shoes often come with 4-inch heels, but the height is mitigated by other details such as an inner sole made with a buttery-soft lining. Each design is also incredibly sensuous, thanks to sexy accents like a wraparound silhouette that has a narrowing effect on the foot or a fur-like covering on a mule.

“The high heel is a magician,” says Malone, the brand’s creative director who honed her craft at Cordwainers and the London College of Fashion. “A beautiful heel will sculpt the foot and create a transformative reaction through the entire body. They will affect the posture and the way you walk – but also the way you carry your head, your entire bearing.”

Realising a trend for statement-making shoes combined with high quality craftsmanship and wearability, luxury footwear purveyor On Pedder decided to introduce the brand to its store earlier this year. “We have been following the brand since the launch in 2014,” says Carmen Cheng, vice-president of On Pedder. “Mary Alice Malone has created designs that are not only conceptually beautiful, but also comfortable no matter the height of the heel.”

As for those who seek even greater comfort from their footwear, Ecco has launched a new collection of high heels. While the Danish shoe brand might be the antithesis of fashionable shoes, its latest Ecco Shape Collection is a far cry from its classic mumsy pumps.

“Modern women want to look good but they don’t want to be held back by their footwear choice,” says Niki Tæstensen, head of the Ecco Concept Lab. “We understand it’s important to look as great as you feel, which is why we created truly innovative heels alongside designs infused with Scandinavian minimalism.”

While it doesn’t quite boast the sex appeal of a glitter-encrusted Charlotte Olympia pump, the new range does include sensible designs with a touch of fashion. Think ’70s-inspired snakeskin textures, or an anatomically-moulded ankle bootie with tone-on-tone crystal studs. And then there’s the relative comfort: Each heel design in the collection has a foot bed that lowers the heel of the foot within the shank. This enables the heel to appear an extra 15mm higher, without the discomfort. Moreover, the sides of the heel are filled with polyurethane instead of simply being glued to the sole of the shoe, providing added stability and a hardwearing, light and flexible sole. The brand also uses soft calf leather from its own tannery, with a premium leather interior for added comfort.

“The unique feature about the range is the construction of the shoe and the technology behind it,” says Lene Nedergaard, Ecco’s director of global brand management and head of consumer communication and PR. “At the same time, Ecco is able to design a shoe in accordance with the seasonal trends and deliver a product, which is both fashionable and comfortable.”

Despite the added bells and whistles, however, no medical professional would recommend teetering in heels around the clock. Hence, it is advisable to build a shoe wardrobe that encompasses more feet-friendly flats.

Besides, when asked if the current sneaker trend is rather depressing for a brand that focuses on heels, Luwolt says: “Not at all! In fact, MA (Mary Alice) has her own ugly collection of sneakers which she deems no less feminine.”

Adapted from The Business Times.