When Alison Loehnis, the glamorous president of Net-a-Porter, tells you that her favourite lockdown and post-lockdown footwear has been a pair of waterproof Nikes, you have to wonder whether the current game might be up for high heels.
It’s not looking good. Alexa Chung revealed her go-to has become a ballet shoe – not the silk faille version from The Row that keeps selling out (yes at £650), but either a velvet one or an actual ballet shoe she buys from balletbeautiful.com.
Speaking of ballet pumps, Kate Moss chose lockdown to return to her 2004-12 role as their patron saint, by wearing them cycling.
Ballet pumps are back, big time (up 60 per cent year-on-year at matchesfashion.com), from classic round-toed styles to the chisel-toed Jil Sander versions (also interpreted by Cos). Pointed-toe flats are also doing vigorous business on Matchesfashion, led by Gucci’s new Deva Horsebit.
It’s not that no one is wearing heels. Amina Muaddi, a London-based globetrotting designer of extravagantly decorative heels, was one of the surprise lockdown winners. But she’s an outlier.
After four months of trainers and slippers, slippers and trainers, interspersed with the odd spot of barefoot mooching, our addiction to comfort isn’t evaporating any time soon.
“Post lockdown, we’ve seen an incredible demand for comfy yet stylish footwear,” says Diane Knight, John Lewis’s shoe buyer.
“Footbeds such as Birkenstock and Teva styles have been phenomenally popular.”
Footbeds is a new term for me. But the concept isn’t. I love a Birkenstock so much I’ve had to swallow my pride sometimes and shop from the children’s department when my favourite colours have sold out in the adults’ section.
I’ve also – so sue me – paid for one of its fancy collaborations. I don’t regret a single penny, even if the white piping around the navy polished leather cost the equivalent of two extra pairs of Birkies.
I think this move towards function-led shoes is also part of an overarching trend towards simplicity – and having, in theory, less stuff.
Amy Williams launched Drilles, a collection of polished leather espadrilles, because she wanted a multitasker. “I’ve tested the theory to the max,” she reports, “wearing mine on the beach, on the plane and straight to a lunch at Annabel’s in Mayfair, where someone stopped me to ask where they were from.”
Teva, the serious summer hiker’s insignia, is now a fashion statement. The Teva Universal, in colour blocks, sold out on Johnlewis.com in three days. Meanwhile, Prada has done its own take on a Teva-like sandal with an even chunkier, serrated heel. The prices; £410-£610.
For short people, this is a Eureka time to be alive. We can wear elevating footwear that feels and looks like a sofa. For those who prefer something more conventionally pretty, there are abundant options, from the lovely dusky shades of Le Monde Beryl’s flat velvet mules to the new range Olivia Morris (available to pre-order now) is hatching.
Morris is not being entirely ironic when she calls her collection House Shoes, even though that notion is associated with Fifties housewives who wanted to slip into something comfortable but still decorative when their husbands came home from work.
“I’m not exactly the dinner-cooking type,” she tells me from her home in St Leonards, Sussex, “but I spend a lot of time in my house. I think we all do now. Not just working, but having friends over, or going over to them...”
Morris’s bow, pom-pom or ruffle-adorned mules, which come in 15 shades of cotton velvet, with some limited edition prints, have memory foam cushioning to ensure maximum comfort, leather soles and a 2cm wedge, “because that’s a good base for the back” and it adds height.
All this attention to physiology will gladden foot medics. “Barefoot isn’t really the best approach, especially if you’re walking around on hard wooden or concrete floors,” Nicoletta Louka, head podiatrist at Margaret Dabbs, Marylebone, says.
“It’s definitely better to have some support – and space for toes to wriggle.” When have fashion and anatomy ever been so aligned?
Enter the trainer, which isn’t going away, particularly white ones – more good news for those like me who took years to get their eye in on this trend.
When Clare Hornby, founder of Me + EM, decided to launch footwear this summer, she knew she wanted to start with the perfect white trainer, because “it was impossible to find one style that was cool but timeless, comfortable, well-made and that – most importantly – flattered the shape of my foot”.
Like Morris, Hornby has gone for maximum comfort, with a padded insole for support and shock absorption, a thickish sole that adds height, but isn’t too chunky so it doesn’t look cartoonish, or bend, which can make them uncomfortable, and a low-cut tongue to show off more of the ankle, “creating that gap between shoe and hemline that elongates legs”.
If you haven’t adopted the clompy, chunky footwear formerly known as ugly, you’re in for some major pleasure.
It won’t just be your metatarsal that rejoices. Nothing updates a look faster. Still, if you really can’t bear the thought of never buying a pair of frivolous, sitting shoes again, know that this is also your moment. Of Net-a-Porter’s 1,973 currently discounted shoe styles, about 85 per cent are heels.
The Daily Telegraph