Mission Possible: Comfortable Classic Pumps

comfort shoes 7

When the feet are happy, I’m happy!

As I mentioned in a previous post, comfort is non-negotiable for me. That’s especially true for my shoes. I’ve spoiled myself, I guess, but when it comes to foot pain I’m like the Princess who could feel the pea through twenty mattresses. Even just a decade ago, “comfort” footwear often was limited to styles that looked either orthopedic or earthy. (Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those, but it’s nice to have more choices.)

Before I get into the shoes though, I’m going to serve up a couple of caveats. First, what’s comfortable for me might be excruciating for you, and visa versa. Each of us has unique foot issues; mine are high arches and instep, wide toes, and a palpable loss of padding on the bottoms of my feet. So far I haven’t experienced bunions, corns or any common conditions that may someday impact what footwear is comfortable for me. Second, some of the shoes I’m going to show you are pricey, as I tend to keep and wear them for years, amortizing the cost over time (have one pair of Stuart Weitzman ankle boots heading into Winter #8 and still looking spiffy). If you can handle the idea of buying and wearing second-hand, ebay and consignment/thrift shops might be good places to search for particular styles of brands that you’ve found work for you. Finally, if all else fails, it’s worth checking into custom orthotics. They make them small, light and unobtrusive enough now to slip into dressier, sleeker footwear styles.

comfortable pumps

Fitzwell “Vincent” pumps

Comfortable Classic Pumps. Let’s face it, if your style runs more toward the bohemian, casual or funky, it’s much easier to find cute and comfortable shoes. But sometimes a more classic look is desired, and pumps, even pointed-toe styles, needn’t be uncomfortable. The pair above from Fitzwell feel like gloves on my feet and were great right out of the box. This style of shoe comes in multiple widths and colors/materials. I’m particularly smitten with this leopard print and get compliments each time I wear them, which I do frequently. The heel is about 2 inches, usually the maximum I can comfortably wear.

nude pumps, platform pumps, comfortable pumps

The Cole Haan Chelsea Low-Heel pumps I’m wearing here are another comfortable and classic choice. With my wide toes, I often find Cole Haan shoes a bit narrow, but some styles like this one work if I go up half a size. Cole Haan incorporates that Nike Air padding which in some styles really does help cushion the foot.

block heel pump, suede pump

Cole Haan Chelsea suede pump

The style above, new to this season is also a gorgeous option. I’ve tried them on but didn’t purchase (have as many pumps as I need right now). The 2″ block heel is very walkable and the toe is actually a bit more almond shaped than it appears in this picture. (This shoe doesn’t photograph well, IMO…it looks far more matronly in pictures than up close and on the foot.)

kitten heels, nude patent pumps

Stuart Weitzman “Poco” 

If you’re open to kitten heels, there are many options out there with a very classic pump look. These by Stuart Weitzman are available in multiple colors and finishes, and some are also available in Narrow or Wide widths. When we were in London in May, I observed many very stylish women of all ages dashing about in kitten heels similar to these above.

snake print pumps, kitten heel pumps
When shopping for shoes, first check the inside of the shoes with your fingers to be sure there are no edges or seams that might rub. Look at construction in general…are there globs of dried glue or odd joining that might chafe? I avoid shoes with smooth synthetic linings as I know they’ll make my feet overheat and sweat. I make sure retailers have a good return policy for unworn merchandise. I’ve learned to wear shoes around the house for a couple of hours in the evening (when feet may be more swollen from walking, standing, heat or water retention) before committing to be sure there are no “hot spots” that rub. Some shoes that are just a bit too narrow can be stretched, either by a professional, with a shoe stretcher (haven’t tried this myself) or by wearing indoors for a few hours with heavier socks or hosiery than you’d normally wear with the shoe (my preferred method). Heel height is important, but also consider the “pitch” of the shoe…a 2.5″ heel with a half inch platform will probably feel the same as a 2″ heel with a flat sole when worn, but provides a bit more height if that’s important to you. (I also find some platforms provide a bit more cushioning underneath the ball of the foot, adding to the comfort factor.)
Also check out brands Aerosoles, Sofft, Munro, Rockport, Clarks, ECCO, Gentle Souls and Gabor for comfort shoes with classic pump styling. Please do share your favorite brand or designer too!
Next time, I’ll share some shoe care tips and fixes for “almost perfect” fit.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for http://unefemme.net. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.
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Already Pretty contributor Une Femme is fifty-six, married to the same wonderful monsieur since 1995, the mother of a special-needs teenager and two hooligan dogs, a full-time administrative professional, a coffee-holic, Paris-obsessed, native Californian, and a petite and curvy femme d’un certain age. She believes that personal style is an essential form of self-expression, and started her blog, Une femme d’un certain âge, in 2007 hoping to start a conversation about style for women over 50.

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13 Responses to “Mission Possible: Comfortable Classic Pumps”

  1. LaChina

    Thanks Une Femme! Great post with helpful tips. It is easy for me to find cute comfortable sandals and boots, but very difficult to find the same for shoes for work.

    I had to spend 3 hours once at a store just trying on a good number of shoes, the salesman was great and picked out shoes I normally would not have looked at, but they were comfortable and looked good on. I bought 2 pairs of Via Spiga, 1 patent black pump with a low heel and 1 snake skin Mary Jane grey pump. Expensive but even after 3 years the shoes are in great shape. Now my favorite flats have worn out, but I dred spending another 3 hours at a store. I love fashion, shopping not so much.

    I look forward to your shoe care post!

  2. Sandy B

    I have quite a few issues with my feet now that I’m older, having broken one a few years ago being one and bunions the other. So, I tend to need a wider shoe and a kitten heel height is my preference. I love some of your choices especially those last blue ones. But I still have what I call my “Sunday go-ta-meetin’ shoes” that get worn for all of 2 hours maximum.

  3. Sufiya

    I find “kitten heels” and thin heels in general much more annoying and treacherous as I get older; I find I like a heel at least 1/2″ wide to avoid sideways “wibble-wobble”! The taller one is, the more ridiculous one looks perched on absurdly small skinny heels! One looks even ‘bigger” by comparison! The heels on those leopard pair are just perfect! I love the snakeskin shoes but I would never wear them, due to that too-scrawny heel. Yet, I think the heel on the Chelsea pump is TOO THICK. Picky-picky-picky! The heel I love most is the “waisted” or “court” heel, so pretty and graceful!

  4. GingerR

    Glad to have that Fitzwell recommendation. I’ve seen that brand on 6pm.com but didn’t have any experience with it.

  5. marsha calhoun

    For me, Gabor was a find (thanks to Sally) – they fit well and the ballerina flats I so like don’t fall off my heel, as so many do. I literally had them search the world over the find the last few pairs of one style in my size, and they wear like iron (which is good, because this summer I have worn one pair or another every single day). And I blanch every time I look at the price, but in shoes, you really do get what you pay for (if you are lucky).

  6. D. A. Wolf

    How could I resist discussion of one of my most favorite topics?

    I am a high-heeled woman, myself, but not ridiculously so. And a pretty kitten heel is as lovely an appropriate now – not to mention cute – as when Ann-Margret purrrred her way around in capri pants and kitten heels with her very kittenish style and smile.

    One of the things I love about Stuart Weitzman is the fact that a variety of heel heights are offered, which allows for gorgeous styles that are comfy for each of us. I’m perfectly content in a 3″ heel, I admit to the occasional 4″ heel, but I’m sure not to spend too much time on my feet when I’m wearing them!

  7. Monica H

    Thanks Une Femme! I have similar foot challenges to those you mentioned, so this is particularly helpful to me. In the last few months I have discovered Cole Haan and they are fabulous! I agree they can be a bit narrow in the front, but they stretch, and the cushioning and support is worth it. They aren’t cheap, but their outlet stores have pretty good sales, and they are popular on eBay.

    I really like shoes with platforms. In addition to what you mentioned, I like that they feel more stable and solid. Flexible soles sound great, but for me they tend to put too much pressure in certain places. A platform helps to even that out.

    Another good resource for info:

  8. Linda

    I have recently had good luck with Vaneli shoes. I have wide feet and narrow heels, so many of the shoes that come in wide sizes are way too big in the heel. Vaneli’s wide shoes have a wide enough toe box, but are not wide in the heel. I feel like buying a pair of their pumps in every color so I can avoid shoe shopping drama for a while!

  9. No fear of fashion

    Very useful post. I have a question though: do you have a normal or a high instep? Or, like me, a low instep?
    I have one pair of Prada shoes (my one and only true expensive pair) which are similar to the ones you are showing. I find them extremely comfortable and like them underneath trousers. They are slightly higher than the ones you are showing, but still significally lower than my normal heels.
    After seeing your post I think I should buy more of them. I am not sure about the kitten heels though. They are feminine but the last pair of shoes I had with these heels were very difficult to keep nice. I had to take them to the cobbler every time I wore them. Somehow I seem to walk as if I am on flat boots, thus damaging the heels.

  10. Joan

    I have problems with fluid retention and neuroma’s so I have to have shoes that can expand — my podiatrist recommended the Munro traveler and it truly is a fantastic shoe for wearing with pants/skirts but for those of you who can wear heels (back problems eliminate that for me now) they also have several pump styles each season with the same stretch fabric — it really is wonderful stuff for those of us who’s feet grow a full shoe size in the course of a day.

  11. Gracey the Giant

    Those Fitzwells are perfection. My current leopard pair is just not comfortable enough for my toes so I might have to trade them out.

    Also, you mention Gentle Souls and I want to second that recommendation. I just got my first pair this month and they are stupid comfortable.