Beverly Beckham

Shoes to die for - but not to walk in

(Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File)
By Beverly Beckham
Globe Columnist / November 2, 2008
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They were incredibly impractical but absolutely beautiful things, black suede, foldover shoe boots with stiletto heels. They were fun. They were fashionable. And they were on sale.

Plus I had a coupon.

They were not what I needed, not what I was looking for, and not anything I could actually walk in. But I loved them and when the salesman asked if I would like to try them on, I said yes.

I stood. I posed. I strutted in front of a mirror. They were the most frivolous shoes ever. They were exactly what not to wear in the inclement Northeast. They were too high and an accident waiting to happen.

Yet they were exactly what I wanted.

What is it about stilettos anyway? They're like young men with a package of Lucky Strikes sticking out of a rolled-up T-shirt sleeve. No matter your age, they get your attention.

My grandmother Kay was in her 70s and still couldn't pass a display of high heels without swooning and sitting down to try on a pair. Her closet was full of leopard and patent leather she couldn't walk in. She sat in them though. She put them on to read a book or a magazine. She put her feet high on a hassock, looked up over her glasses now and then and smiled. She said fancy shoes made her feel fancy.

I am not like my grandmother. I don't buy shoes just to sit in. But I don't buy them to walk in, either. I buy them when I need them - blue satin to match a blue satin dress - or when they're on sale. Cocoa brown Italian leather boots set on a stacked wooden heel? Fake glass ballroom slippers that look just like Cinderella's? Purple Mary-Jane style patent leather sandals with crisscross straps?

All bargains.

OK, bargains I never wore because the boots were too big, the slippers too small, and, though the sandals were just right, who wears bright purple? But I made these bad decisions a long time ago. I was young. I was immature. I am mature now.

So last week I went in search of practical shoes, shoes for traipsing through airports, shoes for ice and snow, shoes I wouldn't kick off in movie theaters and dark restaurants, shoes that didn't pinch or squeeze or send stabbing pains through my sole.

And I found them right away in assorted colors in a mall specialty store, dozens of shoes with arch supports and stretchable leather and adjustable straps and thick, walking-friendly heels.

They were everything I needed: comfortable, practical, and durable. But they were not pretty. They were not pretty at all.

I suppose it's possible to plunk down hard cash for a pair of ugly shoes. My mother did; for years, she paid for corrective shoes for me. But the second I was the one buying my shoes, it was all about looks. Forget how they feel.

But I had seen the light, and I was through with that mindset.

I chose black leather pumps with a roomy toe and comfortable heel. They fit. They were cushioned. I could walk in them.

But I put them down and walked away, down the escalator, back to the incredibly impractical but absolutely beautiful black suede boots with stiletto heels.

In the end I didn't buy them, either. I just drooled over them a little longer. I bought black clogs that aren't heels but have a little height and are so comfortable I forget to take them off.

My grandmother wouldn't wear them. But I can walk in them. And really, isn't that what shoes are for?

Canton resident Beverly Beckham can be reached at

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