Sensible chic? Or old lady shoes?

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I think I’m going through a transition – from the ankles down. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but one of the following two theories is probably true: Either I’ve acquired an affinity for comfy shoes I once thought of as “old lady shoes,” or… old ladies are wearing cuter shoes than they used to. My vanity hopes it’s the latter.

red shoes2When I was a teenager and went shopping with my mother, she’d always hold up a shoe and say something tragically practical like, “Why don’t you try this one? It looks like it would be comfortable.” And I would roll my eyes (in the oh-so-charming way teenagers do) and say something snarky like “Mom, those are totally old lady shoes. I would never wear those.”

Fast forward 25 years, and here I am, browsing through the shoe store, finding myself drawn to shoes that look a lot like the ones my mom suggested all those years ago. At least three times during the past year or so, I’ve noticed that women who are likely AARP members are wearing the same shoes I have.

Just the other day, I was looking for a new pair of shoes online and reading reviews posted by people who’d already bought them. One of the reviews posted said this:skecher ultrasock “This knit shoe is like a very good support sock. They hold your feet and mold to it, bend when you walk, and have very good anti-slip soles. They are great for an old woman like me, who wants comfortable shoes that are safe for walking and at the same time attractive.”

And you know what? That glowing review posted by “an old woman” did not deter me from buying those shoes. I bought them and took them on a 5-day sightseeing trip to New York, where I walked all over the most fashionable city in the world. I’m wearing them right now, and my feet couldn’t be happier.

But how did I get here? Have I really gone from sexy, strappy heels to shoes with “very good anti-slip soles” without even realizing I’ve gone through this fashion menopause?

Back in my teens and twenties, there were only two categories of shoes – cute and sensible – and I never sacrificed cute for shoes that made sense. My feet were young, foolish and vain. They thought they were indestructible.

But now, those same feet have an extra few decades of life experience. They’ve carried around three babies. They’ve seen their share of blisters. They’ve been sore too many times, and they’re more than done with needless suffering.

These days, my feet see me looking at a killer pair of stilettos and I can practically hear them screaming up at me: “Are you freaking crazy? We’ll break an ankle in those shoes. You’ll never feel your toes again. Put those down immediately and pick up whatever that gray-haired lady is looking at.”

So, I admire the shiny heels but then drift over to shoes I know have a far better chance of actually being worn, versus collecting dust in my closet. I like to call this shoe category “comfy cute” or “sensible chic.” But who am I kidding? My teenage-self would call them “old lady shoes.”

But thanks to the gift of time and experience, I realize now that my teenage-self didn’t know nearly as much as she thought she did. In the 80s, she thought shoulder pads and blue eyeshadow were smart choices, too. Clearly, her judgement wasn’t always on point.

So, I’m making peace with my more “mature” shoe choices. I’ll still slip on a great pair of heels when I’m wearing a dress worthy of them, but I’ll be counting the minutes until I’m back in those memory foam sneakers that are perfect for a spin around the grocery store. If and when comfort becomes fashionable, I’ll be right in style.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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