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All about shoes

Styles

Go ahead and admit it: shoes are difficult to hate. They flatter even on "fat" days, add zip to even the most boring outfit and instantly boost your sex appeal.

Even if your passion for shoes doesn't approach a Celine Dion-level of devotion (500 pairs and counting), you'll find now is the time to indulge in trendy styles. We're definitely experiencing a shoe moment in fashion and what you wear down below may even be more important than the sum of your total outfit.

The media have sparked an intense interest in high-end designers like fashionista fave Manolo Blahnik by reporting on Hollywood celebs who wear the styles, including Jennifer Aniston who got married in a custom pair. Even "Sex and the City"character Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is obsessed with the $500+ styles.

Apparel is cycling on hyper trends, bouncing from Utility Chic to the '70s to the '80s in just a few seasons, with varying degrees of disinterest from consumers.

On the other hand, footwear isn't crippled by the same sort of style schizophrenia. Instead, boots have become Fall/Winter staples, and sandals a year-round fave. The fabrics and colors may change, but shapes are sticking around for longer than a nanosecond.

The Net has even contributed to the footwear fad by making even the most exclusive styles available just a few clicks away (see Elsewhere on the Web).

Boots
Some historians point out that boots are the type of footwear most closely associated with war and thereby signal strength.

Tall, tight boots may also signal torture. The New York Observer reported that women of all sizes are having trouble cramming aerobicized calves into snug boots: "Which has left scores of women chagrined about not being able to zip up this season’s boots and asking themselves, What, a new body part I have to feel insecure about?"

If you don't find a tall pair of boots to fit, don't fret because the mid-calf and ankle styles are just as chic and much less stressful to fit. Stretch suede or fabric add comfort to tall styles.

Boots are shown in everything from flat boots to kitten heels to high heels. Shorter styles work best with pants, mid-calf styles work with cropped pants and skirts, knee-high boots work best with skirts.

Remember that boots count as statement footwear so you need to make sure that the rest of your outfit contains simple, clean lines. Unless you are a professional stylist, the more is more thing is slippery at best.

Heels
Although high heels were originally designed for women in the early 16th century, men took a shine to the height boost and adapted the style for themselves. Louis XIV was said to have been such a fan that he imposed a death penalty on anyone except the "privileged class" who dared to wear them.

Today, open-toed (peep toe), slingbacks, mules and a host of other sexy, feminine styles make an appearance. Look for sculptured, feminine heels: clunky is out.

Men's
Who says girls get to have all the fun? Not footwear designers like Kenneth Cole who shows sleek boots for guys in exotic-look skins like ostrich and snake skin.

Men's footwear even gets kicky with squared-off toes and comfy, thick soles. Black and brown are the main colors for him, with smooth leathers, nubuck and suede dressing things up a bit.

Get fit

If the shoe doesn't fit, don't buy it. It won't stretch enough to be comfortable and goodness knows, your feet will never shrink. Make sure you follow these guidelines:

  • There should be about 1/2" between the tip of your biggest toe and the end of the shoe.
  • Stand up when being fitted because feet are longer when you're standing.
  • Buy shoes at the end of the day when feet are largest.
  • Measure both of your feet - they may not be the same size.

Stay healthy
It may sound chic to say you have to suffer for fashion, but corns, bunions, hammer toes, shortened calf muscles and ingrown toenails don't sound like "must-haves" for the fash pack. These afflictions may be exactly what you're getting when you reach everyday for the stilettos instead of the Rockports.

A report last year from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons found that only 21 percent of women wore high heels (more than two inches) to work, compared with 34 percent 10 years ago, according to OnHealth.com.

Instead, women are reaching for sensible shoes. 

The ideal shoes? Some podiatrists recommend one-and-a-half to two-inch chunky heels with padded insoles and plenty of room for the toes to move, according to eFit.com

Improve foot health

  • Limit the amount of time you wear high heels. Alternate with good quality flats for part of the day, and choose comfort shoes for weekends and casual use.
  • Choose shoes that give your toes room to move. Experts recommend laced, rather than slip on shoes for best fit.
  • Make sure your sandals have straps.
  • For high heels with thin soles, you can even have a thin rubber sole cemented to the bottom of the shoe to cushion the foot.
  • According to Dr. David Stege, a specialist in foot and ankle disorders, even nylon pantyhose can cause excessive perspiration which may encourage fungal infections like athlete's foot. "Inexpensive nylon pantyhose can also cause forefoot problems...the cramping and pressure of the hose can contribute to ingrown toenails and hammertoes," according to his web site.

Special foot considerations
If you're over 65 make sure you choose lightweight, shock-absorbing soles that are not slippery and  leather uppers that breathe.

If you're pregnant, realize that your feet may grow a full size -- give up the high heels! Look for substantial, comfy styles with thick, supportive soles.

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