Shoes – A Style Superhero

It's all about the shoes. Wear your ballet flats and bring a little French style to your day

You all knew that, one day, I’d return to the topic of shoes. It simply had to happen. In fact, it honestly surprises me that it has taken me so long to get around to writing about footwear again. Why? Because shoes are hands down my style superhero.

The right shoes have saved me from potential style disasters way more times than Superman ever saved Lois Lane.

Now, I know I’m not the only woman on the planet who is a fan of great shoes. But what is it about the right footwear that can lift your style game from so-so to sensational?

Three Reasons To Adore Shoes

  1. Shoes can make a statement. A statement shoe can take something as simple as jeans and a t-shirt to the next level. And for me, there has been a many an uninspired workday outfit that has been elevated by a brightly coloured, elegant or off-beat pair of shoes.
  2. Shoes are faithful. They don’t let you down when your weight is fluctuating. They are trans-seasonal. And they are slower than average to go out of fashion. But you need to love them back. If you want your shoes to last, you need to take care of them. Cleaning, polishing, reheeling. All of these actions are important if you want get value from your shoes. Making friends with the local shoe repair person is well and truly worth the effort, in my opinion.
  3. Shoes can be versatile style work-horses. Unlike some wardrobe items that can only be worn with limited pieces, most pairs of shoes can complement multiple outfits, clever little things that they are.

Parisians And Shoes

French women seem to understand the power of fantastic shoes. A while back, I had the pleasure of spending a magical day with three gorgeous Parisian women. I learned so much about what Parisians like and don’t like that day – and my education naturally included footwear. Here’s some of what I gleaned from our conversations.

  1. Flat shoes are very popular in Paris.
  2. When it comes to styles, flat shoes can take a variety of forms – whatever takes your fancy really. Depending on the time of year, you see riding boots, flat ankle boots, ballet flats and sandals everywhere.
  3. It’s ok to wear sneakers. This is despite the continual warnings that, other than Converse sneakers, French women don’t wear running shoes. Not true – I’ve now had it confirmed that they certainly do. I have to point out that they are cool sneakers though – nothing overly large or overly white.
  4. Heels aren’t worn as much as you might think. While you do see some heels – often combined with a suit – heels are usually only worn from the car to the restaurant or for very special occasions. This one doesn’t particularly surprise me…the cobblestones can be a nightmare when you are in heels.

How To Curate A Shoe Wardrobe

Despite what you might have been led to believe, you don’t need hundreds of pairs of shoes to make it in life. But from a style perspective, it is helpful to have at least a small range of options. While your exact shoe wardrobe would depend on your lifestyle, here is what I’d recommend as a starting point:

  1. A pair of ballet flats, in a colour to complement your wardrobe colour palette.
  2. A pair of summer sandals – personally, I like metallic shades or tan.
  3. A pair of ankle boots, in a versatile shade.
  4. A pair of knee-high boots, for the dead of winter. They look great with skirts or jeans.
  5. At least one pair of stunning heels. But if you work in a corporate career, I’d suggest at least two pairs. I know some women who tend to wear the same pair of heels day in, day out (if I’m being completely transparent, I went through a stage where I did this). If you are working in an environment where heels are expected, it makes sense to own more than one pair so you can give your feet a rest and change up your look. A good starting point is one black pair and a statement pair.
  6. Exercise shoes, for – well, exercising. If you think you’d like to try the sneaker trend in line with the Parisians, I’d suggest you select a separate pair especially for your casual outfits.

One Final Thought

For me, shoes – even some of my favourite French varieties – are consumables. You can read more about why I think this way right here. While I still can’t bring myself to consider a pair of shoes an investment piece, I am happy to invest in quality, comfortable and stylish shoes. This is mainly due to the fact that while I’ll never give up on style, I’ve long since passed the age where I can endure sore feet for even the shortest period of time. Therefore my true superhero shoes look fabulous and are comfortable at the same time. And yes, you can find them, if you are prepared to do your research, which basically means being on the lookout for new styles, and always trying footwear on before you hand over your cash.

Your turn now. Are shoes a style superhero in your wardrobe? Do you have a go-to pair of shoes? As always, I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

And until next time – au revoir.

About Janelle

I believe that everyone can bring French elegance and inspiration to their life, no matter where they happen to live in the world. They only need to learn a secret or two to be on their way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll have access to the secrets that allow you to bring the best of the French lifestyle into your everyday life. I’m talking about things like style advice, recipes and book reviews. And you’ll also receive regular doses of French inspiration, as well as travel and packing tips galore.

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8 thoughts on “Shoes – A Style Superhero

  • Diane

    Great post, Janelle! I haven’t worn heels in years and am all about the flats now. They’re easy to walk in (and I do a lot of walking) and they’re safer. I hurt my ankle a few years ago and it’s never been 100% since so even thinking about heels makes me nervous. There are so many flat or near-flat shoes that are stylish and last. Years ago I spent a decent amount of money on a pair of boots from Cole Haan, sandals from Kenneth Cole and a pair of clogs from Dansko and all 3 lasted, no lie, about 7-8 years, with steady wear. These days I wear a lot of gym shoes (to the gym, walking the dog, errands) but stylish ones, like you said. 😉 Bon dimanche!

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks so much Diane. My corporate day job requires heels (although mine are always relatively low) but the rest of the time, I am a fan of flats. I love the fact that the investments you made lasted you so well. I think your experience really sums up the balance between investing in quality and expecting it to last forever.

  • Taste of France

    Stunning heels can be low. They don’t need to be sky high.
    It’s pretty easy to look through Pinterest or Instagram to see the “right” kinds of athletic shoes to wear fashionably. They are mostly retro styles (Stan Smiths, Chuck Taylors) that are no longer considered to be good designs for sports (sports shoes are more high tech). In white, black, beige, silver, gold, sequins, etc. Many choices, but not neon yellow/green, turquoise or fuchsia or anything that looks like it would match gym wear. (Though I have a pair of Chuck Taylor-style shoes that are fuschia, but lace. Which makes them clearly not for the gym. That must be the key. Athletic shoes are to be worn only for working out; faux-athletic/athleisure shoes can be worn casually. The French are picky–rigorous?–that way. The correct tool for the job.)
    All my friends shine their shoes regularly, like every week. Their shoes are always impeccable. Even leisure shoes.
    And they get rid of shoes that are getting worn out. As you say, they are consumables. Shoes may last several years max, but not forever.

    • Janelle Post author

      Thank you so much for sharing all those local insights Catherine – I really appreciate them! You’ve explained the difference between gym shoes and sneakers brilliantly. I agree with you about heels not having to be sky high – I haven’t worn sky heels for such a long time. We are so lucky that you can now buy fabulous shoes in heel heights that we can actually stand around in!!

  • Alisa

    I think you really nailed it, Janelle!
    I would add one other piece of footwear: something to wear in the rain. There are so many cute rubber shoes and boots now that I cannot imagine not having at least one pair.
    One thing that you did not mention is the ankle strap that is so French – not a strap high across the instep, but squarely (roundly?) around the ankle. On heels, flats, or wedges it adds a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.
    May I mention some brands? Repetto is the iconic ballet flat, in every imaginable color (I love your photo at the top!) but I find them to be not very comfortable, the sole is very thin. I usually buy my ballet flats at André, a chain shoe store with very populist prices. (50 to 60 euros for leather ballerines at André, versus about 275 for Repetto – plus I like them better). An even less expensive ballerina option is La Halle, another chain – I bought four pairs of basic colors, in leather, for about 35 euros each. Not quite as nice as André, but still quite serviceable everyday ballerinas. (La Halle is also my go-to shop for the padded insoles I need for my Repettos!)

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks for the André tip Alisa – I think you’ve shared that one before but I’ve not made there yet. Another to-do item for me when I’m back in Paris in May! I must admit that while I am a fan of Repetto, like you, I tend to use insoles if I want to wear them for any length of time. Thank you too for the reminder about rain boots – as someone who lives in a country that spends way too much time in drought, it unsurprising that I didn’t even think to include that sort of footwear.

  • Jan Leishman

    When I was a child, it was my job at home to shine everyone’s shoes – parents’, sisters’ and my own. of course, back then it was mainly brushes and Kiwi polish! But I loved doing it and bringing the shine back to the leather. I still love it, and though I now use mostly creams, I also have those flat Kiwi polish tins and really get into the brushing and shining when I can. It’s probably a little bizarre, but I also like ironing!

    • Janelle Post author

      Oh wow Jan – what an amazing skill to have. And even better if you love it. Gotta tell you – I don’t mind shining or maintaining my shoes (and for the record there are some Kiwi tins in my cupboard). But I don’t think I’m ever going to fall in love with ironing no matter how hard I try!