Get ready for a time warp (remember the CD/video warehouse clubs that used to come in the mail with the huge sheet of colorful stamps?) – the hottest thing in shoes is right now is monthly shoe subscription sites.

I’ve noticed 3 major competitors on the scene: ShoeDazzle, JustFabulous and Sole Society. All of these companies will give you some pretty great shoes for very low prices and free shipping. But realistically (well, for all but the most ardent shoe addicts), if you’re going to subscribe to get inexpensive shoes every single month, you probably don’t have a ton of extra cash (or else you’d be stocking up on Manolos instead), so you’ll probably have to choose just one to try out first. I decided to do the dirty work for you and try to figure out what really separates these companies from one another. From fashion founders to who has the best pictures, here’s the lowdown:

HOW ALL 3 SITES ARE ALIKE – ShoeDazzle, JustFabulous and Sole Society all offer free shipping and free exchanges within 30 days (items returned for a cash refund are a different story). Each site will also give you personal shoe picks (based on VERY similar “Which shoe/celeb/runway pic do you like better” quizzes) along with additional shoe options on the side that are available to everyone. And if you don’t like the shoes that were chosen for you, each site will happily provide you with new options. You can have shoe selections sent to you to view for free for as long as you want, but once you make your first purchase, you are automatically enrolled in that company’s monthly club. After you’re enrolled, your credit card will be charged, and you get 1 item, every month unless you actively opt out before the 5th of each month (gotta stay up to date on those emails!). But there’s no limit to the number of months you can opt out. Surprisingly, there’s little else that the sites copy one another on.


Sole Society, launched in February 2011 by shopping site Hautelook (which is owned by Nordstrom) is the newest shoe subscription site around. Their team of 6 Fashion Insiders (or Sole Sisters – read more here) includes actress Bree Turner and experienced fashion bloggers, editors and buyers from all over the web.

COST – $49.95 a month for 1 shoe every month

WHAT YOU GET- At the beginning of every month, Sole Society will send out an email announcing that 6 pairs of shoes picked just for you are available to be viewed in “My Closet.” If you don’t like their picks and request alternate shoes, the original 6 pairs are all put back into their inventory and can no longer be purchased (well, not easily). Sole Society does not ask you for any feedback on what types of shoes you’re looking for instead. Sole Society does encourage you to contact them though, if you see a shoe from one of their Trends page fashion spreads that you’d like to have added to your Closet, so I’m sure the same could go for a shoe from your previous Closet picks. You only have the option to request new shoes once per month.

Your shoe choices are centered around high heels, especially platforms right now, but they also have flat sandals and wedges for April.

Fantasia from Sole Society

VALUE – All the shoes Sole Society offers are from their exclusive Marco Santi collection. They claim Marco Santi is a designer quality label which I believe is supposed to justify the slightly higher monthly membership; but since the brand was created just for them, you kind of have to take their word for it. However, it is significant to add that many of the shoes in your personal selections are genuine leather, unlike the shoes featured on the other sites I’ve reviewed here, which can definitely be worth an extra $10 (Note: there are fabric and faux leather shoes offered on Sole Society too).

SHOPPING EXPERIENCE – Sole Society gave me a cool, in-depth Style Bio after I finished their introductory quiz, which they told me they’d be basing my shoe picks on. Apparently I’m “Fierce, Sexy, Modern – you make a statement wherever you go with your daring and unexpected style. You stamp a hip aesthetic over every look, whether you’re in sweats on the weekend or wearing a show-stopping mini-skirt and heels. You’re all about confidence and individuality, and are able to pull off anything from vibrant print tops to curve-contouring pencil skirts. Your closet is full of sexy items including tailored jackets, faux fur and anything leopard.” Oh yeah! (except for the leopard part – only in moderation ;)). But if, after a while, you think that bio just isn’t getting you the shoes you really lust after, you can easily change it at any time in your My Closet page. ” Daring, Unexpected, Cutting-Edge” instead, maybe?

In My Closet, you are not shown whether other color options are available for the shoes selected for you, though often there are 2 colors to choose from when you click on the shoe to view more details. On the pages describing each individual shoe, each picture has a nice zoom option. Be careful not to miss the extra pictures though; only 4 are displayed initially. You have to press the light gray arrows above or below the picture list to view more. Sole Society also usually includes 2 model outfits that would work with the shoes. However, there is are no links or brand names given to identify the clothing in those pictures. There is also a box with Notes from the Fashion Insiders that often gives an outfit idea or some other comment about the shoes.

Sole Society lets you see the number of people that have liked a shoe on Facebook when you hover over a picture in My Closet, unfortunately when you click on the shoe to view more details, you don’t get anything else review-wise. Sole Society does want you to rate how much you like the shoes visually based on color, style and the heel and you can see your own ratings (not sure how that’s helpful), but there are no statistics shown from other users. Hopefully though, since they’re gathering that information, they will display or do something with it in the future.

Also on the website, Sole Society has a fun Fashion Insider of the Month feature (this month it’s the owners of nail polish brand Ginger + Liz). Unfortunately, you cannot add the polish to your Sole Society cart and there are no links either. The Trends page is similar: outfits are displayed pairing the shoes with fashionable clothing (brand names are given) but there are no links or information on where to purchase the clothes (VERY surprising since the company is owned by Nordstrom!).

RETURNS – Sole Society offers free exchanges within 30 days as mentioned above for all sites. But, they deduct a $7.95 restocking fee and a $9.00 return shipping fee for any items returned for a refund. There is no fee for items returned for an exchange (continental US only). So, basically, sell the shoes to a friend if you don’t want another pair as an exchange.

BONUS – Thanks to Marie Claire magazine, you can get $10 off your first pair of shoes until April 30, 2011 with the code SPRING10. Also, you can earn a free pair of shoes for every 3 friends you refer who also make a purchase.

FINE PRINT – If, for some reason, you forget to check your email for years or just never manage to make that 5th day of the month cut-off, you actually won’t end up paying Sole Society thousands of dollars. Once you accumulate 3 credits (or $150) in your account, you will not be charged a monthly membership fee again until you redeem a credit for shoes. So, if you’re super forgetful (and/or are a chronic amnesic shoe-a-holic), Sole Society’s credit limit will costs you the least out of all the sites reviewed. However, please note that that $150 can be charged to you EVERY YEAR (per their FAQs, credits are only valid for 12 months).

The one year expiration date for credits also means there is the possibility that you will not get shoes you technically paid for – and this is probably one catch that made these subscription sites lucrative in the past: If you forget to skip months and try to use your credits as quickly as possible so they don’t expire, you open yourself up to another monthly membership charge, and if you don’t use the credits, you could be paying $150 for nothing (except looking at pretty pictures).

If you wish to cancel your membership, Sole Society is, by far, the easiest site to work with. You can cancel by calling their customer service (6am – 6pm PST or 9am – 9pm for the East Coast crowd), emailing them or just visiting your My Account page online – there’s a link at the bottom of that page. They also have live chat!!

JustFabulous started in 2010. Founded by Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr (also co-founders of WhoWhatWear, an online fashion magazine), the site also boasts 2 celebrity stylists completing the team. The site promises you access to up-to-the-minute trends without the expensive celebrity price tags.

COST – $39.95 a month for 1 shoe or bag every month

WHAT YOU GET – JustFabulous features shoes and handbags! At the beginning of every month, JustFabulous will send out an email announcing that 6 pairs of shoes and 6 bags picked out for you are available to be viewed in “My Boutique.” If one or more options have sold out, you will also be given some Sold Out Solutions for each unavailable item (JustFabulous recommends that you view your Boutique as soon as possible on the 1st of the month since they do tend to sell out of popular items quickly). And if you’re totally shoe crazy, there’s a link to 3 more bonus options that almost made your Boutique (but are still available for you to purchase). If you don’t like the shoes and/or bags they found for you, you can complete a short questionnaire detailing what you’d prefer instead and select to keep any of the original shoes and bags you liked.

In The Haute List tab at the top of the site, you also can view/buy the top 4 shoes and 4 handbags chosen each month by JustFabulous’ Style Experts. Plus, there are approximately 10-14 more items updated weekly under the Featured Styles tab (for April there are lots of rainboots) which are available to everyone for a limited time. AND you get access to the W3 collection (17 items) with a great Style Guide inspired by the WhoWhatWear website.

The shoe options are heavy on the towering heels, especially platforms right now, but they also have flat sandals, wedges, ankle booties, chunky heels, ballet flats and knee boots. The bags range from clutches and hobos to totes and cross-body styles.

JustFabulous is also carrying a full line of Fab Soles, from the makers of Foot Petals. Since they’re from Foot Petals and are priced identically, they appear to be exactly the same (just less petal-y in shape).

Jackson from the W3 Collection at JustFabulous

VALUE – I noticed that many of the handbags JustFabulous sells (for $39.95 each) are from the Vieta brand and can be purchased online at the company’s site ranging from about $60-$100. For an example, check out JustFabulous’ Dusk barrel bag on The Haute List, which is also here on the Vieta site. I think Vieta’s prices are really inflated for man-made/PVC bags, but if you don’t agree, you can say you’re getting a great deal! I do think JustFabulous has priced the bags pretty accurately though – you’d usually pay about $40 for a similar bag in New York City’s Chinatown, for example.  So for people without the desire to hunt or who don’t live anywhere near NYC or another major metropolis where I’m sure similar stores exist, JustFabulous’ bags could be a great low cost option. All their shoes are also made from man-made materials or fabric (no leather); so think Payless quality (side note: Payless has given me a few of my favorite shoes of all time, so I’m not knocking it!).

SHOPPING EXPERIENCE – JustFabulous gets tons of points for their videos of someone walking in every pair of shoes (surprisingly useful), their Reviews section and their styling ideas. JustFabulous is the ONLY site that lets customers post full written reviews for any item. They also display a handy Member Fit Survey, an Overall Summary rating, and tell you what percentage of members who purchased this style would recommend it – all in case you just want a quick overview. And, proving that the site is run by experienced style watchers, JustFabulous features 2 really amazing style boards with complete outfit options underneath each shoe (with different shoe colors). The best part about the style boards is that they actually link to the other sites where you can purchase the clothing from like TopShop and ModCloth! A+

Things that need improvement mainly involve the handbag section: bad partial interior shots, bad partial descriptions (how many interior pockets?), no video (which would be cool to see the bag opening and closing or how much can fit inside), no style boards, and no photos of the bag on a person or mannequin to scale the dimensions (measurements are in the details). However, the Haute List does have a video posted for ideas on wearing those featured bags.

RETURNS – JustFabulous offers free exchanges within 30 days as mentioned above for all sites. But they deduct a $5.95 restocking fee for any items returned for a refund. There is no fee for items returned for an exchange.

BONUS- Get 1/2 off one pair of shoes on the day you join. You can also earn a free item when you refer 2 friends who make a purchase and another free item every time you reach 100 points (20 points earned per shoe or bag bought, so every 6th item is free). Plus, right now you can get free shipping if you add a pair of Fab Soles to your order along with a pair of shoes or a handbag.

FINE PRINT – If, for some reason, you forget to check your email for years or just never manage to make that 5th day of the month cut-off, you actually won’t end up paying JustFabulous thousands of dollars. Once you accumulate 5 credits in your account, you won’t be charged again until you use one. So your maximum debt at one time is capped at a little under $200. Their FAQs do not state that credits here will expire – the only site that doesn’t.

To cancel your membership, you must call customer service (which means you have to reach them during their business hours, 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM PST or 10 AM to 7 PM for us East Coasters). But JustFabulous does also have Live Chat available during those same business hours.

According to co-founder, Kim Kardashian’s Showroom bio, ShoeDazzle began in March 2009. She, along with Anya Sarre of ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and ‘The Insider’, and 8 other fashion stylists with extensive resumes make up the team which promise an intimate shopping experience customized to make you feel beautiful and pampered.

COST – $39.95 a month for 1 shoe, bag or jewelry set every month

WHAT YOU GET – ShoeDazzle features shoes, handbags and jewelry, plus a chance to score some clothing and random fun stuff too! At the beginning of very month, ShoeDazzle will send out an email announcing that 5 pairs of shoes, 5 bags and 5 jewelry sets picked out for you are available to be viewed in “My Showroom.” You can also see 14 or 15 more shoes that almost made the cut. Plus, if you don’t love your personal section of the first 5 shoes, you can request alternates be chosen for you once per month by completing a short survey about what you’d like to see instead (and you’ll still be able to view and purchase the items from the original picks – so I suggest ALWAYS requesting alternates for more shopping fun!)

The shoe options here are mainly crazy tall heels, especially with platforms, as on the other sites, but they also have flat sandals, wedges, ankle booties, ballet flats and knee boots.

Scroll down further in your Showroom, to browse a frequently changing (but often sold out) assortment of monthly Featured items. Here ShoeDazzle has listed shoes that were styled into their Featurettes (fun fashion photo shoots that appear on the homepage and across the top of My Showroom) as well as items like their multi-pack of Foot Petals brand foot cushions (at ShoeDazzle’s $39.95 price it’s actually cheaper than retail) and their current Casual Chic shoe collection of 14 sneakers (the first of these websites to offer sneakers!).

ShoeDazzle really dazzles when you connect your Facebook account. When you link up, you can use ShoeDazzle’s Friends’ Showroom feature to view the Showrooms for stylists Kim Kardashian, Anya Sarre and Heather Zweigel as well as any of your Facebook friends’ who have joined. This means you can buy the stylists’ and any of your friends’ 15 Showroom items (as long as they’re not already sold out) for tons of extra options.

And there’s more: ShoeDazzle is taking a cue from other limited time only sale sites and sending Dazzle Deals every Tuesday and Thursday via email. The Deals start at 9 a.m. (PST) and go until 9 p.m. (PST) the following day or when the item has sold out, whichever comes first. Recent Dazzle Deals have displayed dresses, beachwear and a Proliss curling iron set all for the same $39.95 per item membership price.

Unfortunately, ShoeDazzle does NOT give you more options if some of your handbags or jewelry selections have sold out and you cannot request alternates either if you don’t like the options they gave you (you’re only allowed to choose alternates for shoes). But you can add yourself to a Waitlist for any item to be notified via email if more are re-ordered.

Nellie from ShoeDazzle

VALUE – While most of the heels are marked as ShoeDazzle brand on the insoles, the sneakers in their Casual Chic feature are all brand name items like Chinese Laundry Wash, Skechers Sport, Pony, Mia and Converse. I also spotted a few brand name handbags like Melie Bianco and Nila Anthony (usual range $50-$99). But, please note that all the bags and most of the shoes are made from man-made/synthetic materials, not leather. The only exceptions I found were the Casual Chic collection of brand name shoes.

SHOPPING EXPERIENCE – I liked that ShoeDazzle tells you what they’re basing your selections on; when you complete their Style Quiz, they give you a style category along with your matches for designers, colors and patterns. Mine said I was artistic, whimsical and free-spirited – I think so! But if you think they’re totally off, make sure you don’t leave that area until you’re satisfied. There is a link to re-take the quiz on that final results page, but no way to do it again after you leave.

ShoeDazzle only allows shoppers to rate an item on a scale of 1 to 5 stars and they let anyone rate, not just people who have purchased the item. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem (I like being able to rate things without being required to buy them first), but without any written reviews or fit information available (except what’s listed in the About the Style section where most every shoe is “true to size”), the rating becomes almost worthless. You can’t tell whether the ratings are mostly based on the look of the shoe or important things like fit and comfort. The exception is when you connect with Facebook. When you have your Facebook account linked with ShoeDazzle you can post shoes you like to your own wall and get comments from your own friends (could be helpful if you just want opinions on looks or choosing between 2 styles). Facebook connecting also gets you access to the Stylists’ Showrooms, where you can view and reply to random peoples’ comments on those picks (and vice versa) – so at least for some shoes, you might be able to give and share info about fit.

When you click on an item to see more information, ShoeDazzle lists detailed photos including a shot of someone wearing the item (including wearing the bags! Extra points!), a zoom feature and, for most styles, a complete outfit. The model’s outfit specifics (like brand and price) are not provided, but if you’ve connected to Facebook, the stylist that picked that item will give you another idea in a sentence or two about how to wear the item. Another functionality comment though – since you can see that alternate colors are available for an item in My Showroom, I wish you could click those boxes to change the color of the picture there instead of having to open the item description page each time to see those other color choices.

Unfortunately, there was one other thing I was not happy with on the ShoeDazzle site. After you’ve signed into your free account and start shopping, ShoeDazzle will allow you to add items to your Shopping Bag but they will not let you view or edit your Shopping Bag until you’ve provided them with your credit card information – although they do still promise not to charge you until you’ve actually made your first purchase. I found this unnecessary and annoying since I add, compare and delete items from my Shopping Bag constantly – but maybe that’s just my strange habit and this won’t bother most of you. (Let me know your thoughts on this, readers. I’m curious to see how your online shopping habits compare.)

Luckily, ShoeDazzle does have a pretty fantastic YouTube channel with news, tips and behind the scenes fun, so that leveled the scales again.

RETURNS – ShoeDazzle offers free exchanges within 30 days as mentioned above for all sites. They also deduct a $5.95 restocking fee for any items returned for a refund. There is no fee for items returned for an exchange.

BONUS- Get 20& off your first item. You can also earn a free item every time you reach 1000 Style Points which can be amassed through referring friends who make a purchase (200 points for each friend) and buying items yourself (100 points for each item purchased, so excluding friend referrals, every 11th item is free).

FINE PRINT – If, for some reason, you forget to check your email for years or just never manage to make that 5th day of the month cut-off, you won’t end up paying ShoeDazzle thousands of dollars. Like JustFabulous, once you accumulate 5 credits in your account, you won’t be charged again until you use one. However, please note that that $200 can be charged to you EVERY YEAR (per their FAQs, credits are only valid for 12 months). Their one year expiration date also means that if you don’t use your credits, you could be paying ShoeDazzle up to $200 for nothing.

If you wish to cancel your membership, you can ONLY do so by calling customer service (which means you have to reach them during their business hours, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Pacific time. That’s 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those on New York time). ShoeDazzle specifically states accounts cannot be closed via email.

And that’s it. I hope you can find the right site for you and may your closets be filled with shoes.

CONGRATS TO OUR WINNER anashct!!

WIN these Asher wedges by Matisse!

Remember these awesome shoes from last week’s blog about espadrille trends for Spring? Well, how would you like to win a pair of these wedges? Thanks to Matisse, who are donating a pair for the contest, you’ve got your wish!

We’re giving away 1 pair of the Asher style endless espadrille wedge sandals (in your size) to 1 lucky winner.

To enter to win, there are only 3 steps:

1. Follow NYShoeSpy on Twitter (see handy link in the upper left corner of the blog)
2. Tweet an random awesome thing you saw today (don’t forget to include @NYShoeSpy in your tweet)
3. Leave a comment here on this blog telling me which of the shoes you own is your absolute favorite pair and why.

Remember to leave your twitter name or a valid email when you comment so I can contact you if you win.

I will use a random number generator to pick the winner on Sunday, April 3 so you have until midnight Friday, April 1 to enter (not an April Fools prank, I promise).

Good Luck! And thanks again to Matisse and SnL Communications!

Let’s start off with Lucky Magazine’s Spring Shoe Guide (March 2011) as an intro. They list these shoes to add to your warmer weather wardrobe: wood platforms, jeweled slingbacks, bold loafers (as in bold colors), platform pumps, flat espadrilles, sliver-wedge sandals, pointy-toe slingbacks and cork wedges, followed by 2 strap sandals (on strap around the ankle and one over the toes) as their shoe-of-the-month in the April 2011 issue.

My thoughts: The wood platforms, cork wedges and flat espadrilles are pretty standard, every-spring-they’re-for-sale shoes (although I realize there’s a 70s vibe going around which is making shoe stores a little extra wood heavy). And I’m going to skeptically say I’ll stay on the lookout for someone wearing jeweled slingbacks as daywear in NYC. I also doubt you’ll see many people in bright loafers this spring/summer, especially with wide-leg trousers and maxi skirts trending now (can’t really wear loafers with those). But, I think the pointy-toe slingbacks, sliver-wedge sandals and 2 strap sandals are all spot-on. The sliver-wedge sandals are a nice progression of winter’s version popularized by Loeffler Randall’s sliver-boots. And I think pointy-toes will become more and more plentiful as the year progresses.

But I’ve also spotted a few other (more?) interesting spring shoe trends popping up and they actually all involve espadrilles!

First, I’ve noticed espadrilles with frayed straps. These are definitely more for your casual days but hey, if you already have a pair of strappy canvas wedges, don’t be afraid to dip into D.I.Y and rough them up a bit ;). And if you prefer the new versions, below Steve Madden, Coconuts and others have done the distressing for you.

Second, I’m seeing a lot of espadrille heels that continue up the ankle to form the heel cup; I’m calling them endless espadrilles. These shoes are AMAZING because when they’re on, at first glance you look like you might be wearing impossibly tall heels.  They’re also especially nice because the style could hide a much lower heel like the 2.5 inch (I know!) version by Sam Edelman. And as a side note – yep, that brand in row 5 is Hunter of rainboot fame, apparently making some leather heels now.

Honorable mention goes to espadrilles that do not have covered ankles but instead feature an extra tall side portion or “cut-out” ankle strap that creates a similar illusion. Surprisingly, I found a nice example of these shoes at Old Navy which are a great option if you’re on a budget.

I still have one more trend for you further below, but for now, some picture proof!

FRAYED EDGES

Coconuts Avery

Bettye Muller Saffron

Steve Madden Fraid

ENDLESS ESPADRILLE HEELS

Matisse Asher

BCBGMAXAZRIA Malaga

Sam Edelman Leroy

Enzo Angiolini Ramie

Enzo Angiolini Romario

Hunter Anegada

HONORABLE MENTION

Old Navy Espadrille Wedges

Corso Como Decoy

Boutique 9 Illy

Not Too Coy Lydia

And last I’ve collected some irregular espadrille combos. Brands like Tory Burch and 3.1 Phillip Lim are marrying espadrille soles with a chukka or desert boot upper. This is probably best with a canvas boot and an excellent option when we’ve got those New York days where it’s warm for just a few hours in the afternoon sunshine and then you’ve got to put your jacket back on (like today!).

A few other brands, like Jeffrey Campbell and Prada, decided to add in an espadrille layer to a shoe that normally wouldn’t have it. This might technically shorten the seasonally appropriate lifespan of the shoes, but fashion rules are made to be broken. However, I’m not sure we should even call them espadrilles, and at the same time, I don’t think we can leave that out – it’s pretty distinctive. How about Espamaybelles? (I’ll break that down: espa-maybe-lles…? ok, well, I love it, haha).

Anyway, that’s it for now. Happy shopping all! And if you spot any other crazy espadrille hybrids, let me know.

Tory Burch Desert Bootie Espadrille

3.1 Phillip Lim lace up espadrille

Prada Lace-Up Cutout Wedge

Jeffrey Campbell Mary ESP

Mark & James Magnolia

Chinese Laundry Dragonfly

For over a decade, Pantone (the self-professed world-renowned authority on color) chooses a single color that they predict will be influential in the coming year. In case you missed it last year, their pick was 15-5519 Turquoise, because, as the official press release declared, “Turquoise transports us to an exciting, tropical paradise while offering a sense of protection and healing in stressful times.” For 2011, Pantone selected 18-2120 Honeysuckle – a medium reddish pink, and  released this statement: “Energizing honeysuckle lifts spirits and imparts confidence to meet life’s ongoing challenges.” Pretty heavy stuff. But if that isn’t a great reason to go shopping for a new pair of shoes, I don’t know what is ;)

So, the official color is Honeysuckle, but I think any pink or coral colored shoe will be in the spirit of things. And designers are knocking out tons of pink shoes for resort and spring collections, so finding a pair right now is easy. If you’re looking for something to start you off early and keep you cozy as the winter slowly ends, I recommend the Koolaburra ugg boots in a soft pink below or an enclosed pink suede pump like the pair pictured by Kelsi Dagger (with the cutest removable elastic bow!).

Pantone says that you can easily pair Honeysuckle with basic colors like black, navy, charcoal or light to mid gray. But, for something more exciting, they suggest mixing in complementary bronze greens or a pinkish Apricot Brandy brown hues into your wardrobe with it. I vote pairing these with a maxi dress or with jeans and a drapey cream-colored blouse. Just remember these shoes are made to be the focal point of a basic outfit.

For the start of warm weather, Manolo Blahnik flip flop sandals are actually an almost-affordable way to enjoy the brand. You should also take a look at jumping on two trends at once by going for a platform style (or a “flatform” – an essentially flat shoe as far as feel goes, with equal or near equally tall platforms front and back) or an espadrille (always a summer favorite). And of course, since I have a special place in my heart for Melissa shoes, I was happy to see they’re also making a few pink shoes this season so that I could feature one here.

You know, maybe there is something to what Pantone said; I already feel my spirits lifting just by imagining walking out of the house with these shoes. I’m sure we can rationalize a pair of two now, especially if our mental health is at stake ;)

Jeffrey Campbell The Turino Shoe

Koolaburra Savanitty

Kelsi Dagger Tiffany

Manolo Blahnik Suede-Flower Thong Sandal

Dolce Vita Strappy Platform Wedge

Prada Cutout Espadrille Wedge

Stella McCartney Raffia Crossover Sandals

Lanvin Ankle-Wrap Platform Wedge

seychelles harlow

Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Anglomania

I’ve noticed these shoes popping up here and there and I believe they’ll become a full fledged trend pretty soon. Recessed platforms or island platforms look like a chunk of platform was glued onto the bottom of an otherwise complete shoe at the last minute. That’s not the case, of course, as anyone with a broken heel who thought, “hey, maybe these can be flats”, will attest; the pitch of the heel must incorporate the extra height of the platform front. But that trick of the eye, especially when paired with a platform that is made in a totally contrasting color or material from the rest of the shoe, makes this style really stand out (and makes it my new favorite). Note: a true recessed platform will not reach all the way to the toe of the shoe and will stop abruptly in the back without any continuation beyond the area at the ball of the foot.

As I mentioned above, recessed platforms elevate (ha) platform styles into the double-take realm (just wear and watch!). And what’s even better is that this style can be found in stores now by new “it” designers like Charlotte Olympia for $895 all the way down to department store brands for $39.99!

Whether they have a sliver or a serious chunk of platform, these shoes clearly look best with ridiculously high heels. But if your feet scream in anything over 3 inches, don’t count these out – with the platform height added in, often the height the shoes feel like stays in that manageable 3 inch range (although you’ll look like you’re wearing closer to 4).

A few of my favorites in every price range are below, and as always, happy shopping!

L.A.M.B Charon

Elizabeth and James Mason

Isabel Toledo for Payless

Pour La Victoire Atman

Charlotte Olympia Dolly

Camilla Skovgaard

Olsen Haus Freedom

Worthington Atessa

Opening Ceremony Chantal

Jessica Simpson Colie

I’ve just added a review of Koolaburra boots to my Ugg Boot Faceoff! blog post. Click the link below to read the newest review or the complete comprehensive study I did, if you haven’t seen it yet.

Read the Ugg Boot Faceoff! EMU, Whooga, UGG Australia, BEARPAW & More!

Quick Trend Note – So I’ve noticed that rain boots are being updated in awesome ways lately. Do the rain boots currently in your closet have nothing but a quirky pattern? Ditch them! A solid and not too brightly colored boot is the easiest way to update your look this season. And with these new low-key colors, you won’t feel ridiculous wearing your rain boots all day when the weather forecasters turn out to be wrong (again). But to be really on trend, make sure that your rubber boots are spruced up with zippers, wedges, strap details, laces, trompe l’oeil designs or a sole that’s anything but flat! Rain boots can now come out and play even on the sunniest fall and winter days!

See By Chloe Classic

Hunter Boots Regent Savoy

The pocket design and faux quilting above are both fabulous examples of trompe l’oeil designs. Jimmy Choo came out with a great faux crocodile rubber boot that works too. The See by Chloe pair also has another of this season’s great rain boot accessories: laces! Whether they’re half laces up the front, full laces or back laces, everyone is using real strings to adorn their rubber wear right now (see below for more).

Loeffler Randall LR

Hunter Verbier

Kate Spade Randi

Melissa Ashanti

Long gone are the days when rain boots are simply flat and chunky. Today’s rain boots are trim, sleek and have heels in all shapes and heights. You can find rain boots with mini wedges or full 3 inch wedges, tall and low chunky heels, smooth riding boot heels and stilettos. Honestly I can find a reason to “need” one of every type.

Steve Madden Tsunamii

Cougar Regal

Tory Burch buckled rubber

Chooka London Town

I’ve also been seeing tons of motorcycle inspired rain boots with tons of straps and buckles topping rubber styles (KORS Michael Kors has another version). This style looks great with something a girly on top (a floaty, open cardigan sweater? a winter coat with a bit of ruffle?) to balance the toughness.

And below is one random standout – an OTK (over the knee) rainboot by Calvin Klein. If you’ve got long model legs, go for it! But if you’re a shortly like me, sadly it’s best to just pass on these. You’ll have a hard time walking up steps gracefully (and probably doing other common things like sitting) since rubber doesn’t bend as nicely as leather or fabric.

Now go shopping! ;)

Calvin Klein Ava

On a related topic, as I posted on my Facebook and Twitter, I’m wondering about wellie socks. Do they work in all types and brands of rainboots? Look out for a new blog with what I find coming up soon!

This is my second review of Cougar footwear (you can see the first review on a pair of their rain boots here). This time I’m trying out a pair of hard core winter boots. What? They’re too pretty to be serious winter wear with that silvery floral pattern up the leg? I know, I was a little skeptical too. Until I put them on, that is.

The Ravishing style is rated for comfort in temperatures down to negative 22 degrees depending on your level of activity. I’m totally fascinated by this: you can wear these boots outside in temperatures no less than 14 degrees if you’re mostly sitting or standing, down to  negative 11 degrees if you’re in frequent movement but with frequent stops, and down to negative 22 degrees if you’re in constant motion (and if I’m outside in negative 22 degree weather, you can bet the ONLY reason would be because I’m running for my life from a polar bear… so good to know).

Cougar Ravishing folded to different heights

in black

Next, the comfort. These Cougar boots are not heavy or stiff in any way (things I usually associate with waterproof boots) but they’re also not flimsy like they could tear at any moment. And yes, they are waterproof, not just water-resistant! The lower part of the boot is suede though, so you may want to spray them with some suede protector just to keep them looking nice. The boot shaft is a little tight so if you have serious calf muscles, you may want to try these on in stores or order from a website with free returns, but on my legs I felt snug as a bug in a rug (now that I have a baby, this stuff is slipping into my daily speech). The bungees are mostly for show. You can tighten them a bit, but the elastic straps are attached at the loops in the back, so don’t pull too hard. I wore these all day long without even a hint of a blister or ache. They were super super comfy to walk around in from day one.

all the way up

I’m also loving the height of the soles on these. And this story is totally related, I promise: I had a pair of Northface boots that I used a bit last winter. But, for some reason, all the traction and insulation or whatever they put on the boots made the soles have almost a 3 inch platform (I remember bending down to wash my hands before leaving one day and having an eerie parallel universe moment when I realized I was significantly taller than I was a few minutes ago… bending down to wash my hands? what!?). To get to the point, I ended up not wearing the boots much because although I never did slip, I always felt like I could easily fall off the platform and twist my ankle; it just seemed too risky when walking around on ice, which was the reason for the boots (darn you absentee sidewalk shovelers!). Anyway, the fact that Cougar could add all the necessary warmth and traction in an inch sole (1.5 inches in the heel), made me very happy.

It hasn’t snowed yet, so I couldn’t test the traction of these boots in snow and ice, but it has been rainy and chilly here so I can comment that the boots haven’t had a problem at all on wet floors and sidewalks and that my feet have been very warm. I’d been testing out so many uggs lately though that I forgot to put socks on the first time I tried on these Cougar boots; they’re much better with socks  ;)

Another thing I really like, as pictured above, is that Cougar did not skimp on the faux fur at all; I was really surprised how deep I could cuff the boots down. It gives you a few different style options all in one boot. Another neat thing is that the underside of the faux fur is a sweater knit. I’m not completely sure that I would wear these out with the boot trim pulled all the way up to my knees, but it’s nice to know that I could without exposing some unfinished underside like I often find on other brands. Plus that sweater lining means extra warmth too.

I got the beige and silver color but the Ravishing style also comes in a black version with a darker faux fur cuff (don’t worry, it still has the silvery leafy print up the leg).  Get them for $169.95 at Endless.com here!

And now that you’ve finished this blog post, please Click Here to complete a very short survey on Cougar Boots and the Matchstick company will donate $2 to the Red Cross for every survey completed.

Thanks again to the people at Matchstick for the shoes.

Ballistic (womens)

People don’t just want shoes to be comfortable anymore, they want their shoes to physically do something for them. Brands eager to fill this trend have created shoes that can, for example, hold a pedometer or music player in the insole, give a built-in workout, or, as Gravity Defyer claims, relieve your foot, ankle, knee, hip and lower back pain!

Gravity Defyer delivers this pain free promise with the help of their “Versoshock trampoline technology” which includes memory springs and twin stabilizer springs inside the heels of every shoe. In simple terms, their shoes absorb shock when you step down and propel you forward with each step (also called rebounding) which then reduces fatigue and restores your energy. They’ve got a nifty split shoe diagram on their website and lots more research posted there too on the health benefits of the shoes, so check them out at: http://gravitydefyer.com or http://gdefy.com (same site, just whatever’s easier to remember).

Ballistic (womens)

But making claims is one thing; this kind of promise asks for some serious testing. So, when Gravity Defyer offered me some shoe to try out, I decided that my desk jockey (and all around painless) self was not an ideal candidate. Instead, I gave the shoes to my mom, who walks 2 miles to work (often another 2 miles back home too) and is on her feet all day (plus she has to walk the dog a few times in there too). She also had recently been experiencing some knee pain, so I couldn’t think of a better test subject. She tried out one of Gravity Defyer’s bestsellers, the Ballistic style (pictured), and here’s her trial log:

DAY 1 – Put on my Ballistic shoes this morning and had NO PAIN in my knee! I usually wake up in the morning limping with pain so I’m shocked! I went out to walk my dog, Lola, for 20 minutes and still no pain. Very strange. I’m off today and just sitting around the house, so not much more to write for now.

DAY 2 – Walked 2 miles to work and the shoes feel great! I stand in one place a lot at work and after about 6 or 7 hours my feet started to ache a bit, but when I started walking around again, they felt better. By the time I got home (got a ride from a co-worker) my feet were hurting a bit, but definitely not as bad as they usually do and my knee still didn’t hurt at all!

DAY 3 - I reached for my Ballistic sneakers as soon as my feet were out of the bed. These sneakers are like a miracle cure for my knee; it doesn’t hurt at all as long as I have these shoes on. Again I walked to work this morning and I felt great, had tons of energy, but just standing for hours without moving began to give me some pain in my heel. By the end of the day, my heel is still not feeling great, but walking home it started feeling better.

DAY 4 - I’ve figured out a system: I wear my Gravity Defyer sneakers on my walk to work and when I’m out with Lola, and just bring a different pair of sneakers with me to switch into for the long hours of standing in one place. Then, I put my Ballistic’s back on for my walk home. Yay! Perfect shoe day! I’ve been telling all of my customers about these shoes too, they’re impressed. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see some orders pretty soon.

DAY 5 - Today I had a day off but lots of errands, so I’m going to wear the Ballistics all day. I don’t have a car, so it’s a combination of walking and taking the bus to go to the grocery store, the hair salon, the bookstore, etc., and taking Lola on a long walk. I feel great! No foot or knee pain. These are definitely the shoes to wear while moving!

Thanks mom  8)

Paskal (mens)

I also really want to recommend taking a look at Gravity Defyer shoes if you’re a guy or looking for a gift for a male in your life. Their mens dress shoes are seriously wow-worthy. I especially like the Paskal, Philippe, Theodore, Fabian and Gabriel… ok, all of them. No, really! As soon as I convince my ex-skater boy husband that he should trade in his sneakers for some grown up shoes, we’re going for these.

Philippe (mens)

Gravity Defyer also has some other womens options like mary-janes, ballet flats, loafers and mules which you should take a look at. You’ll probably have a hard time getting  your teenage daughter to wear a pair, but for adults, especially adults with pain, I’m sure high fashion style points will be happily traded for insanely comfortable shoes.

Randomly – if you can see it on the sneaker above or if you visit their website, yes, Gravity Defyer’s logo is exactly what you think it is… they call it their seed of life logo and it’s just because it’s cool. ;)

What do you think of this post? Click Here to complete a short survey on Cougar Boots after you’ve finished reading and the Matchstick company will donate $2 to the Red Cross for every survey completed.

Of course, since I decided to leave my new Cougar rainboots in my office the day they arrived, the next morning it was pouring. But when I got back into Manhattan, I switched out my knee-high standbys for a pair of the Tibet style boots in fire engine red with a cute tube sock inspired sweater cuff. I was a tiny bit annoyed initially that the boot shaft was too tight for me to easily wiggle my jeans inside (which were already rumpled from being stuffed into my other boots), but as soon as I got them on… cue the spotlight shining down from above and the heavenly music – I knew it was love.

My pant legs did get wet when I went out for lunch, but, on the plus side, it got the wrinkles out, and my legs stayed dry anyway so, okay, totally forgiven. Plus I guess a tighter shaft means less water will be able to get inside when I do pair them with leggings or take the time to get my jeans tucked in properly. Also, it made me notice that these boots have a really slim foot form that looks fantastic peeking out from under pants. Since the Cougar Tibet is not at all oversized or clunky, they appear much more expensive than they actually are, but more on that later.

Cougar Tibet

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve always hated that rainboots are usually really heavy! I cross my legs too when I’m sitting and all that weight pulling on one foot would actually cause me pain sometimes. But these boots are different: they’re not just a lighter weight because they are a mid-calf style, you can actually tell they’re just a better quality material – who knew there were different grades of rubber?! So if you think those cheapy $15 rainboots are just as good as any other pair, they’ll probably keep your feet dry (although for how long a duration is probably debatable), but that’s about as far as an equal comparison will go. Surprisingly though, the Cougar Tibet style is actually pretty affordable – only $75! I would have priced these at easily over $100 if I was given them blindly.

Here’s something else that makes them a little bit better than your average every day rainboot: Cougar boots have perforated insoles (anti-sweaty feet), breathable polar fleece insulation rated to as low as -11 degrees F (yep, negative temperatures, depending on your degree of activity) AND they’re guaranteed to be leak proof for at least 6 months of normal wear. Try getting all that from another brand at this price. Pair these with some regular wool socks and you’re looking at boots you can wear comfortably on the worst icy rain days (when I’d usually have to decide between staying dry and staying warm, and my toes would end up being totally numb by the time I was about 2 minutes from the door). I think I’m going to do a happy dance while I toss my old rainboots in my donation pile.

Wait, socks? Ah yes, the sock cuff is just that, a decorative cuff; unfortunately, the way it had to be attached makes it so that you cannot pull the cuff up over your leg, it does need to stay folded for aesthetic reasons. Also, the boots do have a really strong rubber smell when you first get them, but just air them out for a day. Really, I’m just being nitpicky now.

English on the front, french on the back

Can I add one more thing I really love though? As pictured above, the Cougar brand shoebox is intentionally designed to be bagless from the store to your house; “every step counts.” Whenever you’re buying boots, the shoe boxes are huge and whatever bag you’re given to carry them in inevitably ends up being even larger and more annoying – so being able to eliminate that step is a fantastic design idea! (Great job on handle length too – as a short person, I appreciate it). I’ll admit that carrying my Cougars in New York City like this made me feel a bit cooler-than-thou. ;)

Cougar, a Canadian family company, has been making footwear since 1948. Nowadays, they specialize in shoes that are able to withstand the harshest elements and look pretty darn fashionable at the same time. Their slogan: “For the world you walk on. Love what you wear.” How very apt.

* Half sizes, size up.

Thanks to the people at Matchstick for the shoes (and the delicious hot cocoa! – I promise the chocolate did not effect my review, although, much like the cheery red color of these boots, it definitely helped put me in a happy state on a really crappy rainy day).

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