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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 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 with 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 have to choose just one to try out first. I decided to do the dirty work for you and 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.

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. 😉

Converse are so cheap, so easily manipulated and so durable – you shouldn’t be surprised this second DIY feature brings back the classic Chucks again. This time, we’re cutting and pulling. 😉

 

Shredded Converse at FreePeople.com

Shredded Converse at FreePeople.com

 

The Converse to the left are featured at Free People for $128. Now, they are super cool, but it looked like a pretty simple operation (heck, I have scissors), so I decided to try it out myself. I also just happened to have an old pair of Converse in my closet which definitely helped (yay for being a pack-rat)!

I’ve numbered the pictures below along with the matching paragraph.

1. Ok, so first I took out the laces from my Converse and started cutting slightly angled slits in the shoes between each eyelet. Then I realized just slits were not enough and you need to cut out rectangles, not just straight lines, in order for some skin to peek through.

Make sure that you do NOT cut through the very back of the shoe at the ankle/heel (you’ll see a reinforced strip of canvas there). If you cut through it, you’ll end up with completely separated shoe pieces just held on by laces. Not the look we’re going for.

2. Cool. The cutting was super easy, thank you canvas. It literally took me about 15 minutes to finish both shoes!! You will notice part way through that there are two layers to your Converse shoes, the outer layer and the lining – don’t worry, they’ll stay connected since they’re attached below the insole and along the back of the high top. Now you have a choice: you can make these shoes super sandal-like or a little more sneaker-like… just decide whether to keep the shoe tongue or not. Free People’s website actually has pictures of both versions depending on the color of the shoe! I decided to remove the tongue even though I was a little nervous about how the laces would feel against my skin. Here’s a pic of the shoes with the tongue in for your reference.

 

 

#1 - not just single line cuts

#1 - not just single line cuts

 

 

#2 - the cuts are done on one side

#2 - the cuts are done on one side

 

 

#2 - pretty nice with the tongue left in

#2 - pretty nice with the tongue left in

3. To cut the tongue I re-laced the shoes up so I could see where it’d fall. I pulled the tongue straight up right before the first set of eyelets (the pair nearest the toe) which left a little of my toes covered. Remember, you can always cut more off later, but it’s really hard to put it back. 😉 Well, that ended up being too long for me and I was worried about it bunching up as I walked in the shoes (although you could sew the tongue to the first two flaps holding those eyelets if you want to keep the tongue a little longer). As you can see below, I cut the tongue out in a semi-circle leaving a little less than a half an inch of fabric (since it is sewn to those first flaps a little – I didn’t cut through those stitches which is why the line curved into a circle).

 

 

#3 - goodbye tongue!

#3 - goodbye tongue!

 

 

#4 - fray by rubbing the edges with your finger

#4 - fray by rubbing the edges with your finger

4. Next you’ll need to fray your shoes as pictured above. This part is also super easy and takes less than 5 minutes. Just hold each strap taught at the eyelet and rub down the cut side with your finger, up and down. You can also try holding each section with one hand and then use your other hand to pinch the cut side while pulling if you want even more intense frayed action. P.S.  I noticed that the creamy lining frays a lot easier than the outer canvas does, it’ll pretty much fray on its own just by wearing the shoes, so I personally just pulled a little at the outer canvas only.

5. They’re done (in 20-ish minutes!!),  fabulous and free (if you have an old pair of Converse lying around) – but even if you buy some new, Converse retail for about $40, so you’re saving over $80 off the ready-made version (sorry FreePeople, I do love you)!

Try this with high tops or even with low tops, I’d love to see your pictures if you try it!

And for some interesting reading on the history of Converse, check out this awesome article in the Boston Globe by cool girl Erin Ailworth.

 

 

#4 - the finished product!

#5 - the finished product!

avatarWoodstock, The original Woodstock music festival, happened 40 years ago this weekend, from Aug. 15 to 17, 1969!  But that gathering was about a lot more than just some great bands, man – even the famous event poster (below) proclaimed the festival was to be three days of peace (first) and then music – there were political motivations, social and rock & roll history being made, inspiration for the reuse and recycling we see today, and there was definitely some great fashion: peasant blouses, tie-dye, bell bottom jeans, beads, patchwork, vests, maxi dresses, fringe, etc.

The original Woodstock event poster

The original Woodstock event poster

Interestingly, the town of Bethel (where the festival was actually held), has been so against another Woodstock happening that, according to the Times Herald-Record,  the owners of the land “many still consider hallowed ground were spreading chicken manure on that fertile soil to keep the pilgrims and plain curious from visiting.”  However, according  in 1989, 20,000 people gathered anyway for an impromptu 20th anniversary celebration and this weekend might be even bigger. Visit the Times Herald-Record live coverage!

Anyway, enjoy the fun shoes below and the spirit of the time.  And here’s something great to remember whenever you’re getting dressed in the morning that Jimi Hendrix is attributed to have said:

“You have to forget about what other people say, when you’re supposed to die, or when you’re supposed to be loving. You have to forget about all these things. You have to go on and be crazy. Craziness is like heaven.”

A little bit arts & craft, a lot bit cool

All Black – a little bit arts & craft, a lot bit cool

Ecote -  Flower Power!

Ecote – flower power!

Minnetonka - comes with detachable feathers and beaded tassle

Minnetonka – comes with detachable feathers and a beaded tassle

Rocket Dog Sheriff

Rocket Dog – perfectly slouchy and lived in from the first wear

Collection Fifty Nine - why yes, I (could have) whipstiched these together myself

Collection Fifty Nine – why yes, I (could have) whipstitched these together myself

Guess - Even some hippies wore heels

Guess – even some hippies wore heels

Come on – Rebel, man!  This is Woodstock for the new millennium. Here are some ideas to incorporate that peace and love style into your everyday for the end of the summer and into fall 2009.

Just a smidge of tassle on a luxe suede bootie

Madison Harding – Just a smidge of tassle on a luxe suede bootie

Cocobelle - grab those gladiators before summer's over

Cocobelle – grab those gladiators before summer’s over

Frye - classic style in an unexpected color

Frye – classic style in an unexpected color

TOMS- it doesn't have to be tie-dye to be groovy

TOMS- it doesn’t have to be tie-dye to be groovy

Georgina Goodman - the new flower power

Georgina Goodman – the new flower power

Simple - get in the spirit with recycled, eco-friendly materials!

Simple – get in the spirit with recycled, eco-friendly materials!

The Fresh Air Fund logo

avatarI have done blogs on running shoes in the past, so I think this may be why The Fresh Air Fund decided to contact me about the New York City Half-Marathon for their charity being held August 16th. But even if I was a totally random pick, I’m glad I know now because it’s a great cause!

The Fresh Air Fund, a non-profit agency since 1877 (!!), organizes free Summer vacations for disadvantaged New York children, 6 to 18 years old. Ok, pause there. What did you do on your Summer vacations when you were in school? (mine were filled with beaches, pools, crafts, disneyland and uninterrupted hours with books). Imagine what it would have been like if you couldn’t have done any of that fun stuff. It seriously makes me a little teary thinking about what a gift this must be for so many kids.

The other awesome detail is that all the kids don’t go to the same place; The Fresh Air Fund lets kids stay with volunteer host families in 13 US states and in Canada. They also have 5 Fresh Air camps in upstate NY too – which is good because not every kid is adventurous enough to live with strangers for 2 weeks.

Last year’s Half-Marathon raised more than $125,000 which went directly to The Fresh Air Fund’s free programs for NYC children and, of course, they hope to earn even more this year. Grab your running shoes and register here, or, if you lean more towards stilettos than sneakers, you can sponsor a runner instead by also using that link!

You can learn more about The Fresh Air Fund and even sign up to volunteer, by visiting their website: http://www.FreshAir.org

Pearl Izumi Peak XC Adidas ZX8000 Running Shoes

for vicarious running through sponsorship :)

for vicarious running through sponsorship

nyshoespyOk, no I’m not talking about some crazy 3-way, but there are shoes being debuted with touches from each of these icons. Elizabeth and James, the contemporary brand of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, has launched it’s first shoe collection; Marvel Comics is partnering with the Brown shoe company to create shoes linked to coming theatrical releases; and Metallica, along with other classic rock bands, is being honored by Converse with special edition Chucks. Yep, I’ve got all the details for you below.

Let me first say that I LOVE the Elizabeth and James clothing line, crazy awesome innovative stuff: cutaway blazers with faux attached vests, plain button up shirts transformed simply and beautifully, ridiculously flattering black pants, etc. But I was surprised by their first shoe collection; it was all so boring and basic! Many of the styles I’ve already seen before from other brands. For example, I’m pretty sure that one of the Olsen girls (or their designer helpers) owned a pair of these Givenchy laced wedge sandals pictured below and thought, hey, we can take elements of great shoes like these and make our own versions. And so from one, two were born: E & J’s ankle wrap wedge heel and their strappy huarache sandal (below in my nice little graphic).

Elizabeth and James ankle wrap wedge heel

Elizabeth and James 2009

plus sign alt

Elizabeth and James

Elizabeth and James 2009

equals sign

Givenchy ankle strap wedge sandals

Givenchy Spring/Summer 09

More similarities I found: the Elizabeth and James Edge huarache sliver wedges preceding them are only a few slanted straps away from Sigerson Morrison’s eel version below, and their leather button booties are so so basic, I just searched for 5 seconds to find this pair by Via Spiga. *sigh* I mean, they are great shoes and they are slightly different, but that’s just it. They’re only slightly different. The shoe line is almost completely devoid of the exciting new styles I was hoping for from the brand.

Elizabeth and James Edge

Elizabeth and James

Sigerson Morrison eelskin gladiators

Sigerson Morrison

ampersand

Elizabeth and James Leather Button bootie

Elizabeth and James

Via Spiga Niki Bootie

Via Spiga

But, I can say that one shoe did finally stand out, the Jazz pumps below, which remind me of early L.A.M.B. heels but with a tiny bit more sophistication. So I gave them a big picture. 😉

Elizabeth and James Jazz Pumps

Elizabeth and James Jazz Pumps

Next up, I’ve heard that the Brown shoe company, home to brands like Carlos Santana, Fergie, Via Spiga and Dr. Scholl’s, will be partnering with Marvel Comics in time for the release of Iron Man 2 (yipee!) scheduled for May 2010. As expected they’ll just be shoes for babies and young adults. But… there is a but, they plan on continuing to produce Marvel heroes shoe collaborations for future movies too: Thor coming May 2011, The First Avenger: Captain America in July of the same year, and “The Avengers” in May 2012. So who knows? Maybe some of those will be cool enough to work their way into adult shoe collections like the Wonder Woman flip flops below by Havaianas.

Wonder Woman Havanianas

Last, I hope you’re already found out (but I’m listing it anyway since I haven’t written about it yet – and if I’m your only source for shoe news, I can’t let you live without this knowledge) that classic rock bands, such as The Who, The Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd are being honored by Converse with special sneakers. New shoes featuring AC/DC and Metallica are already available as part of the Fall 2009 collection. And these specially decorated Chuck Taylor All Stars hi-tops retail for between $50-$80, reasonable enough for you to get one pair to wear and one pair to frame, if you happen to be their number one fan. Check ’em out at Journeys.com below and Converse.com.

converse metallica collection

avatarJune, and springtime in general (the first official day of Summer isn’t until June 21!), is such a crazy time for picking out what shoes to wear. No, not necessarily because designers are trying our new things or because stores are ready and waiting for high school-ers on vacation; it’s all because of the weather. In June, anything can happen, at least in New York: downpours of rain, sunshine, ridiculous heat, a slight on/off drizzle, etc. This morning the forecast was partially cloudy, 60% chance of rain, temps 55-75. I took the subway and half the people were wearing full boots (rubber, suede, leather – all kinds), some were in canvas sneakers, some in closed toe heels, and the others were in exposed-toe sandals or flip-flops (commuters love to be comfy). So do you keep every single pair in your shoe collection out all this month for an overcrowded closet or just risk cold, wet feet (at least for part of the day) when the sky goes gray?

I think there’s a better solution and one that allows you to start packing away your winter clothes now (my favorite time of the year!). All boots can go into storage with the exception of rubber rain boots, depending on where you live, although I hate wearing them: I’ve never found a comfy pair yet, and they’re always so heavy! This is probably why one of my favorite picks for June are waterproof shoes (not boots)! I love the faux lace-up detail on the Sigerson Morrison pair below and the simple bow on the pair by Kate Spade; they’re cute worry free ballet flats. The glossy black Sperry Top-Sider loafers in the center of the second row are actually rubber too!

Another shoe I love for spring are loafer styles. Loafers are so under appreciated but they can really be super cozy and yes, un-old lady like too ;). You can still go for suede even with temps slowly rising (now’s the time to test out the year-round claim Uggs make), but I’d choose more of a moccasin style if you do, otherwise you’ll look a little crazy wearing them whenever your city tops 80 degrees. Moccasins are “supposed” to be suede, at least in my mind, so they don’t looks specifically like a winter shoe (like the moccasin sneakers by See by Chloe below) – just don’t forget the water resistant protection spray. If suede isn’t doing it for you, pick up a patent leather loafer in an off-white or bright color like the Prada scrunch version below; water’ll just slide right off.

Sigerson Morrison purple rubber flats Prada scrunch loafer Kate Spade Kerry rubber flats
see-by-chloe-hi-top-sneaker-moccasins Sperry Top-Sider Pelican Loafer Ugg Dakota Loafers

Wow, I can’t believe I actually have a blog with no high heels in it! I have been doing a huge amount of walking lately, maybe its subconscious. Don’t worry, I’ll make up for it next time. Happy Leave Work Early Day!

avatarHappy Earth Day! I just found out about some great eco-conscious brands and news, so I thought today would be a perfect day to share.

First off is a new (to me, at least) shoe brand named SoleRebels. Based in Ethiopia, SoleRebels is channeling the skills over 40 people from the village community of Zenabwork with full time jobs and over 100 people with part-time jobs. African entrepreneur and founder Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu said to WWD magazine, “We passionately believe that trade, not aid, is the key to upliftment.”

From materials (like recycled car tires for soles and organic, hand-loomed cotton uppers from Ethiopians paid fair wages) and talent almost exclusively sourced locally, SoleRebels are now selling in stores all over the US, like Whole Foods, and online! They sought to re-invent the traditional Ethiopian selate shoe which, since its not so traditional over here state side, looks like something all-together new. SoleRebels uses both bright and muted colors, that means something for everyone, and the line has created many different styles with closed-toe and open-toe options. Plus, price points range well in the affordable category at $30 to $65.

SoleRebels A Twist of Sole Sandal SoleRebels slipout light SoleRebels Fauna Flip-Flop Sandals

Second, I just found out that Payless Shoe Source has launched a plan to contribute a portion of sales this year from their new green Zoe&Zac line AND from purchases of their $1.99 reusable shopping tote (and trust me, even though you’ve seen a million of them, this one is cute!) towards planting one billion trees with The Nature Conservatory’s aptly named Plant A Billion Trees program. I’m down with that, if I may say so, and I’ve lined up some of my shopping list items below, not to mention the bag.

zoe&zac tigerlily wedge zoe&zac Ginger mary jane flat zoe&zac Snapdragon Ballet

Last, after being reminded by Lucky Magazine’s Spring Shoe Guide how much I love canvas sneakers (and being as their now in fashion and all), I decided to go to the source and visit the Keds website directly to see their new offerings. I was happily surprised to find a whole new Green section which, while not too large, has the same appeal as the shoes I expect from the brand. In addition to the usual recycled rubber soles (not to say that isn’t a huge step), these Keds also feature non-toxic inks and dyes, shoelaces that are 100% recycled water bottles, nickle-free eyelets and recycled insoles!

Their two green shoe styles (each in a few different colors) are below and hopefully we’ll be able to watch this section continue to grow!

Keds Willow lace up in green Keds Meadow Moc in blue

P.S. I love this idea sponsored by Nickelodeon’s Big Green Help for everyone to turn off their lights tonight at 9 pm for one minute! (hopefully it doesn’t result in massive power overload induced outages when all the lights come back on, but let’s not let that ruin the fun).

I confess that I don’t know as much about athletic shoes as I should given my limited scope of attempted expertise (somehow “ny shoes that aren’t athletic spy” just wasn’t as catchy). I feel super overwhelmed when I walk into sporting good stores, etc and see distinct styles for rugged trail running vs road running vs walking vs extra aerobic induced bouncing, etc. It seems a little ridiculous, but I know tons of money goes into the research to make these claims so who am I to dispute it? I also have not done any comparative testing so, even more so, I cannot scoff.

But I have to admit that all I actually choose from once I’m under the right activity subheading are the pretty colors (and I’m ashamed to say that I have  even strayed from my appropriate section because of the draw of a particularly beautiful shoe – however if it helps any, I do read all the features before buying). And this is all not to mention that I’ve really only bought athletic shoes for myself like twice, but I do at least look at the shoes much more often. Below is an example of some not completely athletic shoes but cute, cute and cute! (otherwise known as Adidas fabric and silver leather sneakers, Camper Asia Taipei sneakers and a purple and plaid The Ramos by Keep).

Adidas Silver Sneakers Camper Asia Taipei sneakers Keep The Ramos

Ok, so. In a  roundabout way, that brings us to the Boston Marathon! I went to college in Boston so I always saw part of the race and, in my memory, it always occurred right around the first warm and sunny day since winter (obviously not always so). I’m sure that watching or hearing of the famous Marathon inspires some people to start running themselves, it certainly is the easiest sport to start in (grab shoes and go!), so I thought I’d do a bit of research on running shoes and present to you some of the best (and cutest, come on, I can’t leave that out) shoes for it.

Road running means running on a paved or well packed surface that does not give at all when your foot hits it. This obviously causes extra strain on your involved body parts that would not be as effected on softer terrain; so road running shoes have extra cushioning to counteract this. The other major distinguishing factors amongst road running shoes are just those that combine to fit your specific foot: a combination of your arch and your pronation or gait. (Hey, this wasn’t so complicated after all!)

To honor Adidas’s 20 year partnership with the Boston Athletic Association (BAA, the marathon’s sponsor), they created a limited edition (800 pairs) version of their already popular Supervova running shoe in the official colors of the Boston Marathon (below). It also has a commemorative inscription on the interior and they’re so darn cute, I’m giving them spot numero uno. If you’re going to be wearing your running shoes for the entire 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon, you definitely want to make sure you love those shoes in and out.  My second pick is a pair of New Balance CW413 shoes that have a mesh upper which – along with being breathable, obviously, the mesh should move more with your foot and probably be the most comfortable shoe ever! And the last pair of Nikes I love mostly because they’re black (ok and Nike is the world’s leading supplier of athletic wear so they probably know what they’re doing ;)). But seriously, not all running shoes have to be white-based! Maybe it’s for safety so other people can see you better when you’re running (road running=roads=cars and people)? Or maybe it’s like seeing your food turn colors, for the sake of your foot’s health, you know the expiration date for your shoes based on how much white is still left white. Regardless, my last pick are the (impressively named) Nike Shox Navina +3’s which also have very high-tech looking little shock looking features on the heels; love it.

Adidas Supernova Limited Edition New Balance CW413 Nike Shox Navina +3

Phew. Since that went so successfully, maybe I’ll try and delve into other athletic styles and explain how the shoes are made just for that specific activity, in later blogs. Let me know if you have any specific interests and I’ll be happy to give those a rambling (I call it “colorful”) explanation first.

avatarWelcome to 2009! Everyone knows that one of the top resolutions people make to start off their new year is to have a healthier lifestyle and a fit body. Even less direct resolutions like quitting smoking, eating less fast food or walking the dog an extra block each morning, can lead to the motivation to increase (or start!) exercising. It’s one thing every body needs to feel tip top.

So, of course, I’ve been on the lookout for fabulous athletic shoes that are just what the resolution doctor ordered. It really is hard to keep that promise to yourself to run 5 miles a week if all you have in your closet are stilettos and flip flops. Check out the cute styles I selected below, though I have to admit that most of my picks were based on looks (see the bottom of this blog).

Retro styling and bright colors are totally in right now, so not only will these Puma shoes in my first spot keep your feet feeling fine when you sprint to make your morning train, they’ll also give you some street cred. The gray mary jane slip on sneakers next to them are made from recycled rubber and totally vegan! If you want cute, comfortable shoes but still want to feel free to have a spontaneous nature hike, these are the pair for you.

Thinking about pulling on a pair of bright blue sneakers in the morning makes me smile and sometimes that’s what you need when you’re up before the sun. Converse All Stars have a serious cult status so you don’t have to just take my word for it; they’re a great all around shoe for all day activity. And last, whether you believe the hype or you’re more skeptical, these MBT sneakers are a nice neutral option that doesn’t scream “workout shoe” but supposedly will give you a workout with every step you take. 

Puma RS100 J-41 Palm Vegan
Converse All Star MBT MWalk

If you’re looking for a shoe for a very specific sport or have a special needs foot (like a super high arch or previous injury, etc), please do some research online or talk to your doctor, or even walk into a specialty shoe store and discuss your needs with a member of the sales staff. If the store specializes in sporting goods, the staff should be able to give you some keywords to look for when you’re shoe shopping. I know a lot of money is spent in the technology towards creating the best pair of shoes out there for each activity, so if you want to train like an olympic athlete, the shoes do exist (even those specifically for kayaking!).

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