Back to black

It’s finally summer, and as such it is time for me to reacquaint myself with all my summer shoes that I store away for winter. Picture a grown woman delving through boxes like a child at Christmas, cooing and sighing at the discoveries; it’s a pathetic spectacle to witness but a lot of fun to do, so I stand by my actions and thoroughly recommend hiding shoes away for 6 months of the year (be sure to do an inventory before you buy anything out of season though!).

One of my most hard-working purchases this year has been this black dress from Me+Em:

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Me+Em drape front dress: £119

I love a black summer dress, and this is a great summer staple that does day and evening. It’s little clingy, but flatteringly so, and it looks very elegant (it is long though, and it’s not the sort of dress you could easily alter because it has a wide hem. It fits me at 5’7″, but if you are a lot shorter I am not sure it would work so well). It’s so elegant, in fact, that the best way to wear this dress is with simple black sandals like the ones in the picture: simple clean lines. No faff. No messing.

The sandals in the picture are by my favourite sandal company: Ancient Greek Sandals. I think these are the Clio, but so many on the website would be perfect. They’re beautiful, really well made and very soft on the feet, I rate them very highly:

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Ancient Greek Sandals clio: €125
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Ancient Greek Sandals sofia: €145
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Ancient Greek Sandals apli yianna: €135

They are, however, not that soft on the bank balance, and at the moment I’m spending a lot of money on my house, so I can’t really justify spending ~£100 on a few straps of leather for my feet. So, I have turned to the highstreet for some cheaper inspiration, and at the moment it’s hard not to find anything that’s not covered in studs, pearls or tassels (not that that’s a bad thing, I love me some embellishment, it’s just not what I want right now).

Fortunately, ASOS has come up with the goods. They’re not all leather, but they are all much less expensive, and unlike a few I have seen on the highstreet recently, they don’t look really cheap (Next and M&S, I am talking to you):

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Monki gladiator sandal: £25
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Fiasco western buckle sandals: £22
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Fixation plaited leather sandals: £16

£16 for leather sandals! I mean, I don’t expect these to last longer than one summer but still…

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Fiona tie-leg sandals: £10
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Feline jelly sandals: £10
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Forceful leather sandals: £18
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Flery leather sandals: £16

I think my favourite of these is the ASOS Forceful, my only concern would be that the quality of leather won’t be so good, so they might rub on the heel. If you suffer with rubbing shoes, the Flery is probably a better bet…

If you’re prepared to spend a little bit extra, for a little more quality (which often translates as comfort), Clarks have a plain black strappy sandal.

They’re nothing to write home about, it’s very basic, but Clarks shoes are comfortable and they do last. I have a pair of gladiator sandals that work with everything, and I bought them years ago:

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Clarks voyage hop: £40

They have ‘cushionsoft’ padding in the footbed, so are a better bet if you have arthritis and want something a little sturdier, and they’re still not going to break the bank.

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Birkenstop!

So, I received an email today informing me that the British Birkenstock website birkenstock.co.uk was soon to cease trading from the end of May. Oh no!

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What? It’s about shoes

You will still be able to buy Birkenstocks (and other foot-loving shoes) online in the UK from thenaturalshoestore.com but the brand’s own website is being decommissioned, which I hope is not a reflection on how the company is doing nor an unwillingness for European companies to stay in the UK.

In any case, Birkenstock are offering a 20% discount across The Natural Shoe Store (non-sale) range with the code: BIRK-SS17-20

I’m a fan of Birkenstocks, and they’re the only slides I seem to get away with (though I wouldn’t do any long-distance in them). They’re what I tend to wear around the garden, and I always have a pair of the excellent wool slippers:

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Amsterdam slippers: £44.95 (£35.96 with discount)

Although I am kind of tempted by the Mahabis slippers. Does anyone know whether these are any good? They’re a lot of money to take a chance on when the Birkenstocks (although not exactly a cheap slipper let’s be honest) suit me very well…

Anyway, Birkenstock, I am sad to see your online presence diminish somewhat (although your website was particularly convoluted and unfriendly), though I am sure The Natural Shoe Store will provide an adequate fix for my arthritic pins.

Adidas NMD R2 — a review

So, the 2nd version of the Adidas NMDs have been out for a while now, and given how annoying I found every aspect the NMD R1, I haven’t really been that bothered about them (my good opinion once lost is lost forever). However, that all changed when I saw this polka-dot pair on the &OtherStories website. That’s right, my good opinion can always by swayed by POLKA-DOTS:

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Adidas NMD R2: £130

I love polka-dots, and I like the contrast between the retro dotty fabric and the futuristic shape of the trainers. I am all about the contrast. What I also like about these is that they’re a bit different to the endless sea of white trainers that are ubiquitous in summer; the Reebok Club Cs seems to be the white trainer of choice at the moment, but they remind me so much of my high-school PE teachers, I get a Pavlovian ‘being-picked-last-for-the-team’ anxiety when I see people wearing them and an urge to protect my face from a stray wet netball.

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Reebok club C85: £64.95

I don’t really like the shape of these, and I think it is the association with PE lessons, and to be honest, if you want to go down the ‘not cool so that makes them cool’ hipster route, the best trainers are the Hi-Tec silver shadows, as issued to men and women of the British armed forces — purposefully chosen to be as functional as possible.

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Hi-Tec silver shadows: £24.95

But back to the NMD R2s. There are some small differences in the styling of the NMD R2 versus the NMD R1, which I think improve the look. First of all, the plastic lace tabs have been removed, giving a more streamlined look, which I think is a good change, especially as the laces didn’t actually tighten the shoe anyway:

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R2 laces (left) versus R1 laces (right)

But the most important change is that the tabs on the lateral side of the sole have been removed, which I found a little uncomfortable on the R1s, but they have left the tab on the medial side, which is great news for an overpronator like me who needs support on the inside of the ankle.

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New ‘medial only’ tab design

The R1s did very little for my overpronation, so I was really looking forwards to trying the R2s out, and to my surprise I really liked them!

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Box Fresh!

First of all, the knit fabric is much, MUCH, easier to stretch and so they were really easy to put on — no puffing and panting trying to squeeze it over my swollen joints like with the NMD R1, and there is no pressure across the joints:

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Looking good

As for the comfort factor, this is much improved in the NMD R2 compared with the NMD R1. The outer sole is smooth but grippy, and there is nice smooth cushioning inside.

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Underneath
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Inside

I would say the fit is true-to-size, verging on small, I am a UK6.5 (or I take a 7 if there is no half-size),  the EUR40 in this (which is normally classed as a UK7) is a UK6.5 and they fit perfectly. They are very roomy across the toes, so great if you have joint problems there. Like the R1s, you cannot alter the width of the shoes with the laces, so if you have very narrow feet, you may find them too wide.

So, how are they with the overpronation? The lack of supportive tabs on the lateral side works so much better for me than the R1s. They are not very rigid and so I don’t think you can describe them as preventing overpronation, and there is no support under the arch; however, they are supportive enough on the medial side to encourage proper joint placement, and the encouragement is often all I need, and indeed my leg positioning was better with these shoes.

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Medial support

So, in short, I was impressed with the NMD R2, I think the changes they have made have really improved the shoe and made it worth the price. They’re a nice-looking shoe, and something a bit different to the retro shape of trainer I normally wear. I feel like I could wear these for sport, or (more likely) for brunch with a skirt, so they’re hard-working too; the R2s get the shoeslifeblog seal of approval.

The kids are alright

I’ve been meaning to write a blogpost about children’s shoes for some time now. I’m certainly no expert on children’s physiology (other than they need room to grow) and there certainly is a dearth of sensible advice about what their feet need (it seems they either need lots of support or no support at all depending on what you read).

My arthritis, fortunately, is not genetic and my daughter doesn’t have the condition, and most cases of rheumatoid arthritis start in early adulthood (though there can be childhood onset). That said, when you have issues finding comfortable shoes for yourself, you tend to be more aware of buying the ‘right’ shoe for your children. So, when my daughter was young, I used to buy Bobux shoes for her, which are a New Zealand brand that make super-flexible shoes for babies and toddlers.

I have heard the arguments for ‘barefoot’ shoes, and they are very compelling; however, a problem with barefoot shoes is that the soles are very thin. If you’re in the UK, you’ll be acutely aware that it’s been winter for about 5 months now, and the thinner the sole, the closer contact your child’s feet have with the ground. This isn’t so good when the ground temperatures aren’t making double figures. What I liked about Bobux shoes was that although the soles were flexible, they weren’t so thin that you would worry about frostbite.

Now, Bobux have brought out a ‘big kid‘ range, which go up to a European size 33 (which is about a size 2), which they suggest is about an age 8 (maybe more if your child isn’t long froggy-footed like mine). The designs are also pretty cool, and the toddler shoes are often unisex (non-pink shoes for girls can be a nightmare to find on the high-street), and the shoes are good quality:

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Bobux spin fuchsia with cheetah: £49
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Bobux tune gold: £49

The sticking point is the price, they are expensive shoes and for something they will grow out of maybe they are too much money; that said, the run-of-the-mill school shoes from Clarks are £35–£45, so we already do fork out a lot of money for our kids’ shoe requirements.

My personal favourites are these animal trainers (this is just a narrow selection of the range), especially as the design is only on the inside. So, you could get away with them for school, but they are also useful for kids to be able to tell the left from the right:

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Bobux dragon hi-tops: £49
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Bobux unicorn fuchsia: £49
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Bobux panther black: £49

I wish they did the black panther shoes in adult sizes, it even has subtle black spots like a real panther. I’m a sucker for biological accuracy…