Eco-friendly Tiger

I have had my eye on a pair of Onitsuka Tigers for some time, and I’ve been waiting for the perfect pair. I did have my eye on a yellow pair (I love yellow), but I decided the black stripe was a bit too waspish for me: I want the yellow to be mellow, not invoke a fight-or-flight response when you look at them.

A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing the Onitsuka website when I noticed they had brought out a new selection called ‘Soft Marty‘. I think it was the basic and minimalist approach to these shoes that grabbed me, coupled with the ‘micro-knifing’ technique used to give a raised texture to the accents. They were just a bit different to the millions of other trainers on the market:

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There are two models available on the UK website, the Mexico 66:

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Mexico 66: £155

and the Corsair:

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Corsair: £155

I didn’t realise this at the time, such was my fervour to put a pair on my legs, but they’re also made with leather produced without using chromium-based tanning methods. Chromium IV, used in leather tanning, is harmful to the environment and to the people doing the manufacturing. So hurrah for not using this method! However, they don’t explicitly state which leather tanning process they do use, and given the colour of them I am assuming they probably use the aldehyde method rather than vegetable tanning methods. Formaldehyde is pretty toxic to the environment and people, so I don’t think we can be claiming any bold step forward just yet, but it’s a nice try for the marketing department. I am not going all eco-warrior here and demanding we boycott leather; leather manufacturing is toxic by its nature, and as long as we protect workers and dispose of chemicals responsibly I am happy. I just don’t think non-chromium leather can make any outlandish claims about being eco-friendly if they use formaldehyde instead.

Anyway, back to the shoes… from an arthritis point of view, the Corsair would be a better choice. They’re more stable, with great cushioning and arch support and not as slim-fitting as the Mexico 66. However, with my slim feet and love of the shape I went for the Mexico 66.

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I was very impressed from the start. They’re very, very soft and light-weight, and although they don’t offer a lot of support along the foot because they’re so soft, there is enough arch support to stop me over-pronating, meaning I can walk a reasonable distance in them.

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I also love the detailing on them, the cream colour is a quite like ‘cricket whites’, which I find very pleasing, and it goes with everything, especially denim. I quite like the fact they are not just another pair of white trainer that look the same as all the others. The micro-knifed texture is a nice touch, they feel good when you hold them, which, again, I really like. The narrowness and close-fitting form, coupled with the lightness, makes me think of fencing shoes, which for me is tremendously nostalgic (yes, before I was f*cked by the arthritis, I was handy with a sword and used to represent my university at fencing), but I realise that won’t be for everyone, but the Corsair is not so fitted…OI000035.jpgThey’re also very flexible, which is great for tired arthritic feet that don’t want to work hard. I can’t imagine they will be so great when the temperature drops because the leather and soles are thin in order to accommodate the softness and flexibility, and cold is worse for arthritic bones but, for the cool summer the UK is having, they’re perfect. I also wonder about how hard-wearing they are given their delicate feel, but I can report back next year.

So, in summary, I really like these shoes and I would heartily recommend them.

Life on campus

It seems recently that the way of fashion (or being cool or whatever) is that we have a trainer to get periodically obsessed about and then never wear again (remember when everyone was wearing Adidias stan smiths ALL the time?) Now it seems the turn of the 80s style Adidas campus trainer.

I’m not a huge fan of the campus… maybe it’s because I was a child in the 80s that I associate that decade with everything not cool about it (for all that we criticise kids of today, there was a LOT more plastic crap marketed at kids back then… spokey dokes anyone?) Also, if you want to go down that 80s route, you should go for the Nike Air Max; the chunky full-on trainer design is much more 80s and very comfortable, although perhaps go for a more tasteful colour than the black–red or neon designs of yesteryear. I really like these tortoise panelled ones, they’re a great ‘neutral’ shoe without being boring:

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Nike Air Max: £92

But back to the campus. Like I said, they’re not great for me. I find the sole a little chunky and the heel tab gets on my nerves; however, I realise that this may be beneficial to some people who like the retro-trainer look, but find the soles on Adidas gazelles too thin to be supportive or the shoe too narrow.

My favourite for summer are these white pair with the pink sole:

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Adidas campus: £79.95

They also come in a grey and pink-sole combination, which is also fab: the pink sole makes it a little bit different.

And while we are talking about Adidas, I just wanted to mention for any fellow Wes Anderson fans out there, that Adidas brought out a limited (only 100 pairs!) of Rom Zizzou trainers that were seen in the Life Aquatic.

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Apparently they were available at the We Love Green festival in Paris, and the chances of me ever getting my hands on a pair are precisely zero, but I can dream and in any case, lets just sit back and admire the beauty that is these trainers:

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Rom Zizzou: not for you mere mortals

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.

Three is the magic number

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the minute you try to curb your trainer-buying habit, you will see loads of trainers you really like.

Having arthritis, and the preference to wear trainers with anything, I have a number of pairs now, and only one pair of feet, so I am trying not to buy any more until a pair actually falls apart, especially as summer is on the way, but I’ve seen three pairs that I really want and it’s difficult to resist. Hopefully, writing about them will have some sort of cathartic effect, and I won’t need to buy them (a sort of trainer exorcism if you will). So without further ado:

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Onitsuka Mexico 66: £69.99

I’ve been meaning to buy some Onitsuka Mexico trainers for ages. They are super-cool shoes, developed in 1966 for the Mexico 1968 Olympic games. They’re so retro and I love them. I especially love this yellow pair; yellow shoes are the thing for spring, and these are on my to-buy list after pay-day.

Unless I get this pair:

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Soludos trainers; £110

Soludos makes pretty cool espadrilles (does anyone love flamingos or peacocks? Me too!), but these are the first trainers I’ve seen, and I love them. Who doesn’t love a ‘hey’? It’s the start to many an epic online chat. If you’re in the US, you have an even better range to choose from, you lucky things. Day-of-the-dead French bulldogs? Yes please!

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Soludos espadrilles: $75

And finally, as you may be aware, I do love an embellished ‘Dior’esque trainer. They’re comfortable, fun and I love the contrast between sparkles that are usually seen on an evening high-heel on a sporty trainer. I recently spotted these, and I am rather smitten:

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Uterque Gem sneaker: £115

They have my name on them so it would be rude not to! They’re just so damn pretty, and having these would be a totally arthritis friendly way to rock a suit; if only my work demanded some smartness, I could justify them, but as it is I will just have to dream…

Spring Gazelles for the boys and girls

I’ve not been feeling very inspired in the shoe department as of late, I am not sure whether this is a mixture of the winter blues and world-wide political uncertainty leading to a desire for rose-tinted nostalgia or whether there really are no exciting shoe designs out there. Certainly there a lot of backless shoes, which are awful for people with foot problems — any shoes that require my foot to work to keep them on can get lost. There are also a lot of kitten heels, which I don’t really like… they just seem so apologetic and neither-here-nor-there.

So, I’m just going to stick with my nostalgia until there are somethings worth splashing my money on in the shops. I’ve talked about Adidas Gazelles before, I know they’re not for everyone being rather narrow, but I feel comfortable and supported in them. If you have big feet, or if you’re a man, these are my favourite Gazelles for spring:

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Adidas Gazelle: £50 (reduced from £80)

Wearing boys’ shoes was something I did a lot as a teenager as I often preferred the colours, so this is full-on nostalgia. If you are a girl, remember that you need to size one down for the same size (for no sensible reason that I can ascertain, a man’s size UK6 is the same as a woman’s UK7). UK size 6 can be found full price here.

While this might have more resonance with North American trainer-wearers, there is a collaboration between the Louisiana-based Sneaker Politics and Adidias Gazelle, producing the ‘Mardi Gras’. They’re a really pretty trainer, with subtle splashes of the Mardi Gras colours purple, green and gold.

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Adidas Gazelle PK x Sneaker Politics: £119

They’re a limited edition, and they came out in February in the US stores. The good news is that they will also be available world-wide tomorrow: March 4th 2017. The first drop sold out super quick, so if you like these, set your alarms.

If you don’t have big feet, the ladies department is more limited (although I am sure there will be different colours out soon), but I do like this pink pair, with the contrasting stripe in grey. Pink and grey are a really good colour combination, I think these ‘pop’ more than pink and white:

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Adidas Gazelle coral haze: £75

And if colour is not your thing, the unusual, geometric cut-out design on these is really beautiful. A pair of white trainers is always a classic, especially in the summer, and these will look beautiful with denim and a tan.

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Adidas Gazelle cut-out: £79.95

Anything but boring sneakers

As I said at the beginning of this month, I’m getting a bit fed up of my winter clothes. That said, I am not fully ready to embrace spring either. There are lots of colourful clothes in the shops, and spring florals, but wearing a bright jumper requires thought as not everything will go, whereas the pull to the safe navies and greys is strong when you just can’t be bothered as they go with anything effortlessly (I find the end of winter also coincides with a sharp spike in the ‘can’t be bothered’ feeling. I blame this depressing latitude.)

So, I find wearing some interesting shoes with your winter outfit can make all the difference. It’s just about getting warm enough to wear trainers and sneakers rather than boots. And I often wear wool insoles in my trainers anyway so sometimes I can get away with no socks.

I’ve talked about the much coveted, much not happening, Gucci loafers before, but I also love their sneakers; they’re iconic anyway, but I love the embroidery details:

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Gucci ace embroidered sneaker: £485
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Gucci ace studded sneaker: £430
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Gucci ace embroidered sneaker: £405

Flowers and pearls and pineapples, oh my! I reckon any of these could make me feel fully out of my winter rut. I can’t afford these, however, but fortunately the high street has some great versions, guaranteed to lift the mood without breaking the bank.

First up: floral trainers. I’m not a massive fan of floral patterns as I find it can look either a bit ditsy and cute (not a look I go for) or a bit like I am wearing curtains like the Von Trapps. It’s also a bit of a cliché…

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However, I can totally go for floral shoes! The Marks and Spencer sneakers have sold out, but are worth keeping an eye on in case they come back into stock:

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M&S floral trainer: £29.50
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Monsoon sandra sneakers: £49
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Ash dazed trainers: £165
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Anthropologie bahia trainers: £85

But my stand-out favourites are these lovely glittery shoes from & Other Stories; they are really fun (I love a glittery trainer), and I really like the colourful applique details:

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Other Stories glitter sneakers: £69

I also love these from Kurt Geiger (who always pay homage to some of the designer looks) these pearl embellished ones definitely have a nod to the Gucci trainer:

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Kurt Geiger lippy sneakers: £130

The backs are also fantastic:

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They are however not leather, which I think is outrageous for something of this price, but you may be OK with that. Kurt Geiger is definitely worth keeping an eye on in any case as although these aren’t out yet, I spotted these loitering on the website:

img_block_3-1Another nod to the Gucci sneakers here, and probably more to come so I will keep you updated…

[Edit: they are here, £120 and they are leather.]

What to wear to a gig in the middle of winter

One of the very first blog posts I ever wrote was in reaction to having to wear the same biker boots over and over to gigs because they were the most comfortable and supportive for my arthritis, but they were also beginning to bore me rigid, and they’re hard to dance in. I decided then that I would be on a ceaseless mission to find acceptable alternatives to big clumpy boots so that arthritic girls like me might not feel so bored and limited, when our surroundings was making us feel inspired and limitless.

So, at the weekend I was back at Brixton Academy watching Cage the Elephant. They’re a great band to see live — they have so much energy, and it’s impossible not to want to move while watching them. Although there were far fewer stage dives and crowd surfs than I was expecting after seeing them previously, maybe Matt Shultz had hurt himself in a previous gig, but it didn’t really matter because they have such an energetic stage presence anyway. They were great.

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Cage the Elephant

 

Last time I was at Brixton, I had noticed that the floor was significantly more sloped than most venues (meaning you get a great view) but this is a bit of a gift to people with arthritis in their ankles as it means your shoes can be flatter, as the slope of the floor takes some of that ‘flatness-pressure’ off your feet. So, of course I wanted to wear my kick-ass converse-style hi-tops that I bought from Zara in the sale:

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They’re still available in sizes 2–4 for £12.99!

Unfortunately, the weather in the UK is below freezing at the moment, and keeping arthritic joints warm is REALLY important. I nearly cried these off in favour of a pair of big  ol’ clompy boots, but I figured I wouldn’t really be outside for that long (if Southern Rail didn’t cancel my train) and I wore my lambswool liners and my favourite catherine tough wool socks, and this combination was actually pretty good at keeping the cold out, and my joints were comfortable throughout the gig.

So, that was my feet sorted, but I really struggled with deciding what to wear on the rest of my body. I only have joint problems in my legs, but I really hate the rest of my body being cold too. Looking at the kids that were at the gig, it would seem that a bralette and pair of high-waisted jeans are all that’s needed when it’s –5°C, but being over 30 I have the wisdom of just not giving a **** any more, and I wore a merino vest with my high-waisted jeans.

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Icebreaker long-sleeve crew: £50

I swear by these wool vests for walking the dog when it’s really cold. They’re lightweight merino and the business for adding a warm layer without bulk.

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Wool to the power 3

Of course, I didn’t go out in just a merino vest, I wore a denim shirt over it, and a cashmere jumper over that (I think I must be the only person to have worn a cashmere jumper to Brixton Academy — I wasn’t feeling decadent, I had already wrecked it by washing it on the wrong cycle, a bit of beer flung on it wasn’t going to make it worse). I felt great: not too cold when I was outside, and not too hot when inside… merino wool has excellent thermoregulation qualities.

Then all that was needed was my leopard coat over the top and I was ready to go. Southern even ran all my trains on time!

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The great train gamble  — will I be stranded at a platform in sub-zero temperatures (again)? Who knows?

So there we are, if you know your music venue, it is possible to tailor your shoes to it and get away with shoes you wouldn’t normally think you could wear. I think the trick is to know your body’s triggers (for me it’s standing on with flat feet and the cold) and then to try to find ways to look after those aspects without having to give up how you want to look. I’ll hopefully test some more shoes out this year (Maxïmo Park are touring, so that definitely has to happen!)