Strapless, flats, sneakers, pumps, loafers, oxfords, clogs, slip-ons, laced-up, platform, blue suede, made for walking boots, slippers, dancing, hiking, moccasins, sandals, jellies, flip flops, high heels, spike heels…

The endless stream of shoe types, colors and styles drifts past as I wait for my plane in the airport lounge. With socks or without. Toes exposed or hidden. Buckled, laced, or Velcroed. People watching and foot fetishes have never been so intriguing.

We all have them. We all wear them. But how do we choose what kind, for which activity? How many times a day do we change our shoes? Inside, outside, for sports, for the office, for the garden? And what do my choices and yours tell us about each other? Let’s take these compelling questions one at a time.

Selecting the Right Shoes for Your Lifestyle

Okay, raise hands. Who has ever selected inappropriate footwear for an activity even though you knew it would not end well?

My hand is high in the air as I remember a pair of teal green, suede driving shoes I wore for my first day in Venice to visit the 2013 Biennale. It was October and it could have been damp or dampish. I wanted to look cosmopolitan but ended the day looking frazzled and dumpy as the bottoms of the flats started splitting away from the tops. My feet were soaked, blistered and achy after seven hours of walking on cobblestones.

Had I been driving with my driving shoes, the pair would have survived the trip, but there is literally no driving in Venice, so why did I even bring them? A pair of sneakers would have been a much better choice, but style often wins out over practicality when it comes to shoes, and I am a victim of vanity like many of us.

A Heel for Every Season and Reason

So, rule of thumb in the daily selection process is to think ahead. Like choosing the correct outer-garment – raincoat if it’s raining, parka if it’s snowing, cardigan if there is a light breeze – selecting the right shoes for your day is essential to comfort, energy and longevity of the shoes and you. If you’re going to be inside all day, go for broke.

Wear those heels, those woven leather flats, a pair of spikey leather boots. You will look and feel great. But if your day will require walking on uneven surfaces – think cobblestones and sand (I live at the beach) – or there is almost any kind of weather outside beside pure sunshine, then you might consider a more functional shoe material and style.

We’ve come a long way on the sneaker front and pragmatism can meet fashion in vivid color. Nowadays, these sport shoes are all the rage, from tweens to grandmas, though not all are created equally. There are designs for specific sports like running or tennis, although these should not be confused for sneakers you would wear to dinner or an art show.

Be realistic and not too sloppy. People will notice that you couldn’t be bothered donning anything more tasteful than a boat shoe for a night on the town. But if you’re cruising around on foot doing errands, or going to the market or a friend’s house, comfort wins out over panache any day.

How Many Times a Day Do You Change Your Shoes?

I probably change my clothes more often than many. I start in pajamas, move to breakfast togs, put on some work clothes which depend on if I’ll be working at home or going to meetings, dress down to “something more comfortable” as my husband likes to joke, and then I’m back to pj’s for the late evening and bed. If there are any sports involved in my day, that’s another outfit entirely.

Throw in the beach, gardening, or doing artwork, and it’s possible for me to see six or seven ensembles on a given day. The shoes are a natural outcropping of these costume changes. One pair to get the newspaper and then back to slippers to read the paper and breakfast. House shoes – I like moccasins for working at home. Garden clogs for digging in the dirt. Tennis shoes for a round robin with the ladies. Something with a heel or a wedge for meetings. I like to be amongst the tallest in a room. Gives me a feeling of confidence and tall people statistically are more successful.

If you are going to change your shoes this often, I do suggest putting them away and keeping them organized to reduce unnecessary chaos in your life. We’re not a shoeless house, but I often take my shoes off when I come in the door, and put on something more house friendly, even bulky socks. But then I’ll bring my shoes to my closet, if they aren’t too dirty or wet, to store for the next time.

There is a dizzying array of shoes dumped haphazardly in my front hall on summer weekends when the kids and their friends are around. Something I don’t want to live with daily. But at the same time, I’d rather the kids come visit than have a shoeless hallway.

What Do Your Shoes Say About You?

Shoes, like any fashion, are truly revealing about your personality, socio-economic status, cultural background and much more. It’s one of the reasons I like watching the shoe parade at the airport. You can decipher a lot about people from the shoes they wear, especially at the airport where they know they’ll be seen by lots of folks.

Hopefully most people are dressing for comfort and the swiftness of removing their shoes for security. But there are a surprising number that want to make certain they look sharp when they arrive at their destination and will forego the practical for the wow factor.

The sheer number of styles within each footwear category is astonishing and as I’ve been at airports as exotic as Singapore and as mundane as Newark, I can attest to the diversity of designs that are flooding our world.

Perhaps, like many things these days, we have too much choice. There are so many options, we want to cram in as many selections as possible, and look cute in the process. Shoes for me are part of my fashion statement, part of my presentation of me to the world, so I’m likely to strike a balance between appropriate and chic. It’s not the most rational approach, but who said a foot fetish is rational?

What is your favorite style of shoe? Do you prefer flats, wedges or heels? Do you put comfort before style when purchasing a new pair of shoes? Please join the conversation.

Nicole GoldmanNicole Goldman, a tail-ender of the Baby Boom, lives and works in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. She has embodied many iterations of a creative professional from arts manager to designer, writer and organizational leader. Nicole’s distinctive voice brings a fresh perspective to this phase of life she calls “freedom,” when opportunities abound and life is as full as you make it. For more commentary from Nicole, visit her blog at Yeah, That’s My Point.

Let's Have a Conversation!