Summer fashion puts its best foot forward

It's time for comfortable footwear that still beats the heat.
The essence of summer fashion is pretty peek-a-boo shoes.
Unless you have ugly please-hide-me feet.
In which case, summer means it's time to stare at the shoe racks in search of that rare pair of heels that will offer comfort and hide your orthotics, hammertoes, bunions or tootsies worthy of the title "ugliest at the beach." Just try some cute little flip-flops. They have been the casual rage for the last three summers. And you can find them everywhere this beach season, from Old Navy to designer emporiums, bedecked in flowers and encrusted with rhinestones or preppy monograms, flamingos and martini glasses. How adorable.
Until you slip them on and reveal that bunion that juts out like Cape Cod.
"I will admit, they (flip-flops) are not the most flattering if you've got a big bunion or a hammertoe," says Marissa Giralomo, a podiatrist in Stamford, Conn., who usually recommends flip-flops for ease and comfort.
And those cute little thongs won't win you style points if they reveal your nail fungus or cracked heels.
Support can be beautiful
Then there's the matter of support.
Your basic, thin-soled rubber flip-flop is not ideal if you need extra support or are orthotic-dependent, says Jane Andersen, a podiatrist with a private practice in Chapel Hill, N.C., and a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association. "They are OK for the beach," she says, "but they are not an ideal everyday shoe." This is the season when the fashion foot-challenged put on their most discreet and sensible shoes and walk into their podiatrist's office and shoe salon to beg for help.
"I have some patients who are so upset about the state of their feet, they won't take yoga because it's done in bare feet," Giralomo says.
With weddings, graduations, picnics and vacations on the calendar, this foot-challenged minority is dealing with a high-heeled fashion emergency.
Just ask Giralomo, who went searching for a pair of simple brown sandals a few weeks ago. Her destination: A major retailer known for its abundant shoe selection. "I couldn't find a thing I could wear," she says. What she did find, she says, was a large selection of high-heeled, strappy things that didn't earn her doctor's seal of approval.
"The heels were too high, the backs were open and they had just one tiny strap going across the toe," she explains. "When you wear a shoe like that, there's nothing holding on your foot. Your toes end up gripping down and cramping up because they are doing all the work to keep your shoe on the foot."
Here's a primer on how to track down some pretty shoes for ugly feet courtesy of Giralomo, Andersen and Ian Wright of New Canaan, Conn., chief executive of GFW Group, which manufactures footwear under licensing agreements with designers Ellen Tracy and Isaac by Isaac Mizrahi.
Wright notes, "What you are seeing now is a lot of variety, which means you can work with styles to find something that's fashionable, but also discreet."
Measure up
Start by having your feet professionally measured. "Too many of us go into the shoe stores these days and never bother to have our feet measured," Andersen says.
That's a mistake because feet can change as women age, bear children, or gain and lose weight. "You don't know how many patients I have who insist on wearing a size 8, but haven't been a size 8 in years," Giralomo says. "Even my sister insists on wearing shoes too small." Once you've established your true size, seek your doctor's advice on the best footwear for your feet.
"Different feet have different problems and what I might tell one patient to wear to a wedding, for example, is different from what I might tell another," Andersen notes.
Adds Giralomo: "I might say one kind of shoe is OK for a special occasion, but not daily wear."
Andersen notes that sneaker manufacturer New Balance is coming out with a line of casual, fashion footwear that she gives high marks for its comfort, good looks and support.
"We're talking about fashion," she says. "But you won't look too attractive if your feet hurt."

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