Cindy Grosz feels like a liberated woman.
“I’ve been buying heels since I was in college,” Grosz, a 58-year-old radio host, told The Post. Her shoe collection includes dozens of high-end pairs, from luxury labels such as Stuart Weitzman, Charles Jourdan and Saint Laurent. Before the pandemic, she said, “I was going out to all these fund-raisers and celebrity events in stilettos — I loved how they made me feel.”
But she admits that things have changed for her since lockdown.
“Now, I really don’t feel as much pressure to wear heels,” said the 5-foot-2 former footwear addict. “I just can’t wear them anymore.”
2020 was the year women stopped wearing bras, quit dyeing their roots and traded their stilettos for sneakers. But now — with offices reopening, and parties and weddings back underway — it’s the moment of truth for women who claim to have ditched their high heels for good. So far, it seems that quite a few reformed heel wearers are sticking to their word that they plan to stop suffering for fashion. According to a recent Amex Trendex survey — a trend index that tracks consumer spending — female respondents were twice as likely to say they were excited to buy “comfortable” shoes versus pairs suited to “professional dress.”
For Grosz, the benefits of rocking flats far outweigh the drawbacks. “Sometimes I miss [heels], but I don’t have to worry about tripping [anymore],” she said. “I was always aware of marble floors and sometimes I couldn’t dance.”
Yet diehard heel defenders say that women like Grosz are tip-toeing into dangerous territory.
“So many women [post-COVID] out at night wearing their ‘sensible’ shoes,” personal shopper Mona Sharaf wrote on her Facebook page last month. “Please ladies put your heels back on! YES we noticed and NO it does not look good!”
Sharaf continued that the sartorial rules for lockdown need not apply to regular life. “NYC and events are back, and women are out in nice clothes and when I look down, they’re in really ugly flats. It ruins the whole thing,” she ranted to The Post. “Why are you doing this to yourself?”
Indeed, the “to heel, or not to heel” debate has moved into the public sphere, as even celebrities have leaned into a more relaxed style. Hailey Bieber, Nicky Hilton and model Shanina Shaik have been spotted stepping out in sneakers, simple loafers and even slipper-like Uggs. And brainy actress Mayim Bialik, who has been filling in as a “Jeopardy! “host in recent months, has garnered attention — both positive and negative — for her footwear choices on the show.
“Love that Mayim is wearing sensible shoes,” one Twitter user recently wrote of Bialik’s wardrobe.
But others complain that she’s distracting audiences by failing to dress the part of a flashy game show host. “Mayim Bialik’s Jeopardy wardrobe is soooo dowdy,” another tweeter lamented. It should be oversized blazer OR calf length skirt OR sensible shoes, but not all three at once.”
Even shoe sellers can’t agree on whether pumps and stilettos — long mainstays of a chic woman’s wardrobe — will come back after COVID-19.
Footwear designer Sarah Flint, whose tagline is “Style Without Sacrifice,” told The Post that her Natalie pointed-toe flat, which sells for around $400, is one of her line’s best-sellers, amid her other, elevated offerings including her celeb-beloved, 3.3-inch “Perfect Pump 85.”
“The Natalie has been our strongest performing shoe throughout the pandemic, and it continues to be a best-seller this year, even as people are resuming some of their pre-pandemic activities,” she said.
Marisa Silber, buyer for designer shoes at Saks Fifth Avenue, is singing a different tune.
“We’re seeing a return of the heel,” she told The Post. “The [Christian] Louboutin business is incredible, Manolos had a resurgence and [Amina] Muaddi has been really strong. A lot of these sexy, emotional brands are really seeing the business return. People are excited to go out again, dress to the nines, and show off their shoes.”
That was true for Carrie Pluchino, who routinely wore 4- to 6-inch heels every day — until the pandemic prompted a serious change-of-heart.
“I love fashion and I love shoes, so I was bummed because there was nowhere to go during the pandemic,” said Pluchino.
Then one day, the 43-year-old New Yorker — who used to work in fashion but now has a job in tech — realized she wasn’t ready to give up her newfound sneaker habit. “It was a revelation that you can still look cute and fashionable and not be uncomfortable,” she said, adding that she recently bought luxe athleisure pairs from Loeffler Randall and Zadig & Voltaire. “Overall, you are happier [in flats]. When your feet hurt, you are miserable.”
She’s so committed to comfort that for her upcoming December wedding, Pluchino bought a pair of white checkered Vans that she plans to wear for the reception, ditching her 3-inch pumps as soon as the ceremony is over.
“2019 Carrie would have tried to tough it out for the sake of fashion, but 2021 Carrie is saying, ‘But you can still look cute in sneakers.’ “
Crown Heights relationship coach Sheva Tauby had a similar eye-opening moment when she got dressed for her sister’s nuptials. Instead of strutting out in a pair of heels — as she’s done regularly for more than 20 years — Tauby opted for some pretty black flats.
“I said, ‘I can’t believe I’m wearing these to a wedding.’ I wouldn’t have dreamed of it before [COVID-19], but there’s something about a heel that holds you back,” said the mother of eight, adding that she danced the night away without a single moment of foot pain. “Heels make you look and feel pretty, but it causes so much pain. I thought, ‘Is it really worth it?’ “
Staunch stiletto lovers have just a single word to say in response: yes.
“It’s laziness. It’s a fear of not being comfortable — that their feet will hurt all night. The truth is, it’s not going to hurt any more than it did a year and a half ago,” Sharaf, who’s been rocking her sky-high Jimmy Choos since last year when she decamped to Miami for the winter, told The Post. “It was bearable a year and a half ago, but all of a sudden, it’s not bearable? Your parameters of what’s bearable suddenly changed? You sat on your ass for a year and a half, and suddenly, you can’t wear your heels?”
Inna Plotkin, a personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, agrees with Sharaf.
“The pandemic is kind of over, and we should definitely get back to wearing heels,” said Plotkin, whose Instagram page, InnaYourShoes, has 20,000 followers. “When I’m going out to dinner, I wouldn’t be caught dead without a heel. It’s more of a polished look — you can’t stop getting dressed up. You can’t give up — you want to look good for yourself, for your spouse.”
“And men love heels,” she continued. “[Christian] Louboutin once said, ‘I don’t make heels for women, I make heels for men.’ ”
Luxe flats to replace your heel habit
From bow-topped slip-ons to tough but cool Chelsea boots, there are a slew of styles to fill your comfy kicks fix. “Our customers are gravitating towards loafers and lug soles rather than true flats at the moment,” said Tracy Margolies, Chief Merchandising Officer at Saks Fifth Avenue, who added that sneakers are still hot as well.
The Natalie Flat, $395 at SarahFlint.com
Bottega Veneta Lug Leather Chelsea boots, $1200 at Saks.com
Ugg Tazz Suede Platform Slippers, $120 at Saks.com
Alexander McQueen Oversized Glitter Counter Sneaker, $580 at Saks.com
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