June 18 2010
There comes a time when high heels, however glamorous, lose their allure. That time tends to be when the summer heat kicks in, in some interesting corner of Europe where the sightseeing involves lots of walking and sensible footwear should be the order of the day. But I cannot bring myself to join the trainer-clad hordes, while thongs and toe-post sandals are airy but hardly comfortable for striding out. And sporty walking sandals are just too earnest, especially with a light and frivolous summer dress.
I discovered to my cost last year that my previous standbys – soft-strapped sandals handmade in Capri – looked good but were inappropriate, as the thin leather soles slid on worn marble steps and I stubbed my toes on sunbaked limestone. Trying to be better prepared this year, I searched fruitlessly until I spotted the answer in the window of a shop I should perhaps have considered before: Clarks. Although it no longer manufactures in the UK, it still lays emphasis on the old-fashioned virtues of comfort and fit, and season by season their designs are becoming more au courant.
I was drawn first to their Soul of Africa designs, sturdy-looking handstitched gladiator styles at just £34.99 (though currently on sale at £19.99), the profits from which go to help people with HIV and Aids in the Kwazulu Natal community where they are made.
Then I spotted a sandal from the main women’s range even better for my purpose, and happily on target with this summer’s wide-strapped and wrapped styles. In soft taupe suede, they have a slightly shaped footbed, rubber soles that are “foot-shaped” enough to be truly comfortable, and an interesting cuffed upper with a supportive zip fastener, wrapped and tied with soft straps that could have come from Vivienne Westwood. They were £39.99 and, in the current fashion way, they even work with floaty dresses. They have proved to be bliss on urban pavements. I’ve yet to try them on classical sites, but bring on the temples, amphitheatres and museums. I’ll happily walk the lot.