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Power Flats: Totally a Thing, As Long as They're Not Ballet Slippers

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Tocca flats via Getty
Tocca flats via Getty

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Even though high heels still outsell flats in America, designers are starting to make flats that are cute and—gasp!—comfortable. Over at the Wall Street Journal, Christina Binkley has just christened "the power flat," aka a shoe that has a heel but still manages to be cool and not something you'd be ashamed to leave your house wearing.

Fashion runways lately have been full of chic flat shoes for women. Menswear-inspired Oxfords were all over the fall/winter collections. Pointy-toed flat pumps, sandals and smoking slippers—masculine shoes with a thin sole and a loafer-like tongue—followed for next spring. Many of them countered flats' dowdy image with fashion-statement details such as studs and a huge variety of materials, from snakeskin and tweed to patent leather.

However, not every flat is a power flat. Binkley reserves this term for shoes that have studs or metal parts on them, who look like they could be used for "kicking." In other words, put your innocent little Repetto flats away.

The kicking rule pretty well rules out ballet flats, many women's flat of choice because it's graceful and fits in a purse. Round-toed and structureless, ballet flats are far too demure for a woman addressing her board of directors. "I'm exhausted by ballet flats," says shoe designer Tabitha Simmons. "Something angular constitutes a power flat to me."

So, when is it appropriate to wear a flat? According to Binkley, it's when you need to walk more than a block or two, when you have knee problems, or when you, like Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, are taller than your husband. And if you do need to wear such a shoe, it would be best if you bought an expensive pair from Elizabeth & James or Marc Jacobs.
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