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Flatforms as Formal Wear: How I Said Goodbye to High Heels Forever

NY1's Jamie Stelter on the pair of shoes that changed her life.

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A few weeks ago, when planning what to wear to the White House Correspondents Dinner events that I'd be attending with my husband, Brian, I was completely stumped by footwear. I'm 5'1 so I needed something with height. But it had to be flat height — under no circumstances would I be buying heels.

You see, I don't wear heels. Ever. I hate them.

Jamie Stelter in Cowboy Boots Photo: Brad Barket / Getty Images

I hate heels because they're uncomfortable and my toes get all squished together at the front and my ankles get weak and wobbly when I walk on cobblestones or uneven pavement.

I hate heels because they force me to think about my whole day in terms of how much I'll be walking, and to strategize which "other" shoes to carry with me for the commute home. I hate that heels are considered the default, the gold standard, the what-you-should-be wearing with any respectable outfit. I hate heels for philosophical reasons too. I hate heels because men are never expected to be uncomfortable in the name of vanity.

But mostly I hate heels because I can't wear them. I have rheumatoid arthritis. Although I've lived with the disease for thirteen years, it was only in the last two that it began affecting my feet and ankles, ruling out heels completely. No chunky heels, no wedges, no kitten heels, no nothing.

Once upon a time I did wear heels often. I had a neon pink pair of Steve Maddens that I wore everywhere, and would rather now forget — not just an eye roll at the fashion choices of my 20s, but because at the time I didn't have the confidence to just say no to heels.

Black tie events still make me shiver. Because what looks best with a gown? Heels.

Now I'm in my 30s and I may never walk in heels again. It used to make me sad to think about, let alone say out loud. Instead of pumps or stilettos I'd wear my white vintage cowboy boots with everything. When I was inevitably met with confused (or sometimes side-eyed) looks, I'd act like something had just happened. "I hurt my foot," I'd say. Nothing to see here, keep it moving.

Today I'm much more self-assured in my anti-heel stance. There's only one pair in my closet. I've worn them precisely twice — for a photo shoot, and on my wedding day (but only for the ceremony, before changing into my beloved cowboy boots). Yet as comfortable as I've become in my boots, sneakers, and Birkenstocks, black tie events still make me shiver. Because what looks best with a gown? Heels.

Determined to find another option in time for the weekend in D.C., I took my search to the Internet. I came across a pair of green and black, neoprene and leather Marni sandals and immediately fell in love. Embellished with jewels, they had three inches of height — flat height — thanks to a chunky rubber and foam platform sole. I had to have them. Intimidated by the price tag, I sent my best friend a link for a little encouragement. "While I love nothing more than a flat, even a borderline orthopedic flat," she e-mailed back, "I cannot allow you to spend that money on those, I just cant."

Marni Platforms Marni mesh and glittered twill platform sandals, $760

Committed to my goal (and not stubborn at all — who me?), I decided to go to the Marni store in person. I'd try them on and see how they felt. Then I'd convince her! Only the store didn't have the shoes I'd been eyeing. Luckily I was drawn to a sparkly, mesh pair with flat rubber soles in a similar shape and height. They looked like fancy Tevas, or the fashionable offspring of this year's grandma-chic and athleisure trends. They were taller than I'm used to, but they felt sturdy. And I felt strong.

Come decision time I called my husband, because I knew he'd pose the same question he always asks: "Will this make your life better, or make your life easier?" If the answer is yes he thinks I should do it (or in this case, buy it). Maybe he should have asked me a third question: "How much?"

I'd already done the math. These shoes were going to make my life infinitely better. I was sold.

So how was the D.C. trip? It was perfect, all thanks to my Marni flatforms. I wore them all weekend, and instead of brushing off the squinty-eyed glances I used to get in my cowboy boots, I was showered with compliments.

I take it back, I actually don't hate heels at all. I laugh at them — from the comfort of my new favorite shoes.


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