Let’s face it, ladies: Our podiatrists will likely never endorse our heel habit. (Most advise staying under 2½ inches.) But wedge styles, with their solid construction, may at least be the lesser of several evils, particularly those featuring comfort devices like shock-absorbency, non-slip soles and molded footbeds. We tested some of the latest offerings for spring to see just how healthy heels can be.
$69.99 At first glance, this is an attractive all-around casual wedge, but it’s the little details that make it special: a brushed-metal buckle, suede-covered heel and the fact that the supple leather straps appear to wrap around the wedge. The moderate heel and 1-inch platform kept feet at a fairly natural angle all day while still offering some height. Comfort features like the cushioned footbed and reinforced but flexible sole rivaled those on brands twice the price. Available in black, tan, sand, red or royal blue.
$150 A 1.5-inch platform and Adidas shock-absorption technology combine to make these slim 5-inch wedges far safer than they sound. But science aside, what won us over was this shoe’s fashion versatility. It would be a great transition style to pull out in early spring and wear well into fall: The design keeps most of the foot covered while offering a peep at your pedicure. Available in light grey suede or black leather.
$79; www.aerosoles.com Birdcage heels have been all over the runway lately, but the cutout style has a high potential for pain. With extra elastic insets, these leather-top wedges solve that dilemma without sacrificing good looks. An elastic heel strap also expands to slip on and off, but doesn’t rub. The matching stripe on the 3-inch heel is a cute detail, and the purple color is subdued enough to function as a neutral in your wardrobe (though black and tan are available). For comfort shoes, you can’t beat the price.
$110; www.bornshoes.com Born’s Azalea full-grain leather wedges (in black, white, orange and metallic) were hands-down some of the most comfortable we’d ever worn. Even after a full day’s wear in the four-inch heels there were no sore feet in sight. The leather lining is both soft and supportive, and the arch provides added comfort. The leather straps are non-chaffing, the rubber soles provide great grip and the bold flower simply underscores the shoes’ femininity. These are definitely worth the expense.
$115; www.dansko.com Anyone who spends a ton of time on her feet knows the signature Dansko clog. This summery take on the style has many of the same comfort features: shock-absorbing sole, lightweight construction and pillow-soft footbed. The Sophie also sports a moisture-wicking footbed lining to keep you cool and protect from abrasions and blistering. The two adjustable straps are snug but don’t rub, allowing a full day of walking with no break-in period. Versatile enough for summer travel; casual by day but dressy enough to wear with a skirt at night.
$265; www.mephistoshoes.com Going in, these strappy wedges had two strikes against them when it comes to so-called healthy shoes: the lack of heel straps to secure the foot, and a 3-inch heel. But Mephisto, known worldwide for their high-end, handmade walking shoes, knows how to compensate. The Nazli’s contoured cork and latex footbed cradles the foot and an adjustable strap at the ankle makes you feel super-secure for a backless shoe. For its height, the wedge heel keeps you steady, and foot fatigue is not an issue due to the shock-absorbing rubber sole. Our only issue: the price. The faux boa styling and bit of bling certainly make them look high-end, and the quality materials promise a long life. But if you’re looking for a bargain, you won’t find it with this brand.
$60; www.drschollsshoes.com These wedges were the least expensive pair we tested, and they didn’t perform as well as some of the higher-priced brands. The canvas straps don’t offer as much give as a natural material might, especially over the instep, though an elastic gusset on the inside strap does allow for some stretch. But for a comparatively bargain price, you do get a memory foam insole that adds height to the 4.5-inch heel without sacrificing comfort. Plus, they’re available in a leopard or floral print as well as black and white.
$108.95; www.sofft.com This gladiator-style mini-wedge is not just comfortable, it may just be the only sandal you need this summer. The faux-snakeskin leather upper in black, blush or peach with gold metal accents is perfect with skirts, shorts, jeans or capris. The adjustable ankle and arch-hugging straps keep your foot secure; the springy rubber sole with a non-slip tread allow you to move with ease and comfort. Sizing runs a bit large; consider going down a half-size for the right fit.
$149; www.isolashoes.com These wedges almost look like a work of art, with their sculptured heel and mix of pattern and textures, but their comfort level makes them surprisingly practical. A 5-inch heel is serious business, but these are as stable as you can reasonably expect, especially for such a sleek design. Here’s the rub: This shoe runs extremely narrow, and sizing up doesn’t really address the issue, especially as the ankle strap is not adjustable. If they happen to suit your foot shape, snatch these show-stopping heels up; otherwise, try another style from the line.
$145; www.naturalizer.com Naya is part of the Naturalizer family, a higher-end offshoot that also aims to reduce its footprint by using recycled materials when possible. Whatever the parts of these shoes used to be, there’s no doubt they’re now serving a noble purpose as a chic and comfy 4-inch wedge. The soft footbed provides ample support, particularly in the instep. The attention to design detail, like the contrast stitching and leather band across the heel, ensure these heels will turn heads.
$75.95; www.softspots.com Huaraches were once a ubiquitous summer style, but perhaps their tendency to leave blisters (thanks to all the crisscrossing straps) contributed to their decline in popularity. This sweet take on the retro sandal sidesteps that problem for the most part, though we’d still warn against wearing them for a long day right out of the box. Once broken in, the “pillowtop” cushioning lived up to its name, and we loved the dainty look of this 2-inch wedge compared to other styles we tested. Color choices are fun but limited: pink, teal and white.
$159; www.walkingcradles.com These elegant wedges are made to fit feet of all shapes and sizes. The printed leather top (available in black or taupe) not only adds interest, but also helps camouflage an elastic inset that allows for some stretch. And if that’s not enough, the style comes in four width options: narrow, medium, wide and extra-wide. A 2.5-inch heel is a nice change of pace from other towering wedge styles, offering a casual look with a bit of lift.
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