My first stop was the Lower East Side store Dolce Vita, which was packed with last-minute shoppers. Two girls next to me were trying on adorable Mary Jane flats ($97). I had to have the blue ones. The low-cut, scooped-out shape was sexy and flattering, and the little buckled strap on top and gold lining added a perfect amount of detail. They paired perfectly with black tights and a cute dress. I wasn’t the only one who bought them—the two girls each snagged a pair as well. 136 Orchard St., nr. Rivington St.; 646-654-0505.
Brooklyn boutique Noisette stocks mainly French designers, including Repetto. These shoes ($185) have mastered the perfect ballet-flat shape and are shiny enough for a night out. Although the flats look almost shapeless, they mold to your feet after wearing. I loved the comfy-slipper feel and the dainty bow but felt wrong spending so much on a pair of flats. 46 N. 6th St., nr. Kent Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-388-5188.
Even though it was midweek, Intermix in Soho was still jammed. Frustrated by pushy shoppers, I was about to leave when I spotted these red Mary Jane pumps ($295) by Delman. The shoes were gorgeous, but the fire-engine red was too overpowering. I could only wear these to a really festive party—ultimately, they’d never leave my closet. 98 Prince St., nr. Mercer St.; 212-966-5303.
I haven’t been inside a Steve Madden store since I was in high school. As soon as I walked in, I was bombarded with loud pop music and even louder teenage girls. I tried on a pair of navy-blue patent-leather platform pumps ($79.95), which looked like hooker shoes—not exactly what I’d wear to my New Year’s bash. The super-chunky high heel, combined with the platform, was just too much. 540 Broadway, nr. Spring St.; 212-343-1800.
I escaped Steve Madden for Prada on Broadway, where I came across a pair of black platform heels ($248). The shoes also came in hunter green and olive, but I loved the black, which was less flashy and made the high heel seem less intimidating. The ankle straps were a nice touch and very practical—they kept my feet from sliding forward. Still, I felt like I was playing dress-up in someone else’s shoes. They looked nice on the shelf, but I’d never find anything to wear with them. 575 Broadway, nr. Prince St.; 212-334-8888.
Next stop: Jeffrey, my favorite place for shoe shopping. With loads of patent-leather pairs stocking the shelves, it was hard to find just one that I wanted. But then I saw these gorgeous Robert Clergerie peep-toe wedges ($550). They were surprisingly comfortable; the substantial platform wasn’t so steep as to make my arch ache. What sealed the deal was that they came in brown patent leather, a great—and swanky—alternative to black. These were the most expensive shoes I found but worth every penny. 449 W. 14th St., nr. Tenth Ave.; 212-255-2434.
En route to my last stop, I popped into Rainbow, a very cheap store that boasted many colorful pairs of patent shoes in the window. Once upstairs, surrounded by messy racks of find-your-own-size boxes, I came across a rubber-platform pump, $19.99, with an ankle strap, available in every color of, well, the rainbow. The best was the yellow-orange pair with fun blue lining. The shoes were comfortable and a great deal—if you can pull off such a vibrant hue. I doubt I’d wear them more than once. 380 Fifth Ave., nr. 36th St.; 212-947-0829.
I ended my quest at Aldo, hoping to score a decent pair of knockoffs. Bracing against holiday shoppers at the 34th Street store, I tried on white patent-leather pumps ($99.99). The shoes had a slightly rounded toe and a covered platform, but the best detail was the black patent-leather heel. The two-tones would be great for a night of partying, with one foreseeable problem: White shoes turn into dirty shoes, especially when worn in a New York winter. 579 Broadway, at Prince St.; 212-226-7974.