feet week

These $100 Grandma Sandals Are More Comfortable Than Birkenstocks

They look like they could be from Acne or Opening Ceremony. Photo: Courtesy of the retailer

As temperatures climb and we enter the season of exposed feet, we’re here to help, with all the best tricks for keeping your feet presentable, as well as comfortable. While this week happens to be the start of Fleet Week, we’re doing our own take as summer begins. Welcome to Feet Week on the Strategist.

I have flat feet. You hear that flat footedness can keep you out of the army, but personally I have experienced only two significant side effects. The first is that my footprints lack that elegant crescent shape you’d recognize from Club Med ads (or possibly your own prints) and instead look like little isosceles triangles, or baby feet. The second is that I find almost all shoes mildly uncomfortable. For this reason, I tend to wear clogs, sneakers, sneaker-like boots and the occasional block heel. I own no stilettos, no pumps, no spikes.

In terms of closed-toe shoes, I’ve found my niche. Sandals, however, present a particular challenge. Every summer, I resolve to find a sensible pair that meets simple criteria: suitable for everyday wear, not unflattering on the feet, and just comfortable enough to warrant skipping the subway in favor of walking. Year after blistered year, I fail. The grandma-friendly, cork-soled Worishofer’s chafed; Birkenstocks prodded my fallen arches; and the once-ubiquitous Salt-Waters made my feet spread out like small, undercooked pancakes.

Then, two summers ago, I admired a pair of simple, wide-strap sandals worn by a particularly stylish friend. (She found out about them from one of her particularly stylish friends.) Made from rubber and elastic, the shoes were flexible with a short (but not insignificant) heel. The chunky, toothy soles — evocative of ’90s Skechers — gave them an athletic edge. Acne? I wondered. Opening Ceremony? “Vivanz,” said the friend, naming an unknown, orthopedically inclined ladies-shoe company. “Everything else they sell is hideous.” I ordered a pair the next day.

Here’s why they’re perfect: The broad, elastic straps cover just enough of your feet to make them look trim and minimize any “side squish.” Four of your five toes and just a hint of “toe cleavage” (this is a terrible term, but trust me, it’s desirable) peek out at the front. Walk in them. Run in them. Never take a cab again in them — they really do feel like sneakers. You will get compliments on these shoes, and the compliments will be from well-dressed strangers. From time to time, you will see a particular type of arty, sophisticated young woman (usually in Greenpoint) wearing them, too. Did I mention they are $100?

After two summers of near-constant wear, including regular 10,000-step-count days, countless saltwater-soaked excursions to the Rockaways, two weddings, and a trip to Kenya, one of the shoes developed a crack in the sole. I went online, eager to reorder, only to find that Vivanz had all but vanished from the internet. The only trace of the sandals — found through a third-party site — was a navy colorway, offensively studded with metal grommets.

Naturally, I panicked. I had pictured a lifetime of summers in these shoes. I had planned to buy pairs for friends and relations. What now? After an extensive search, I discovered that the sandal transcended Vivanz. Originally manufactured in San Miguel de Allende, the “shoe capital” of Mexico, the style — and a range of others, all geared toward comfort-conscious lady travelers — is now owned and sold in the United States by the Charleston Shoe Co.

Charleston offers the shoe through both their own site and Amazon. Don’t be dissuaded by the three-star rating and single, curt review: “Sent back. Too small.” It’s worth chasing these down in the right size. Your feet (flat or perfectly arched) will thank you.

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These Grandma Sandals Are More Comfortable Than Birkenstocks