By Mark LaFlamme
Staff writer
OK, people. Let me get right to it. If you want to express your fashion sense this summer while avoiding ugly afflictions like hammer toe, choose your footwear wisely. And by choose wisely, I mean follow the trends precisely. And by trends, I mean Gladiator-style sandals or open-toed footwear with a lot of fringe, buttons and beads. I mean either extremely ornate or just brightly colored.
Don’t be a hero, ladies. If you buck the trends by sticking with those lame kick-off flats, you risk being laughed out of clubs and pointed at on beaches. You will suffer blisters of shame and contend with foot odor that will drop seagulls from the sky. In this, the start of the flirtatious foot season, your guarantee to social acceptance is to do what others are doing.
Like Spartacus before me, I have spoken.
Disregard me as a stupid boy all you want, Betsy Birkenstock. I know of what I speak. I know because I went shoe shopping this week with the very best. Her name is Tammy Chamberland, and she knows shoes like a dog knows bones. She buzzes through a shoe store like a bee seeking pollen, scowling at the outdated, lingering lovingly over the best of the summer offerings.
We started with the Romanesque Gladiator sandals at Kohl’s in Auburn. To me, some looked horribly confining, like something that you might wear at a club where whips and shackles are as common as glasses and coasters.
“No,” says Tammy. “This is what we’re rolling with. This is what’s in.”
With great affection, she pets this footwear, like a parent proud of something a child has done.
We move through the aisles and examine all forms of footwear geared toward summer. I’m learning terms faster than I can write them down. In my notebook are scribbled words like peep toes, jellies, sueded bottoms and Vera Wang, the latter which I initially believed was a medical condition not related to the feet at all.
“Cute,” Tammy says to a pair of simple sandals with leather straps.
“Super cute,” she comments at another.
“Cute” and “super cute” is lady speak for footwear that is somewhat above acceptable but not quite worth outright squealing over. The squeal-worthy shoes are deemed to be “hot” or — and this is the big time — “sexy hot.”
At the other end are shoes and sandals declared to be unworthy of any social situation at all, including garbage picking and rat shoots. They are outdated and unattractive and ruled on very quickly.
“These are horrendous,” Tammy says of one pair of overly jeweled sandals.
“Nasty,” she spits at another pair in another aisle. “Who would wear these?”
The Jellies — brightly colored thong-type sandals made of hard plastic — she declares “horrid” and another shoe is simply “icky.” The worst looking shoe of all — I don’t even dare describe it for fear of offending adult readers and traumatizing the young — has an even more vivid classification.
“These,” Tammy says of a pair of something called Fergalicious by Fergie, “are the most heinous shoes I have ever seen.”
She covers her mouth when she says it, as if to ward off sickness.
Also big this year is what Tammy refers to as “the bejeweled.” These are sandals and other open shoes with a variety of beads and gems, studs and thingamajigs adorning straps and thongs. To me, they look just gaudy, but that is my novice eye at work. Gaudy is not by definition a bad thing.
“Some women can pull off gaudiness,” Tammy explains. “Being young helps.”
It’s dizzying, all of it. When I, and most adult males I know, go shopping for a summer shoe, we are looking for something very specific. We want to be able to play whiffle ball without our shoes flying off and we want to be able to go drinking immediately after. Whiffle ball capabilities are way up there. Appearance is way down.
There is much more to be considered with the lady’s shoe. The portion of the shoe upon which your foot rests directly, for instance, is extremely important. Here, I will ask each of you to please reconsider your choice in footwear with a sueded bottom.
“They get nasty and gross and you can’t clean them,” Tammy says. “That’s a problem. Your feet are probably going to stink.”
To me, a woman in heinous shoes is preferable to one who is stinky. But what do I know? I thought all shoes with open toes and no heels were sandals. Instead, sandals can have heels, and those with open toes can be called something else. 
“You have sandals,” Tammy explains, “and you have sandal-ish.”
I thought sandals were shoes you would wear to wash the car or walk on the beach. Apparently, you can go to weddings and funerals in them and then dance all night, too.
“Sandals are not beach wear,” said a Kohl’s saleslady aroused by my ignorance. “They are summer wear.”
My friends, I have been schooled. Gladiators, bright colors and just the right level of gaudy are in. Heinous and foul-smelling are out.
The damnable thing is, I’ve spent the day looking at feet and, by God, I have yet to spot a woman with shoes that are not open-toed. How do they know, these women from 16 and 96? How do they know what is hot and what is not?
“Most women look at what other women are wearing,” Tammy says.
Which is fine if you’re a part of the feminine tribe. But a guy who spends his afternoon gawking at the feet of strange women tends to draw attention to himself. I’ve been frowned at, hissed at and winked at. A woman with fabulous leather lace-ups appreciated nothing about my new eye for fashion. She appeared ready to draw back and kick me right in the Vera Wang.
Giggity.

Sexy hot

Hot, hot, hot!

Hot

Super cute

Casual cute

Cute

Earthy

Horrendous

Horrid

Heinous

As if shopping for summer shoes isn’t freaky enough as it is, here is a list of warnings from professional foot people who want to save your ankles and possibly your life, whereas we only care about your reputation. 

DO’S:
• Do shop for a flip-flop made of high-quality, soft leather. Leather minimizes the potential for blisters and other types of irritation.
• Do look for flip-flops that hold the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Seal of Acceptance, such as Sole Platinum Sandals. Evaluated by a committee of APMA podiatrists, these products are shown to allow for the most normal foot function and promote quality health.
• Do gently bend the flip-flop from end to end, ensuring it bends at the ball of the foot. Shoes of any kind should never fold in half.
• Do wear a sturdy pair of flip-flops when walking around a public pool, at the beach, in hotel rooms and in locker room areas. Walking barefoot can expose foot soles to plantar warts and athlete’s foot.
• Do ensure that your foot doesn’t hang off of the edge of the flip-flop.

DON’TS:
• Don’t rewear flip-flops year after year. Inspect older pairs for wear. If they show signs of severe wear, discard them.
• Don’t ignore irritation between toes, where the toe thong fits. This can lead to blisters and possible infections.
• Don’t wear flip-flops while walking long distances. Even the sturdiest flip-flops offer little in terms of shock absorption and arch support.
• Don’t do yard work while wearing flip-flops. Always wear a shoe that fully protects feet when doing outside activities such as mowing the lawn or using a weed-eater.
• Don’t play sports in flip-flops. This practice can lead to twisting of the foot or ankle, as well as sprains and breaks.

Source: American Podiatric Medical Association


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