Seven shoe stores are evaluated for their selection of comfortable shoes: Bloomingdale’s, Hanlon’s, Herald Square Bootery, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and The Walking Company. Comfort,fashion, price, selection and service are discussed. The Walking Company and Nordstrom performed the best when visited by the mystery shopper, because they had very knowledgable salespeople. Herald Square, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue had poor selection and rude sales staff.
As I walked around the Manhattan Bloomingdale’s second floor shoe department probing the Ecco comfort shoes (the only serious comfort they had), a salesman asked if I needed assistance. When I said I was interested in finding some comfort shoes, he gave me a surprised look and then asked if they were for myself or someone else.
When I told him they were for me, he steered me to the new Keds, the Aerosole Matchpoint ($30) and the Earl by Hush Puppies ($75). When I led him back to the Ecco section, he reluctantly went to seek a style I selected in my size. When he reappeared, he said, “I really think these are too old for you… for someone with your type of style. But let’s just see what happens.”
“You want Rockports.” That was the response from the clerk at Hanlon’s in Braintree, Mass., when I told him I was looking for a pair of comfort shoes. The salesclerk brought me a few styles, including ProWalkers. He eagerly laced them up and put them on my feet.
While I might have opted for styles with a more contemporary look, they were indeed more comfortable than the beat-up sneakers I wore into the store. The price, $89.99. While the stylish shoes for plantar fasciitis delivered the comfort he said they would, the clerk neglected to explain the features which made these Rockports comfort shoes, such as cushioned insoles or flexible bottoms.
When I asked what else he could offer me in a comfort shoe, he pointed out a Red Wing style. When I pressed him for something a little more stylish, he went right past the Rockport display, which did have younger looks such as bucks and wingtips, and instead suggested a pair of Nunn Bush bucks in the mid-$40s, half the price of the Rockports, and with fewer technological features.
HERALD SQUARE BOOTERY
I asked the salesperson at Herald Square Bootery in New York if he could show me some comfort shoes. “Comfortable?” he asked. “What do you mean?”
It was apparent he did not fully understand what I meant by comfort footwear. “You have to be more specific. Daytime? Evening?,” he asked. Picking up a pair each of patent croco-print stilettos and patent croco-print sandals on a super-high wedge, he noted, “this might be comfortable for one person, but not another.”
My first stop at Macy’s in Herald Square, N.Y., was the junior shoe section, a small area featuring such brands as Steve Madden, Nine West, Sam & Libby and Hush Puppies.
I told the salesperson I was looking for comfort shoes, and she suggested I check out the Hush Puppies on the table in front of us. She also thought I should take a look at the Aerosoles brand, which she said was located in another shoe department.
The first footwear grouping in that department was devoted to athletic and athletic-inspired brands such as Keds, Nike, Avia, Airwalk and Reebok. Elsewhere, fashionable shoes for bunion sufferers were categorized by brand: Ahh… Keds, Rockport, Easy Spirit, SPA by Nine West, Natural Sport and Naturalizer.
Other brands featured in the department were G.H. Bass, Jennifer Moore, Calico, Impo, and Nine West. And the footwear was available in a wide array of styles, including pumps, flats, boots, sandals, dress shoes and evening shoes.
I asked the salesperson to explain the section to me. He suggested I choose styles to try on, and then he would help me.
Moments later, an elderly customer voiced aloud my thoughts. “You mean I have to go around and choose the shoes I want? You won’t bring them to me?” she asked the salesperson.
“That’s right,” the salesperson stated, to which the customer responded, “that’s what’s wrong with you people today, you don’t want to work!”
SAKS FIFTH AVENUE
I waited almost 15 minutes for someone to help me locate comfort styles in the fourth floor shoe department of the Saks store in Manhattan. The salesperson stood for a moment thinking, then led me to a Robert Clergerie brown suede slipon with a flexible, rubber bottom, retailing for $225. When I told him it was a little too costly, he then showed me Ralph Lauren’s RL Sneaker, a canvas sneaker with little support or cushioning. However, at $45 he didn’t think I could go wrong.
In the fifth floor shoe department, which is devoted to more casual and affordable lines, the only “comfort” shoe the store had to offer besides the Hush Puppies Earl was Arche’s Lantana, a brown suede slipon with a rubber bottom, for $175.
Though I had to wait 10 minutes in the shoe department of Nordstrom at Bellevue Square in Seattle before gaining anyone’s attention, when a young salesman did approach me, I quickly learned that service “the Nordstrom way” was more reality than myth.
I told him I was looking for a comfort shoe — one I could wear for endless hours. He recommended a Rockport loafer. I asked him why that shoe would be better than a pair of more fashionable rubber bottom, elastic shoes by Zelig. Though the materials used in the Zelig shoe should make it pretty comfortable, he explained Rockport’s patented eva midsole would provide the shock absorption I would need on hard surfaces. This sole, he continued, would minimize the stress on my ankles, shins and knees. When I tried a pair on, he suggested I walk on the marble floor, rather than the carpet, to see what he meant.
After asking for other suggestions, he singled out Easy Sprit, but shot me an in look, as if to ask if I was willing to make that steep a sacrifice in fashion for comfort. He then walked me over to a table showcasing other brands, including Ecco and Arche. Again, he explained in great detail the features that made the shoes for high instep and wide feet more comfortable than the average pair.
THE WALKING COMPANY
Immediately, I’m greeted by two saleswomen who are busy helping other customers, but still offer a “hello.” A short time later, one saleswoman, Barbara, offers her assistance, so I quiz her about the Los Angeles-based store’s biggest brands — Mephisto and Ecco. With no hesitation, she explains the nuances between the fits; Mephisto takes more time to break in, while Ecco has a more flexible construction but higher archies.
She understands that I’m browsing, so she offers to fit me in a sale item, the Mephisto Match. While she sizes me, she does her fact-finding, asking me what conditions I will use the shoes for.
Before bringing out the Mephistos, she analyzes my weight distribution and pressure points with the store’s Compusole computerized foot analyzer. I find out I place too much weight on my heels, which she said can lead to back problems.
The Mephistos felt too big, so Barbara offered the Ecco Cross, warning that the arch may bother me because of my wide feet. The Eccos felt fine, but I also asked about Timberland and Rockport. Her opinion: while those brands offered fine shoes, when it comes to walking, nobody is better than the Europeans.