In Praise of “Jolie-Laide” Shoes

Detail: Susan B of une femme d'un certain age wears ECCO Corksphere white leather sandals. More jolie-laide shoes on the blog!

Most current fashion trends leave me cold, but one that I’m on board with is clunky-but-comfortable shoes. Céline made Birkenstocks cool (again) a few years ago, and most recently, Tevas have become fashion darlings. For me, it’s all about putting comfort in the driver’s seat, and letting your footwear Freak Flag fly.

But then I’ve always had a predilection for clunky, funky footwear. I wore Birkenstocks almost exclusively through college and into my early 20’s. I had a pair of neon lime green Reebok high tops in the mid-1980’s that I wore until they fell apart. I went through a Dansko clogs phase in my 40’s. And I’m down with the Euro-geek vibe of my Mephisto wedge sandals.

Jolie-Laide Shoes For Summer

These (above) are my latest “jolie-laide” crush…they’re reminiscent of classic Teva’s but just a little sleeker. They’re from ECCO and they are CRAZY comfortable. There are three different adjustment points to customize fit. This also makes them a good travel option, as you can adjust if your feet swell during the day. Good arch support, too. (Some reviews mention that they run small; I found them to be true-to-size.)

As with sneakers, I like these styles of shoes best when worn with slightly more refined pieces, like Little Black Pants, dark-wash, non-distressed denim, or even a floral dress. That way, they feel intentional, and not like you just popped in from the campsite for more granola bars.

Gabor white leather platform sandals. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

If you like a little more lift in the heel, these are also pretty cool. They don’t adjust over the toes, but seem to have room to accommodate a medium-to-wide foot.

Back in 2014 when we visited Thailand, I knew we’d be doing some hiking in wet conditions, so picked up a pair of the original Tevas for that purpose. They were quite comfortable and worked well.

Teva leather sandals in red. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

If the Tevas canvas versions still register as a big too rugged for you, here’s the classic style in leather.

Just don’t expect to see me wearing these with socks. 😆 That’s just a bridge too far…

Do you wear clunky-but-comfortable shoes, or do you prefer more refined styles?

More Jolie-Laide Sandals

Stay in touch.

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  1. May 31, 2019 / 1:35 am

    I live in my white Birkenstock Arizonas during the summer — with everything! Before that, the bronze Gizehs. And given that I’m in Blundstones for the better part of fall and winter, I’m well acquainted with “jolie laide” 😉 What I’m increasingly appreciating about this kind of wardrobe staple these days is their longevity– not just that it’s very difficult to wear out either the sandals or the boots, but also that the style persists in its humble, classic way. As you say, Celine made Birkenstock cool again, but for many of us, they have long, long been so. Slow Fashion, before that term was invented. . .

  2. E.
    May 31, 2019 / 3:52 am

    Wolky Jewel

  3. Emily Cash
    May 31, 2019 / 4:26 am

    Funny you should mention it, I just purchased a pair of platform sandals yesterday. They are brown, slip on Madden Girls with a cork and jute platform. They were at Journeys. I was afraid they were a little “young’ for my but my 16 year-old fashionista daughter thought they were great. I wore Birkenstocks throughout grad school, sometimes with socks (I wore them year round) and loved them. Maybe it’s time to consider another pair…

  4. Elizabeth M
    May 31, 2019 / 5:06 am

    As a longtime Ecco fan, I have to say these Corksphere shoes look great. I may have to hit the Ecco store and try them on. I did just buy some thick soled white Clark’s flipflops that are wonderfully comfortable. Last summer I bought some “more refined” metallic Ecco sandals that I have gotten many compliments on. All this to say, I like both more refined and clunky depending on the occasion. I’m glad there are many comfortable options in sandals these days.

  5. Kelly
    May 31, 2019 / 5:19 am

    This is one of those decisions each woman has to make for herself, but I have a hard time with the chunky shoe thing. It always reminds me of the 80s and women wearing running shoes with business attire to walk in the city. In those days they put on their pretty shoes when they got to work. I do have some stylish Nike’s that I walk the dog in and occasionally wear to run errands with a casual outfit but I much prefer pretty sandals, wedges, or flats – just makes my outfit seem more finished. The thing I do applaud is women wearing shoes that are comfortable instead of ones that require foot surgery down the road! The thing I love about fashion is that everyone can have their own style and be true to themselves!

  6. May 31, 2019 / 5:42 am

    I have funky-cute Winona Doc Martens Mary Janes, in red canvas. Unfortunately I can’t copy the source. I need very comfy shoes (arthritis). My only trainers are leather Josef Seibels and Campers.

  7. Nancy Karpen
    May 31, 2019 / 5:55 am

    I wear Waldlaufer shoes and sandles because they are super comfortable for my feet and many have this cool clunky vibe as well. However I am definitely going to try these since they are quite a bit less money, especially on sale. With a bad arch and back I haven’t been able to wear real heels for years. I have embraced the clunky sandal for everyday and these are perfect. Thanks.

  8. Ainsivalavie
    May 31, 2019 / 6:18 am

    Oh my I do love my beautiful Burkies!! My SIL has been a die hard fan for years ( nurses know comfort on and off duty)and talked me into purchasing my first pair ( leopard print) I have since moved on to irridescent snakeskin Gizehs along with my black patent ( dress up) Gizzies . For covered up comfort I love my German Reiker’s. Very funky and comfortable high tops but no love for their sandals, a bit too school marm. Keen, Merrel both make sandals that are cute and supportive and don’t look like you’ve diverted off a hiking path.
    Love the granola bar comment. Bon weekend!

  9. May 31, 2019 / 7:02 am

    I am a fairly recent convert;). While I didn’t get the Gabor shoes (at least I haven’t gotten them yet) I find the wedge Mephistos to be more comfortable than bare feet now!

  10. Lee Rosenthall
    May 31, 2019 / 7:04 am

    Ecco and Teva are two of my “go to” brands – they work well for someone with narrow or thin feet. I will never forgive Teva, however, for eliminating – sorry, “improving” – the Terra Fi. I have two pair, now 7 and 10 years old, that I keep returning to because they’ve been replaced by poor-fitting imitations. Sigh. It seems like once something becomes popular, it stops working for my sorry feet.

    There’s an Ecco style that’s been around forever, the Yucatan, which I bought for a trip to England 10 years ago based on the rave reviews, that also doesn’t work for me. The black, nylon soles get very hot when walking. I love Ecco leather sneakers, however! Bought a silver pair as a white sneaker alternative after one of your posts last year, and I just bought the same style in white because, while it’s nice to have an alternative to white, a white sneaker is must in summer (and year-round these days).

  11. Jane2
    May 31, 2019 / 7:15 am

    I resisted Birks for years until the company produced the Mayari line – I have 3 pairs and require them in every colour! I also have a Birkenstock full sport insole that I put in my cute but not as comfy shoes.

    Other than that, I wear Mephisto shoes – they have a wide range from dressy to casual. Pro tip: buy from France as they’re a third to half of the domestic price, even with shipping.

    For me, Tevas are for casual wear and water running – however, if anyone wants to wear them for other things, fine by me. It’s all about comfort and we no longer have to have sore, blistered, bleeding feet in order to look put together in public.

  12. Margot
    May 31, 2019 / 7:24 am

    Birkenstock has some very lovely metallics this year – and I am a very non-glitzy girl!

  13. RoseAG
    May 31, 2019 / 7:47 am

    I have a pair of Tevas’ and I like them. I didn’t like these when Lisa considered them b/c I felt like they were a Teva ripoff, and I haven’t changed my mind.
    Normally I’m not down on designer knock-offs, it’s just a design or a style, but Tevas have been in my closet for years, with happy memories of wearing them while rafting. I don’t like seeing them dressed up as something they aren’t.

    I did see in the NYT that they’ve paired with some designed outfit to do a line with a little more zip – different colored straps, etc….

    I also have a pair of Chaco sandals which are similar but different 🙂 I don’t like them as well b/c the straps aren’t as adjustable.

  14. May 31, 2019 / 7:51 am

    Waldlaufer have a sandal called Gladiator (this is at a local business here in Montréal – I hate ordering online except for repeats). It is funky and even a bit punk with FOUR metal buckles. Sure, you’d have to do them up, but it would make for a perfect fit, and there is good coverage for a sandal – important for me on my (urban, old-school) bicycle. I wait to travel to France to pick up another pair of Mephistos as there is a huge price difference. I think that wedge is too high for my poor arthritic ankles, but they have many styles.

  15. Char
    May 31, 2019 / 8:51 am

    Love them! I just got a pair of Gabor sports sandals very similar. Cute and comfortable.
    Also J Slides make several styles that are clunky cool, and comfortable! Removable inserts
    too if you need to put custom ones in. Love the look, can be a fun and edgy look!

    • Ainsivalavie
      May 31, 2019 / 6:03 pm

      I have THE most adorable J Slides from last year! Embroidered leather with the thick sole too. They get compliments everywhere and SO comfy. I got them in the white because with size 9 feet plain white sneaks make me look like I am a character from Mad Magazine:)with these the focus is on the jazzy embroidery not the white back ground. Glad you mentioned J Slides!

  16. Liz
    May 31, 2019 / 9:11 am

    I was a Naot sandals wearer for years, but last year discovered SAS Relaxed. Jolie-Laide indeed but funky in a good way. The black and black reptile are pretty chic. The first sandals that I’ve ever worn in the hot and humid summer east that haven’t given me blisters.

  17. Daniella
    May 31, 2019 / 12:38 pm

    Birkenstocks all the way, in gold, silver, patent red, blue!! Gabor high platforms in blue, black, shimmery silver purchased last summer in Santorini!!

  18. Jane
    May 31, 2019 / 1:14 pm

    I’m sorry. I think they’re all awful.

  19. Roberta A.
    May 31, 2019 / 3:29 pm

    For absolute comfort, I am hooked on FitFlop. I have their flip flops which are great for the beach, sandals, sneakers, loafers and even Chelsea style boots. They have great arch support which enables me to walk for hours without pain. Most of them are pretty darn stylish too. I have never tried Tevas, but I do have Ecco sandals which I also love.

    • Lee Rosenthall
      May 31, 2019 / 4:04 pm

      Yes, FitFlops are fantastic! I have to size down an entire shoe size (from 9 to 8), but they fit well and are so very comfortable. I like that most give you a little extra height too. Just ordered my first pair of their flip flops, and they’re also great. I generally can only wear their sandals, but I agree they’re very stylish and comfortable. Have you tried their “Teva-esque” sandal yet? It’s part of their Heda line. (I wish they offered the men’s Ryker in women’s sizes; that’s closer to Tevas.) And they have a new sandal line, the Carin, that looks like something Susan would highlight – comes in matte black and black or blush patent and includes Velcro adjustments. A few of the Lulu sandals now come with buckles – a big plus for someone with a narrow foot.

  20. May 31, 2019 / 4:29 pm

    Buckles are just as important as those of us who have a wide foot, at least at one end. A discarded beau once said I had duck feet.

    • Ainsivalavie
      May 31, 2019 / 6:21 pm

      Oh that is nasty!!! I hope you tossed him in the Lachine Canal!! Some men are so…..
      I have big feet for 5’1″ ( or 155cm) at size 9 ( my husband has smaller feet:) my sister in law also is well endowed in the foot department too. One day we were shopping at a Winners ( TJ Maxx in U.S.) in a mostly Asian community in Toronto. All the dainty size 5, 6, 7 and 8 shoes were gone or well picked over but plenty of 9, 10, 11’s!! I remember that day..I scored a pair of size 9 AQUATALIA black leather sandals for 19.99!!! Ten years ago but it was a bargain even then. I wore them for years until they fell apart:(

      • June 1, 2019 / 4:53 pm

        Trust me, it was good riddance. Also because he was fundamentally gay, and in denial. One of my closest friends in the world is gay (I also have a very close lesbian friend and several gay or lesbian people in mutual like) so it is not a matter of homophobia but of his own self-hate. I hope he is doing better – this was a long time ago. I’d be more inclined to push nasty people (only in my fantasies!) off the lookout on Mont-Royal, closer to my hood (Petite-Italie).

        • June 10, 2019 / 1:56 pm

          I wear Naot Kaylas so continually that I stockpile sale pairs. They fit me well and come in many colours. In the city, I need a solid heel strap, or they can fall off. Awkward at best, dangerous at worst.

  21. Nicole K
    May 31, 2019 / 7:48 pm

    I have a pair of black Birkenstocks with white soles and buckles. Otherwise, no Birkenstocks since college in the late 70’s. However, I have always worn low heels and comfortable shoes. I usually spend more on shoes than clothes. Lately, Paul Green has become my go to with Vince and some AGL. They are just more comfortable and stylish. I can’t do faux leather in linings or soles. I am 100% on board for the sneakers! Have many pairs by PG and Vince. For some reason Fit Flops, Mephisto, Ecco and most other “comfort” brands don’t work for me. They have all seem to be for overpronators and that’s not my issue.

  22. Victoria D.
    June 1, 2019 / 7:45 am

    The Mephisto wedge sandals (“Lissandra”) are indeed amazing, as several readers have commented here and in other posts. It’s great to find a shoe that is attractive and super comfortable, and I’m in love with my pair. A big thank you to Susan for bringing them to our attention!

  23. SusanG
    June 1, 2019 / 7:55 am

    I love my Alegria sandals and get lot of complements when I wear them-very Jolie ladies and very comfortable.

  24. Sheila-Merle Johnson
    June 1, 2019 / 9:23 pm

    I live in the Eileen Fisher sport sandals you show above all summer. I have them in 5 different colors and have traveled comfortably in Europe with them. Love them!

  25. Linda
    June 2, 2019 / 6:26 am

    The sandals are very cute, and I am all about comfortable feet, but they also seem to draw the eye downward and enlarge the foot. When one wears between size 11 and 12, as I do, enlarging the foot isn’t something I care to do. Y’all enjoy though!

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