When shoe manufacturer Jacques Cohen returned to New York from a European trip "he was appalled," says company vice president Rolana Fox, "by all the ladies dressed beautifully, wearing running shoes. He said they looked like Donald Duck." Cohen's answer: a "fashionable yet functional" line called City Walkers to appear next spring.
Cohen is one of many manufacturers jumping onto the walking trend, says Harold Gessner, executive director of the Footwear Council.
"Younger women are beginning to walk to work in sneakers," he says, "and the shoe industry is trying to offset that by bringing out walking styles that combine style with athletic function." At least one store -- The Pedestrian in Boulder, Colo. -- is devoted to walking shoes.
Despite the new fashions, the change from a good running or walking shoe into a more fashionable pair at the office is still usually the best for foot health, says D.C. Podiatry Society president Harold Glickman. A good walking shoe, he says, has a:
* Vibram (tough, beige rubber) sole to cushion and protect the foot.
* Sturdy arch support, to stabilize the foot.
* Rounded toe and proper width.
* Heel no higher than 2 inches.
Mid-day is the best time to shoe-shop, says Glickman. "Wear the shoe you're trying on for at least 10 minutes, since what usually happens is you buy it, walk two blocks and your feet swell." What about hovering salesclerks? "It's your foot and your money. Take your time."