Tread softly on your dreams… *


Today I walked into one of my favourite designer consignment shops to see two shelves of newly-landed shoes which would make Carrie Bradshaw drop to her knees.

Manolos a go go. Dolce and Gabbana. Louboutins. Gucci. The full fantasy.

They’d all been consigned by the same person who turns out to have feet exactly a half size bigger than me, but you can do a lot with an insole, koala toe grip and sheer determination.

But the moment I picked up the first pair of Manolos – cornflower blue suede sandals, with one of his perfect heel shapes, just the right height – I knew I wouldn’t be buying any of them.

They all had secretary soles glued on to the bottom of them.

By which I mean those sensible thin rubber soles you get a cobbler to glue on. And the key to what’s wrong with them is right there in the word ‘sensible’.

Nobody ever bought a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s wonderful shoes to be sensible.

They’re a fantasy, a magic carpet which fits around your feet to transport you to a world of glamour with every – rather uncomfortable and slightly precarious – step.

these actual ones...

If you want sensible shoes, stick to your Birkenstoks.

But at some point it became an accepted idea that you should apply these nasty cheap plastic soles to every pair of magic carpet shoes you buy, to make the exquisite leather soles last longer.

What it actually does is subtly put the balance of the shoe out slightly – and it extinguishes the dreams and glamour as efficiently as Ebenezer Scrooge’s candle snuffer.

They were even on the soles of the Louboutins. The red soles. I could have wept.


These shoes were never made to walk in. You’re not supposed to wear them to get public transport into work. That’s why I call them secretary soles, because the idea of extending a shoe’s life in this dreary way brings to mind the office girls of the Mad Men era. Miss Turnstile getting the El train to mid-town.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I used to be a secretary who got the London Underground to work. You need shoes that will survive the escalators and an unexpected rain shower.

So get sensible soles glued on to your work shoes, by all means – or if you run to designer footwear, buy them from the special range Prada does every season for real life, which have rubber soles as an integral part of their design. They are heaven.

But please don’t put those ghastly bits of cheap plastic onto salon shoes, which is the correct name for this genre of footwear, meaning shoes to wear inside – or to the odd party, or wedding. They’re for wearing in a salon – as in the French word for room. Indoors, innit?

You’re not supposed to wear them to tramp pavements, something they should only touch in the short space between the taxi and the restaurant door.

Get secretary soles put on to magic carpet shoes out of some misguided idea it will extend their life – and you’ve ruined them before you’ve even worn them.


* with apologies to W B Yeats and his beautiful poem The Cloth of Heaven, which ends with these beautiful lines:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.



  • Judith
    April 17, 2016

    as someone who has just undergone foot surgery to correct shoe damaged feet, the sight of these ‘beauties’ just makes me cringe. How has it come to this that we actually believe this type of shoe is glamorous? To me, they are simply instruments of torture. Women of the world rise up! Don’t let yourself by conned by this.

    • kim
      April 18, 2016

      I agree Judith. They are beautiful to look at and should be on a shelf to admire, but not on the end of a leg . I have never forgotten my high school teacher who couldn’t comfortably walk barefoot because of years of wearing high heels to class.

    • Maggie
      April 18, 2016

      A large part of my agrees with you. I think they have a place – ideally sitting on a sofa in your own house, or for the short walk into the restaurant, but the idea that it’s normal to wear these shoes in real life is just nuts.

      • suzanne Stanton
        April 28, 2016

        Isn’t that why they call them limousine shoes!
        Sitting in my office wearing non-sensible Valentinos It just takes practice!

        • Maggie
          April 28, 2016

          Love that term… Do your shoes have rubber soles on them?

  • Zayin
    April 17, 2016

    Ha ha ha, this is brilliant. So true!

  • Phillipa Palmer
    April 17, 2016

    How unfair! What an unbelievable disappointment. Keep heading to that shop though. x

  • sarah
    April 18, 2016

    I love reading your opinions but felt this latest comment of yours had a mean streak to it. The person buying these shoes probably thought they could make them more comfortable by sticking such soles onto the bottom of them- thus more wearable for everyday office dressing to elevate their outfit- just look at TV shows like SUITS where the females are all strutting around in Manolos and Louboutins in the office. Heck even Carrie in SATC managed to run outside in pavements to catch cabs in her heels so the owner may have tried to do so and make them so more wearable this way.

    • Maggie
      April 18, 2016

      Hi Sarah – I’m so sorry to hear it gave that impression. It wasn’t my intention… Most of the shoes had never been worn! I hope you will enjoy my next one more x

  • FF
    April 18, 2016

    Controversially, I recently topy- gripped the bottom of my CL heels. True story. The red sole was being torn apart and I just had to take action.

    The topy grip was red!

    I am a big believer is re-soling and re-heeling. x

  • WattleFlatJane
    April 18, 2016

    If ever I am in Sydney I still love the ritual of going to the 7th floor of DJs and stroking the shoes that I a) can’t possibly fit on my bunioned feet and b) can’t justify/get away with buying. They truly are works of art.

    My gorgeous 18 year old daughter went out clubbing in Fitzroy on Friday – the next day her feet were red raw from her gloriously sky high heels. But, as she ever so sensibly pointed out: it’s all about the authenticity of the look.

    • Fashionista
      April 19, 2016

      Yessss! DJ’s Seventh Heaven! For all Melbourne’s gloriousness there was something about Seventh Heaven that is fabulous. Perhaps it was because there is where I first stroked true designer shoes and the memory remains with me forever. Love your daughter’s commitment to the fashion cause. Mine has a favorite saying, “fashion knows no pain”.

  • Mary
    April 18, 2016

    Maggie, I hate to tell you this but leather soles are incredibly slippery on wet pavements and without those ” ugly secretary soles”, I would do myself some nasty injuries. Plus leather wears out quickly and results in damage to the pointy end of the shoe. Having shelled out all that money for such beautiful shoes, I really want them to last and my body free of fractures.

  • Aya
    April 18, 2016

    I couldn’t agree more!
    I only wear my Manolo’s and other ‘salon’ shoes (luv the term!) when I am chauffeured; with only a very short walk to the venue (preferably on carpeted surfaces) 🙂

    • Maggie
      April 26, 2016

      yep…. and bedroom to sofa is my favourite commute in them! Raising to my feet only to fetch the bottle…

  • Sharon Connolly
    April 18, 2016

    Great post Maggie!

    Princess Mary came to my children’s school a couple of years ago and the first thing I noticed (apart from the impeccable grooming) was the red soles of her CLs. (High black courts – absolutely beautiful). She managed to glide from the car to the ceremony, a quick walk through the flag waving children and then out to the car again. The high heels made her visible and elegant – great for a working princess.

    Looking forward to the next post.

    • Maggie
      April 26, 2016

      Divine. I can’t bear those terrible shoes the Duchess of Cambridge wears. I understand, but she should suffer for glamour – it’s her duty!

  • Bernadette Green
    April 18, 2016

    I admire the truly beautiful high heel from a distance these days. Anything remotely resembling the Blahnick’s et sim. that looked so great on Carrie Bradshaw are way too delicate for me to get away with (a girl needs girly legs or at least calves to do the Blahnick’s justice). In my last life I definitely got to admire and handle some truly wonderful heels courtesy of all the gorgeous brides I assisted to the altar. A few of those gowns/dresses were literally designed and crafted around the all-important shoes; every girl deserves her fantasy attire for the big day.

  • Janelle McCulloch
    April 20, 2016

    Maggie, I usually love your columns, but I’m afraid I have to agree with the cobbler and a few of the others above. ‘Secretary soles’ (have never heard that term) may be a tad déclassé, but they do prolong the life of an expensive shoe. If you’ve ever worn an expensive shoe on a rough road (and even the few steps from a town car to a Bond Street party can be paved with danger), you’ll know that the soles will mark on the first wear out. After three or four wears on any kind of exterior pavement or road, they’ll show clear wear. The added ‘secretary’ soles provide a little height to lift the shoes off the street, so you can wear them more than four times, which is, I think, important when the shoes are $1000 + a pair.

    The key is to find a good cobbler who will use smaller, more discreet soles that won’t be seen when you walk. There is a gentleman in Toorak who told me that many cobblers just use soles “they buy in bulk from Bunnings” (!), which they cut to fit and then slap on. The Toorak cobbler (who is used to expensive footwear) does a more professional job with smaller, more discreet soles. |

    The cost of this makes me gasp, but not as much as finding a pair of shoes that I’ve saved up to buy has worn after just one wear.

    • Maggie
      April 26, 2016

      Hi Janelle, the smaller soles do sound much better and I have had a few heartbreaking experiences with cobbles in Milan! But I still can’t bring myself to do it xxx

  • Donna Kahlbetzer
    April 27, 2016

    I put these soles on my shoes after a knee operation hoping it would just give me a bit more safety rather then slip. Unfortunately when I had to return a pair of ‘Cosmopoliton double bay shoes’ (and anyone from Sydney worth their salt would know where I’m referring to here) because of a manufacturing fault, the manufacture replaced the shoes but not before adding a note into the box berating me for ruining the balance of the shoe with my safety addition!! So I’m post two knee operations now but safety aside, I’ll never do that again!!

    • Maggie
      April 27, 2016

      Yasssss! Thank you, Donna – I feel vindicated. The plastic soles ruin the BALANCE of the shoe. They don’t sit right any more. And yes…. I know exactly what you mean by Cosmopolitan Double Bay shoes. I have several boxes of them in my closet and remember the pain of the credit card statements… (but still don’t regret it). xx PS hope your knees are doing well.

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