Against All Odds, I’ve Fallen in Love With Balenciaga’s Toe Heels
Cinderella had the glass slipper, and I have the Balenciaga toe heels. The shoe, which was released on e-commerce sites recently and retails for a whopping $1,290, combines Vibram’s FiveFinger form with a heel—every knobby toe is encased in its own bulbous, rubber-padded sleeve. Sounds weird? Sure. But this will sound weirder: I’ve never felt hotter than I did while wearing the shoes. The upper of the boots, made from a recycled knit, ever-so elegantly slides onto my foot as if I’m slipping my hand into a silk opera glove. And when I walk, it’s like Big Foot splaying his toes on the ground, marking his territory by making an imprint on the earth.
I wanted to give the boots a try, you know, because they are truly a level of mystifying heinousness. The shoe feels so far from what we think of when it comes to fashion. But then again, that’s Balenciaga’s M.O. under Demna Gvasalia. I’m always fascinated by Gvasalia, who was also the designer for Vetements from 2014 year to 2019. Whenever we see his designs, it at first feels like the clothes are made to become a meme. The layered coats from fall 2018 were compared to Joey from Friends, and his humongous dresses from spring 2020 felt like a social-distancing dream. And yet, there seems to always be elegance to even the most outrageous pieces. Those coats are ever-so-carefully tailored and those gigantic dresses are otherworldly. But can that magic be extended to Vibram FiveFingers? Can footwear that I believed were exclusively beloved by men in a midlife fitness-kick crisis and overzealous outdoors fanatics be elegant?
Well, they can be on Rihanna. The same day I received my own pair, I saw the pop star wear them with Vetements track pants and a Sacai puffer vest on Instagram. In the sporty get-up, she looked hot. But that’s Rihanna. When I put them on, the effect was different: They were as ridiculous as I thought. My feet felt animalistic, like I was a newborn deer trying to find balance.
And yet, from toes to arches to heels, my feet felt amazing. Even with the healthy three-inch heel, which acted like a spring, they were truly comfortable. After a while in my regular boots, I usually feel every single pebble gnaw into my feet. In these shoes, I could walk for ages, and I could probably hike (which is what FiveFingers are meant for). With every step I took, whether that was to the grocery store or the pharmacy, I felt deranged, bizarre, and kind of sexy. I saw the passerby’s side glances, their curious stares! I was living on the edge and hanging on by my 10 toes! Because I was so out of my element, it bred an odd strain of confidence. I smiled. I flipped my hair! I relished in my new footwear, wiggling my toes.
Feeling bold (and beautiful) I posted a slew of videos on my Instagram in my regular look of fall: a black zip-up and black cropped pants. (I kept it simple to let the shoes shine.) The comments ranged. A sneakerhead with a YouTube show wrote: “Oh my god”, a guy from my hometown sent me the question “what in gawds name are those,” and a woman from a fashion newspaper wrote “Ur gross.” But as many confused comments as there were, they were more positive reactions. People seemed to be intrigued by my freaky-deaky feet. A stylist wrote that she was going to tap Balenciaga’s PR for a pair and someone floating in my DMs said that I “bodied that look”. As brazen as the shoes were, neither I nor my feet have never felt so good. Yes, I’d wear the footwear again, happily. It just takes a lot of confidence to fill these shoes, or rather, toes.