Midland Shoe: Comfort is King
As a fixture of downtown Basalt since 1993, Midland Shoe has spent the past 25 years providing valley residents with comfortable, stylish footwear and expert advice on getting the perfect fit. Most valley residents readily admit that local footwear fashion errs on the side of casual, but most still want something that meets both durability needs and a moderate style quotient.
“Shoe trends in the Roaring Fork Valley have never really been a priority for ‘Mountain Girl’ sensibilities,” says shop owner Tracy Bennett. “Yes, there are the occasional galas and fundraisers for high heels or platforms, but there has never been a strong demand for those styles in our Rocky Mountain culture.”
Translation: no one’s out there hitting Mushroom Rock or Basalt Mountain in Jimmy Choos. Bennett should know; for decades she’s been watching what actually sells, and she naturally stocks what her customers return for year after year.
“In everyday life, what is it that a ‘Mountain Girl’ really needs? A comfortable, cute pair of sneakers or booties,” she adds. “Finally, the fashion world has caught up with and embraced what us local gals have always known: that comfort is king.”
Hush Puppies, Bennett notes, is a “fun iconic brand that’s making a comeback.” The company is known for producing stylish, foot-friendly shoes appropriate for a range of activities and settings, and it’s one brand of dozens that Midland Shoe carries. “Their Mazin Cayto bootie is a particular style that sells really well, and it’s perfect for our urban-mountain lifestyle.”
We asked Bennett why this shoe, or any great women’s shoe, works so well:
- "Great arch and metatarsal (under ball of foot) support as well as cushioning, which manufacturers are getting better at providing."
- "High-quality materials like leather or vegan alternatives that are breathable and water resistant are key. We also sell products to help improve a shoe's water resistance."
- "Oblique, round, or square toe box; lace-up or slide-on...the right cut is so important. A nice roomy toe box and a not-so-high heel (quarter inch or so) from the heel down to toe box seems to be the sweet spot for most women."
- "Color. Every year there are certain color trends that the industry leans toward (it was Blush for spring/summer 2018), but black and brown always reign as the top colors of the shoe world."
5028: Classic With a Twist
Do you know your shoe designer? Here in the Roaring Fork Valley, you can.
Carbondale resident Angilina Taylor had been working in the footwear industry for some 15 years when in October 2017 she and her husband Mike launched 5028, their direct-to-consumer shoe brand featuring wearable, high-quality designs and materials.
“We offer classic styles with a modern twist,” Taylor says. “Our approach is to offer unique, limited edition, artisan, small-batch products that are fun for our customers to wear.”
Taylor designs all of 5028’s shoes. To create the brand’s top-notch men’s and women’s lines she taps not only her extensive shoe-world experience but the collaborative creativity she fosters between the company and its manufacturing partners in Spain and Portugal. Taylor recalls that while working there years ago, she was impressed with the factories’ attention to detail and ability to make better, smaller quantities of product.
“They just have a knack for the craft of footwear,” she says. “I thought, how can we bring this to the U.S.? It’s not mass-market, but there’s definitely a desire for this kind of shoe.”
And how it all works? Customers hop onto WeAre5028.com to browse a selection of Taylor’s exclusive designs; then, they can pledge to purchase styles they want. Taylor sends an order overseas, and voila: The shoes are produced according to demand.
“This helps eliminate a lot of waste,” she says. “We aren’t making more than we need.”
In regard to men’s footwear, Taylor says that options in the valley are often limited to either athletic shoes or lower-quality fashions from big-box retailers.
“Even if you’re a ‘t-shirt and jeans’ guy, a pair of shoes with a touch of flair can say a lot about your presence,” Taylor explains. “So we do fun prints on the inside, fun linings, nice burnished leathers with a worn look, and other details.”
Taylor also has a few other tips on what a great men’s shoe should have:
- "Leathers that are rich in character and quality are very important. The leather used on our SweetWater is deeply pigmented and waxed, creating a luxurious handfeel and stand-out look."
- "For a man, subtle detail says a lot. Unique laces, printed linings, designer footbeds, and discoverable treatments really make the man's shoe. And if he peekaboos some funky matching socks? Bonus points!"
- "Casual is hip. The evolution of what is now considered 'dress' has a much broader spectrum. The last and the sole of our SweetWater provide the comfort of a sneaker while still maintaining a refined look."
- "Versatility is huge. Many of our shoes are appropriate for a variety of occasions; they can dress up a casual outfit, or add a little funk to a suit. Let's face it, men don't own as many shoes as women do so we want our guys to have options."