Everyone walks everywhere these days. When possible, we walk to work. (Have you seen the price of the trips?) We walked instead of taking the car. (The planet, stupid.) We walk with friends in the park on weekends. (Especially now that everyone has a dog.)
We are all slaves to our step count. What started as a simple benchmark of cardiovascular activity has evolved into a modern metric of self-esteem. You may not say your prayers before you go to sleep, but as long as you hit 10,000 steps, you can sleep easy. Walking isn’t as sacred as wild swimming, but it still has the power to make you feel quite satisfied.
The Fitbit is to the 2020s what the Jimmy Choo Fetto pump (a favorite of Diana, Princess of Wales) was to the 1990s and the Manolo Blahnik Hangisi buckled pump, beloved of Carrie Bradshaw, was to the 1990s. the 2000s. It’s the accessory that defines the rest of your outfit. This is the case even if you don’t have a real Fitbit, by the way. My step count works only in my head, or in the Health app on my iPhone, but it still dictates a lot of what I use.
Walking isn’t as sacred as wild swimming, but it still has the power to make you feel quite satisfied.
Walking has become a lifestyle choice. Taking taxis feels a bit retro these days, even if you can afford it. It feels modern walking into the pub with flushed cheeks and closing the Duolingo app while taking out your AirPods. Falling out of a black cab is a bit much for Patsy and Edina, somehow. In cities, Google Maps has democratized Knowledge, making urban travel easier to manage on foot. Meanwhile, a heat wave has filled our phones with idyllic photos of rural youth.
On a sunny day, the coastal paths of Cornwall and Norfolk are packed with more Barbour-clad 20-somethings taking Insta selfies than fleece-clad retirees.
But which came first: the walking shoes or the flats? Did we start wearing flats because we walked more, or did walking become an option once we got rid of taxi shoes? The chicken and the egg, but make it fashionable. Years ago, if I was walking to a meeting or a party, I would carry heels in my bag and put them on right before I got there. This involved jumping on one leg into a door frame, a spectacle as ungainly as changing on the beach. Which seems crazy now. But back then, being seen in my walking shoes was like going out in an apron or a shower cap. They just weren’t public-facing outfits.
Walking has not only elevated the flat shoe, it has also changed the rest of our wardrobes.
For the last 15 years, most “It” shoes have been flats. Even the flashiest and flashiest of shoes (all those fur-lined loafers and exorbitantly priced designer sneakers) have been flat. Features once found only in the Mountain Warehouse shoe department—wide hook-and-loop closures for a snug fit, chunky grooved soles for added grip—are now de rigueur in the fanciest boutiques. You can have a Carrie Bradshaw-level shoe addiction these days and still walk everywhere.
Walking has not only elevated the flat shoe, it has also changed the rest of our wardrobes. The shoulder bag has taken over from the shoulder bag as the standard everyday work bag. Shoulder bags, these days, are for when you’re out to dinner and feeling fancy. And the knee-length pencil skirt, not long ago a staple of office wear, has almost certainly been thrown out of your wardrobe, unless you’re an American real estate agent.
Walking is more than a way to get from A to B. It’s a state of mind. In terms of fashion, it is a good look. So if you can’t walk around in your outfit, it won’t get you very far.