Black Friday will be here in the blink of an eye. Were you planning to squeeze in a little shoe shopping for yourself? Or are you seeking an out-of-the-box gift item for your wife, mom, or teen daughter? Attractive shoes that are also ultra-comfortable don’t come along every day. Last spring, I got the special opportunity to try on and review some awesome pairs of female shoes from two incredible boutique shoe brands that have a stellar reputation in the Southeast. They both fall under the canopy of Consolidated Shoe Co. which has been celebrating its 125th anniversary in a big way with all kinds of new, innovative shoes hitting retail shelves. Consolidated Shoe Co. has created multiple brands unique to them, the two more prominent ones being OTBT (Off the Beaten Track) and Naked Feet.
In Calhoun County, both OTBT and Naked Feet brands are available through Wakefields & Martin’s Family Clothing Stores. You can also find styles in Birmingham at Gus Mayer and LJ’s Retail Therapy. Shoes sold in both brands are made with mixed materials like suede, genuine leather, or faux leather, and come in a variety of colors or prints.
Since 2009, the OTBT brand has delivered elevated athleisure footwear designed with comfort in mind for mobile women who work, travel, and engage in activities that demand standing or walking for extended periods of time. Their Travel Lite line offers lightweight shoes that also provide comfort, support, and traction with their Step Lite technology. Their series lines are Travel Lite (Featuring casual sneaker styles like Alstead & Free), Resort Wear (Wedge & Platform Sandals), and Outdoor Explorer (Sneaker Boots, Hiking Sneakers, High Top Sneakers, and Combat Boots).
I was thrilled to be contacted again, this time to sample some of their fall and winter styles. I tested out two styles from the OTBT line: the Alstead Sneakers in Griege and the Immerse in Griege. When I first held the Alsteads in my hands, I was pleasantly surprised by how light they were. This is due to their patented FlexCork footbed and Step Lite spring-back technology, which makes the shoes super-light. It makes a difference when you walk because you aren’t carrying that extra weight of a shoe with a heavy sole. The shoes are supportive, yet with cushioned softness. This makes Alstead Sneakers an excellent choice for travel, as they will be cushioned for heavy walking days, whether in the airport or touring about in cities or in the countryside. Plus, the pliable, perforated vegan suede collapses, leaving you the option for more travel space in your luggage. Alstead sneakers fit every season of the year, so are a perfectly practical choice for you this fall and winter.
I once suffered from plantar fasciitis and had one go-to pair of shoes that I relied on for over a year. I wish I’d known about the Alstead, as I think it would have been a perfect choice at that time. There are multiple attractive colors to choose from, including Silver, Grey, Black, Griege, Beige, Zebra Print, Lavender, Chamois, Light Blue, Dove Grey, and Canary Yellow. With so many positives, there’s little wonder as to why these shoes are one of the most popular in the OTBT brand.
The other pair, the Immerse, are lace-up, water-resistant hiking boots made in Portugal. Perfect for outdoor walking or light hikes, they provide support in their high ankle structure, yet are easy to slip into with inner-side zippers. I was wowed by the speckled lug soles made of recycled cork (sending a nod to sustainability), which are designed for ultimate traction on rugged terrain. Even more impressive was the fact they didn’t feel that heavy, and every step I took was cushioned. I could imagine that a hike on one of the numerous trails at Mt. Cheaha would go much more smoothly in Immerse boots than in the sneakers I usually don.
The top part of the shoe is made of water-resistant nubuck, and the padded footbed is removable if you wish to install a specialty sole. The design features a rounded toe and detailed stitching, offering a rustic, free-spirited look. I was amazed at how well-constructed these shoes were. I believe they would go the distance, literally, weathering years of casual and more vigorous walking.
The Naked Feet brand also houses comfortable, supportive, and lightweight shoes, but features more sophisticated styles for special events, evenings out on the town, work environments where more formal attire is required, and resort settings. They incorporate leather, ornaments, and handcraftsmanship for a classy shoe that provides the elevated look you seek without sacrificing comfort. Types of Naked Feet shoes suitable for fall and winter are platform sneakers, mules, slip-ons, loafers, and various types of boots.
It’s always fun to pick up a shoe in an interesting, non-standard color. I was thrilled when I opened up my box of Princeton suede platform sneakers in a gorgeous emerald green hue. This is another choice that features the company’s EVA technology, which equates to a cushioned, relaxed support for walking or standing. As with so many of the other styles, these shoes are lightweight, though they may appear heavy to the naked eye. For example, each shoe showcases an acrylic chainlink ornament that one would think weighs 4 or more ounces alone. In this case, looks deceive. The shoes are not heavy at all. I wore them out with an outfit where the shoes complimented the emerald green in my blouse to perfection. I felt very stylish, and I can’t deny there was a spring in my step as I strolled about.
The soles of these platforms are a bit smoother than some of the others but seem secure enough that even if you were walking in a wet setting, you’d be fine. These, too, are made of nubuck leather and feature a removable footbed as well as a padded sock to cushion one’s heels. The Princeton also comes in black, camel, and beige. This footwear receives a 10 out of 10 in my book!
The Protocol in Rust Mid Shaft Boots are luxe, pleated leather combat-style boots, offering an air of sophistication to your street style that will certainly turn heads wherever you’re walking. They feature a toothy, rubber lug outsole that provides the ultimate grip for stable walking in all conditions. The rust shade almost seemed more burgundy in my opinion, which was great, as that’s a color of choice in my wardrobe. This boot had excellent arch support with a bit more heel than the other styles mentioned above. Of them all, this boot was more traditional in that it did not feature the EVA technology, so was a bit heavier and not as padded. Where it lacked in that department, the Protocol made it up in trendy charm. I felt ultra chic as I mingled at my brother-in-law’s birthday event at a local brewpub. It’s worth mentioning that the aforementioned toothy lug outsole protrudes a bit around the perimeter of the boot to protect it from scuffing–a nice feature. And I thought the zipper being in the back of the boot instead of the inner side was a unique touch. You can order the Protocol boots in rust, black, grey, and even gold.
The final pair I’d like to talk about came as a surprise. Rather, a mix-up in the shipping department. While I had chosen the Rise Heeled Mules in Black and gotten all the details about them from the sales rep, what I instead received was another pair of boots, these being the Xenus in Black Leather Platform Ankle Boots. As I had already admired these among the choices I was given, I couldn’t complain, especially once I slipped them on. While many fall and winter boots look great but lack in comfort, the opposite was true here. Xenus boots are part of Naked Feet’s Fashion Lite collection, featuring the EVA platform that cushions the foot while keeping the boot lightweight. I admired the more square-toe shape in these boots, as well as the pliable genuine Napa leather. The grip of the rubber lug outsole inspires complete confidence that every step or stomp you take will be a safe one. These boots are a nice alternative to traditional combat boots, echoing toughness in the soles juxtaposed with the sleek, streamlined urbanity of the boot that reaches snuggly above the ankle, secured with a strong inner zipper. Make the road your middle name in these worldly, renegade boots, available in black, greige, mist, and deep red.
One last reminder. If you plan to do your holiday shopping in Calhoun County, both OTBT and Naked Feet brands are available through Wakefields & Martin’s Family Clothing Stores. If you prefer to go to the source, OTBT and Naked Feet shoes are available through their official sites as well. Now get shopping!