I’ve shopped at Marks and Spencer my whole life, initiated back when what I wore wasn’t up to me, and my mum was at the helm of dressing duties. Even when it wasn’t cool or age appropriate to do so I’ve always stayed loyal to the brand. They been my go to for bras, dressing gowns and classic polo necks. I’ve purchased numerous pieces from the much-coveted collection by fashion rock-chick darling Alexa Chung, and one of my top choices for mufty day as a kid  was a folky embroidered waistcoat purchased from the kids collection. Damn do I wish I still had that!  Curse all of you who are trying to remedy my hoarder ways, I’d still be rockin’ that if it wasn’t for you!

Why am I so devoted to this safe and family friendly brand? Well I’m aware of their hidden gems and their unrivalled strengths, some of which they’ve updated to ensure I can still buy them in this ‘woke’ period of time. 

I’ve ditched leather. The last car we bought, we actually opted for our second favourite, as the slightly better one had leather seats which we decided if possible we wanted to avoid. I now only buy faux leather biker jackets, and my Dr. Martens are from their vegan range (which by the way are much easier to break in). I’m sure I’m not perfect in respect to completely abandoning leather -undoubtedly there are trims and details I’m not aware of on items I’ve bought prior or since taking this stance,  but I’m doing my best to try and avoid it. 

Marks and Spencer are currently creating some very chic vegan offerings to their shoe range which makes me so ecstatic as they have always been the destination to buy shoes that allow me to feel some kind of comfort while wearing them. 

As a young twenty something nervously heading to my first fashion internship at Glamour I wanted to feel like a proper fashionista, wearing cute ankle boots that could give me a manageable bit of height, that would give me a sway to my walk that would denote confidence as I strutted down Bond street to make my entrance in to the prestigious offices. At that point I didn’t realise that flats would be the only sensible option when days would be spent sprawled on the but fashion cupboard floor doing returns or being sent out to grab the Starbucks in a time sensitive manner . 

I found these amazing patent ones that had one of their wondrous squidgy insoles that I wore to absolute death. This was the era when wearing ditzy floral tea dresses with black ankle boots was the look for every IT and wannabe IT girl. The uniform to snag a band guy and simultaneous appear in the pages of Elle magazine. The sort I was zipped Alexa in to when I assisted on a shoot for Glamour in fact, although hers were Russell and Bromley numbers back then I think. 

I’ve kept my M&S ones for over ten years (so far) because any attempts to replace them have been a failure, even if initial signs were good. I’ve found some that look just as good, as if not better. I’ve found some that are fantastic dupes for overpriced designer versions. I’ve found some that have the desirable boot silhouette of the moment. But all have failed when it comes to practicality, longevity or comfort. On the most part they’ve all looked great in snaps with the pure purpose of filling my Instagram grid, but make my feet cramps up after about 10 metres of walking. Others have separated at the glued joins. Others have completely lost a heel. Most have lead to stingy grazed knees, burning balls (of the feels) or sprained ankles. 

I had noticed that M&S had done some cracking vegan hiking boots in recent months, so last week I decided to browse their current offerings and joyfully came across their block heel ankle boots which come in 4 colours. Unfortunately the stone colour was already sold out. But I immediately added the black and natural mix to my shopping basket. I knew I couldn’t risk missing out of these latest hidden gems. 

They arrived today and I couldn’t be more pleased. I’ve given them a strut around the flat, which admittedly doesn’t exactly give them a thorough testing, but the initial signs are good. They feel incredibly comfortable and the size 4’s feel true to size. You can feel the padding underneath your feet too which will hopefully stave off that pressure and burning I tend to get after a day walking to events and meetings in town. The heel is high enough that it isn’t of the kitten variety (I know they’re cool now but it’s too ingrained in me to dislike them) but not so high that I am encouraging calamity or cramping calves. 

The Natural mix is a faux snake-print which would look good teamed with those neutral/tonal outfits, worn with denim and a band tee, or to add a bit of interest to an evening look. I will have to hide them whenever Si’s mum is around though, she has a huge phobia of snakes and nearly had a stroke when I unknowingly wore some snake effect sandals when I was over for lunch one time. 

Last year the head of podiatry at Woking Community hospital changed my life by looking at my feet and seeing how he could help make standing/walking (and everyday life) a bit easier for me. He could see that due to the extreme arches I have barely any of the bottom of my feet was touching the ground – so the bits that were (the ball of my foot, and the heel) were taking all of my weight. Weight which wasn’t balanced thanks to my hyper-mobile ankles and subluxating hip. He created a completely bespoke insole that I could put in my shoes which would hopefully make a big different to my quality of life. This is the same guy who encouraged me to seek diagnosis for EDS despite my first rheumatologist saying I didn’t have it. It turn out he was right in pushing me to seek a second opinion. 

Unfortunately these perfect tunes insoles made most of my existing shoes too small. I’d need to buy all of my shoes again and size up – something which my finances doesn’t allow for. 

So this is why shoes with this Insolia technology are so helpful to people like me. It might not be custom to my feet and their unique needs, but my goodness are they better than nothing! I can put a stylish foot forward and not regret doing so during or after. They’re also great for anyone that has a job that requires them to be on their feet for a large chunk of the day but also requires them to have an aesthetic that doesn’t just scream ‘practical’. 

At £35 they’re affordable, but not cheap – perhaps a bit more costly than some of the budget high streets stores. But for me they are fairly priced and I’m so happy to spend that amount of vegan friendly footwear that has my best interests at heart! I also know from experience they’re going to be friends to my feet for many years to come. 

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