There are many theories as to why French women don’t get fat (as the 2004 book so famously claimed) but one of the Parisiennes’ top slimming strategies must surely be that they walk so much. Paris, of course, has a way of making walking seem a pleasure rather than a chore; there’s always a picturesque new way to go from ah to bé, and intriguing details leading you onwards (a lacy balcony here, an ornate lamppost there). So for your next Parisian holiday, make sure to pack a few pairs of good walking shoes — namely flat ones, all the better to flit along those cobbles. Or better yet, stock up when you arrive, with the following stores and styles at the top of your wishlist. (And surely buying such a souvenir will inspire you to keep up the exercise back home, non?)
Parisiennes have long made a white training shoe look chic with any outfit, and consider their Adidas Stan Smiths or Spring Court sneakers to be wardrobe staples right up there with a trench coat and Hermès scarf. Long-time French lifestyle brand Bensimon has some of the sweetest trainer styles around, inspired by their classic tennis shoe of 1978, in crisp white as well as a fun selection of brights.
Bensimon: 20 Rue des Pyramides 75001; 8 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois 75003; 54 Rue de Seine 75006.
In the 1830s, the author George Sand, a gushing Romantic as much as a fierce feminist, moved from the provinces to Paris, where she defiantly walking the streets in men’s suits, and shoes that made her feel ‘solid on the pavement.’ Ever since, the edgiest Parisiennes have loved to appropriate traditional menswear (slouchy pants à la Coco Chanel, ‘un smoking,’ navy blazers), so it’s little surprise the sturdy loafer is another wardrobe essential. Find some of the nattiest around at Sézane, where the style is a perennial, and a standout among the other seasonal shoes that saunter in and out of fashion.
L’Appartement Sézane: 1 Rue Saint-Fiacre 75002.
Flat shoes need not mean masculine. In fact, some of the most Parisian of flats are ultra feminine, and that’s largely thanks to Brigitte Bardot. In the mid 1950s, the then ballerina was on the cusp of movie stardom when she asked dance-shoe designer Rose Repetto to create a ballet-inspired walking shoe for her breakout role in the film Et Dieu Créa La Femme, one that would allow her to walk with a dancer’s hip-swaying elegance and surety. The rest is fashion history. The so-named ‘Cendrillon’ (Cinderella) is a top-seller to this day, available in a rainbow of glossy hues.
Repetto: 22 Rue de la Paix 75002; 51 Rue du Four 75006; 51 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois 75004; 33 Avenue des Champs-Élysées 75008.