Last updated: October 26. 2013 12:43AM - 2077 Views
MARY THERESE BIEBEL mbiebel@timesleader.com

Julie Brown, designer of ecologically correct, made-in-America shoes holds one of her designs during a recent visit to Arch Comfort Shoe Boutique in Kingston.
Julie Brown, designer of ecologically correct, made-in-America shoes holds one of her designs during a recent visit to Arch Comfort Shoe Boutique in Kingston.
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If “healthy, comfortable feet” were on the ballot, you’d think everyone would pull the lever.

After all, who WOULDN’T want their feet to feel good?

But Ivan Davidowitz, who runs the Arch Comfort Shoe Boutique in Kingston with his wife, Cheri, grimaces with frustration when he thinks about a certain unfortunate word association.

The word “comfort” seems to be as much a curse as a blessing, he said, explaining he knows some people who stay away from the boutique because they equate “comfort” with a vision of a matronly person who no longer skips or jumps or dances the tango. If she ever did.

They think “comfort” means “not fashionable.”

But shoes such as Ziera, Dromedaris, Dansko, Bernie Mev, Julie Bee’s and several others incorporate both fashion and comfort, Davidowitz said. He’s happy to stock them, and on a recent Friday, he was excited to host a visit from Julie Bee herself.

Also known as Julie Brown, 28, of Atlanta, Ga., the designer said she grew up loving shoes and was grateful for the comfort of sporty, casual footwear. But when she wanted to dress up for work or socializing, as a young professional working in homeland security in Washington, D.C., she couldn’t find anything that fit the bill and gave her the comfort she wanted.

So she began to design them herself.

Taking the reins gave her the freedom to do things her way. She contracted with facilities who employ American workers to hand-craft each shoe. Organic cotton, vegetable dyes and vintage leather (so-called because, while it wasn’t already used itself, it may be left over from another job) go into the process. She looks for manufacturers that use wind power or employ other green policies at their work sites.

And, of course, she said, each shoe, whether heel or flat, offers both fashion and comfort.

“I never thought the two didn’t go together,” she said.

But as shoppers crowded into Arch Comfort during Brown’s visit, some of them admitted they used to believe the old stereotype about “sensible” shoes.

“I used to believe that,” said Jean Siegel, 53, of Kingston, a self-described “shoe-aholic” who used to buy fashionable but cheap shoes — until two knee replacements and a hip replacement. Now she pays extra for well-constructed but fashionable shoes, she said.

Some of the qualities that go into such a shoe, the Davidowitzes said, are contoured, anatomically correct foot beds, cushioned, flexible sole materials that reduce the impact of your foot hitting the ground and metatarsal and arch support. Both Ivan and Cheri are certified pedorthotists, which means they have been trained to find footwear solutions for feet with problems.

“There are two parts to our shop,” Ivan Davidowitz said, pointing out the front of the building, at 355 Market St. in Kingston, has display showcases from a variety of designers and the back part is an area where he will custom-build and his wife will custom-fit a shoe to the customer’s foot.

The boutique provides all sorts of services ranging from orthotic inserts to shoe stretching to gait analysis, and its owners will visit nursing homes if requested. That doesn’t sound glamorous — unless you or someone who care about needs those services.

If you don’t need such services, you might just want to try on some of the shoes for style.

“Look at the colors she chooses. This will go with so much,” Cheri Davidowitz said, picking up a Julie Bee flat that had an olive/pistachio tone and a hint of gold brightening its cute little heel.

“I have a fuller foot,” Davidowitz said. “And my toes just find a home in here.”

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