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After so many months in slippers and sneakers, we've all felt it. "It" is the trepidation that comes with dressing up in heels again. Whether you're going to a holiday party, a birthday bash, or just being a little extra for return to office, "it's" coming.
Even footwear designer Tamara Mellon felt that same hesitation toward one day revisiting her heel collection. "During Covid, sitting at home during lockdown, I was thinking, how am I going to get my foot back into a heel again?" she tells BAZAAR.com. Instead of pivoting her luxury brand to sneakers—thank goodness—Mellon came up with a comfort-driven update for her party shoes: The Pillow Top, a collection of heels, sandals, and mules featuring memory foam soles.
Pillow Top shoes have a mattress-quality material and an evocative name on their side, but are they as comfortable as they sound? Keep reading for my honest review of the Tamara Mellon pillow top footwear collection—and whether you should try it yourself.
ALL ABOUT THE PILLOW TOP
Every Pillow Top shoe features 8mm memory foam cushions on the sole: one at the ball of the foot and one on the instep. Ideally, this foam molds to the wearer's foot with each outfit but still hold its shape.
The design came to Mellon from sitting in her Eames Chair, another object renowned for its melding of comfort and elevated design.
"Being a woman and designing for women, I don’t just think about shelf appeal and having something that looks like a beautiful sculpture in your closet," Mellon explained to me ahead of my Pillow Top test run. "It’s important to me, but what’s also important to me is how it feels on your body."
Heels have never been a top choice for comfort, relegating them to the back of the closet when events returned. "I think what the women who were saying they were never going to wear heels again were really saying was, 'I don’t want to be in pain anymore,'" Mellon observed.
Tamara Mellon's factories worked on several versions of the Pillow Top to eradicate any and all pain-inducing qualities of a typical heel, each of which Mellon tested at her home. To match the memory foam sole's feeling throughout the shoe, the designers removed irritating linings and refashioned straps in soft leather. The memory foam also helps the shoes hold their shape.
"In the end I think we came up with something very beautiful," Mellon said, "because I didn’t want to lose the beauty of wearing a heel as well. I wanted it to look cool and elegant and sophisticated."
TESTING THE PILLOW TOP
I'm admittedly more of a Chelsea boot girl than a heel collector, but I jumped at the chance to give Pillow Top shoes a try. I wear a size 40 1/2 shoe and have wider-than-average feet, so comfortable heels have always been in short supply in my size.
Tamara Mellon sent two Pillow Top pairs for me to test: the Satellite mule and the Solar 65 heel. I gave each style a dedicated first trial run, where I wore them for a full evening with plenty of walking.
The Satellite mule was more of an instant fit, thanks to its slide-on design. But I have to hand it to the Solar heel: Before I had a chance to really walk in the shoes, I noticed that the ankle and toe straps didn't dig into my feet like other styles often do.
I took both shoes out for semi-casual dinners with friends (parties being in short supply until later in the month). The cushions felt squishy, but supportive from my initial walk to the subway to the final blocks before I returned home. None of the pressure I usually feel on the ball of my foot was present at any point.
The shoes' quality only got better as each night went on. I kept waiting for the moment in the evening where I'd lose feeling in my toes or feel the slow rise of a blister on my instep. Neither happened, with both shoes. With a thick cushion under both feet, I got the feeling I could stand all night if I wanted to. I also fielded compliments for the jewel-tone velvet and subtle crystal embellishments—then had the pleasure of mentioning that these shoes are comfortable, too.
To end each test, I considered how my feet felt after taking them off when I returned home. Was there a big sigh of relief? An urge to bury these shoes at the back of my closet? Any signs of pinching or cuts? No, no, and no. For once, my feet weren't throbbing—and the shoe looked as pretty as it had in the box.
ARE PILLOW TOP SHOES WORTH IT?
Pillow Top shoes start at around $400 and climb from there. If you're investing in a pair, it should be one you'll wear often.
Comparing my Pillow Tops to the rare heels I wore in the Before Times, my answer is yes, they're worth it. These shoes are as beautiful as they are supportive: Within two to three wears per style, the Pillow Top's memory foam fully contoured to my foot for a wear-all-night fit.
People wanting a Birkenstock experience from their high heels may prefer sticking with flats—or trying the Pillow Top's sandal editions, which I didn't have a chance to test. The pitch of a heel and the pressure it puts on the front of your foot always takes a little getting used to, no matter how cushioned the sole is. In the Pillow Top's defense, strapping on 100mm sandal heels will never feel exactly like sliding on a shearling slipper. (Unless there are as-yet-to-be-announced scientific breakthroughs in footwear design coming our way.)
All design elements and upcoming wedding dates considered, I see the Tamara Mellon Pillow Top as an investment that makes dressing up again much more enjoyable. These are the only heels I can stand in without wishing to sit down again in minutes.
My only lingering request? I'd like to see more Pillow Top cushions in everyday styles, please. In our brave, new, gently-reopening world, I want this level of comfort for more than special occasions.
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