When the show season ends each year, the weary fashion community generally puts its collective throbbing feet up and counts the blisters, sprains and bruises sustained by a month of mandatory heel wearing. Yes, there's a bit – well, actually quite a lot – of free champagne, celeb-spotting and some nice frocks in Paris, Milan etc, but the shows can be an endurance test. Even the most committed flats fanatic can buckle to peer pressure next to serried rows of willowy, slender-ankled stiletto-wearers. In Milan, I felt like such a garden gnome in my ballet pumps that I ended up desperately dashing to Zara under cover of darkness (open until 11pm – I'm emigrating!) for last-minute heels.
This year, however, emergency post-show visits to the chiropodists may not be necessary. The footwear in Milan was as vertiginous as ever but at London Fashion Week the flats trend got the fashion-pack seal of approval. Boris Johnson may have avowed in his opening speech that while he was mayor, there would be no ban on high heels, but this season, judging by the array of brogues, loafers and jazz shoes on display, the crowd would have coped just fine with such a moratorium.
That's not just because Somerset House's courtyard, where LFW is staged, is cobbled and traversing it in heels makes one resemble a drunken zombie; it's also because the planets of fashion and comfort have aligned at long last. This season's flats aren't just thin-soled ballet pumps with about as much support as a non-underwired bra. Instead, square, sensible, supportive shoes have come into their own.
The main decision, as one front-row editor put it, is "loafers or brogues?". My current favourites are patent brogues (Mascaro's or Olivia Morris's red patent pair for Grenson) which are less blue-stocking than plain versions of wholesome, Eighties Sloane-style loafers. Try Russell & Bromley's oak, brown or black patent pair, Church's (below), Cos's tan, tasselled pair or Clarks' cheap and cheerful black patent or two-tone brown style. It's worth splashing out on well-made ones that really cushion your feet, otherwise you might as well be hobbling about in stilt-like stilettos.