I have always loved and appreciated beautifully made shoes. But I admired them like pieces of art: something to observe and appreciate from a distance, but not necessarily to incorporate into my life. However, my recent revelation concerning the power of the shoe has shifted my views. And this season’s hottest styles have, thankfully, bridged the gap between functional comfort and chic elegance, proving you don’t need a four-inch stiletto to turn heads.

Gucci RTW stepped in chunky, rouge-heeled ankle straps

Gucci RTW stepped in chunky, rouge-heeled ankle straps

Today’s heel is chunky and square, easier on our soles, yet elegant as ever. Think Ali McGraw, circa 1970, for the red carpet premiere of “Love Story.” Gucci’s red and brown python-heeled sandals with ankle straps are a beautiful, modern nod to the era they originated. While Acne Studios gives an avant-garde, architectural take on this chunky heel trend with its sleek, white patent leather mule.

Taking its cue from the Greek sandal—an icon of comfort and ease— ankle straps are also a reoccurring theme this season. A striking illustration of this trend is Valentino’s knee-high gladiator sandals ornamented in gold. A more subtle expression: Chloe’s perfectly dainty flats with thin, black straps wrapping ankle and toe. Michael Kors, too, took on this trend, adding a simple ankle strap to the classic ballet flat, and Proenza Schouler topped off black suede, python-toed white heels with a silver-metal ankle strap—a combo that only the design duo could achieve so beautifully.

Valentino Spring '15 laced up toe-to-knee in Greek sandals with a Midas touch

Valentino Spring ’15 laced up toe-to-knee in Greek sandals with a Midas touch

Don’t worry if these options don’t scream comfort to you. Last spring’s Birkenstock renaissance was again making strides down Spring 2015 runways, proving you can still be in vogue while stepping in the very mascot of campus comfort.

Punahou grad and Fashion Institute of Technology alumna Meleana Estes gives us her take on the hottest runway trends. A trendsetter in her own right, her designs for her eponymous handbag line and modern take on resort attire for aloha wear purveyor Manuhealiʻi have garnered rave reviews.

Photos courtesy brands