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flatforms also flatform shoes

noun [plural]

shoes that have a very thick sole (=the bottom part underneath the foot) which adds height but keeps the feet flat

'A saviour for some, a sight for sore eyes for others: flatforms are the love child of a platform and a flat shoe … Lovers of all things chunky will fall head over soles for this new shoe breed.'

The Telegraph 7th February 2011

'Flatform shoes will give you the height that a heel or platform shoe gives, but the stability and comfort that a flat shoe does.'

fashionurbia.com 31st January 2011

If you love wearing high-heeled shoes but hate the torturous impact they have on your feet, then your prayers could be answered by the latest trend in shoe fashion. Dubbed 'the shoe of 2011', flatforms are a striking new addition to the footwear repertoire of the fashion-conscious.

flatforms … have been endorsed by fashion heavyweights across the globe, … Chanel, Prada and Vivienne Westwood all sending them down the catwalk

Flatform shoes, or just simply flatforms for short, are women's shoes that have a raised sole which is usually at least three (and sometime as much as five) inches (between 7 and 12 cm) thick. In conventional high-heeled shoes, the heel is much higher than the rest of the shoe, causing the wearer to place their foot at an angle. In flatforms, by contrast, the front of the shoe is the same height as the back, enabling the wearer to keep their foot completely flat. This means that the shoes are, allegedly, much more comfortable than traditional high-heels, making the wearer taller but keeping their feet level so they aren't forced to balance or hobble around at an awkward angle with toes on the ground and ankles in the air.

For the shoe experts among you, note that flatforms differ from both wedges and platform shoes. Wedges have a high heel but little or no platform at the front of the shoe. Platform shoes usually have two distinct blocks, one under the heel and a lower one under the toe.

Flatforms predictably come in a whole range of designs … shoes, sandals or mules; full, strappy or 'peep-toe'. This latest shoes trend has been endorsed by fashion heavyweights across the globe, with the likes of Chanel, Prada and Vivienne Westwood all sending them down the catwalk in early 2011. As far as their appearance is concerned however, the jury is still very much out. Far from delicate in design, critics have been very quick to point out their chunky, 'brick-like' look, which may not be the most flattering, especially on larger feet. What's more, they may even represent a bit of a hazard; over in Japan, where the shoes are particularly popular with schoolgirls, there's reportedly been a surge of flatform-related injuries, and conceivably not always to the wearer – imagine being kicked, accidentally or otherwise, by someone with 'bricks' on their feet!

Background – new shoes trend: flatforms and flatform shoes

A blend of adjective flat and noun platforms (or platform shoes), the expressions flatforms and flatform shoes are the latest example of the fashion world's recent fixation with creating catchy new words by combining two clothing concepts. If you're interested in further examples, check out last year's BuzzWord article on jeggings.

Such expressions tend to be ephemeral, lasting only as long as the fashion trends to which they relate. As a lexicographer, I might be happy to wear jeggings, but wouldn't be in a rush to write a dictionary entry for them for some time yet. Likewise, my guess is that the new blend flatforms will fizzle out of usage as quickly as the trend changes and the style disappears from the shoe shops.

Interestingly, the use of flatform as a play on platform represents an etymological journey that has gone full circle: the word platform, first appearing in the 16th century, is based on French adjective plate, meaning 'flat', and noun forme ('form' or 'shape').

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

Last week …

Read last week's BuzzWord. Hypermiling.

This article was first published on 21st March 2011.

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