I Tried It: Kenneth Cole’s Riley Heels for the ‘Modern Woman on Her Feet All Day Long’

When I received the e-mail from Kenneth Cole about its “Techni-Cole” Riley heels — the shoes designed for the “modern woman on her feet all day long” — I was skeptical. “Yeah, sure, aren’t they all?” I thought sarcastically before casting it to the side as just another press pitch. But with New York Fashion Week around the corner, a lightbulb went off, and I decided that this “modern woman” would put the shoes to the test. What better way to do so than by running around New York’s streets between shows and market appointments while taking in all that spring ’19 has to offer?

I picked Friday of NYFW, figuring I could change into sneakers and sport a “casual Friday” aesthetic just in case the heels were too uncomfortable (which has  been my typical experience with pumps). This also drove my decision to wear a more laid-back outfit, which consisted of a white graphic T-shirt by emerging brand Only In America, a Nudie Jeans white denim jacket and cropped orange linen pants for a pop of color. I’d let the Riley 85 heels in black leather serve as the elevated touch.

kenneth cole, riley heels, nia groce
Trying out the Kenneth Cole Riley 85 heel in black.
CREDIT: George Chinsee

I have to confess: Despite my fairly light schedule of events that day, I was worried about commuting to the office in heels, so I didn’t wear them that morning. In my defense, I have a 15-minute walk from my apartment to the train station, so I opted to wait until I headed to my first event to officially begin the trial. This was around 2 p.m., but from at that point on, I knew I’d be scuttling around until at least 10 p.m.

“OK, let’s see what these ‘Techni-Cole’ heels are all about,” I said to my co-worker as I slipped them on at my desk. As much as I love the idea of pumps aesthetically, I’ve never really met a pair that I truly liked (to wear, that is). It didn’t take more than a few minutes for Kenneth Cole to make me a believer, however. Immediately after putting them on, it was clear that these were not your average stilettos. They hugged my feet in a secure, unconstricted way, not uncomfortably tight. A slight smile even crept on my face because of how surprisingly comfortable they felt.

kenneth cole, riley heels, nia groce
Wearing the Kenneth Cole Riley 85 heel in black.
CREDIT: George Chinsee

“Maybe they weren’t kidding,” I thought. Feeling confident in their walkability, I headed to the Paul Andrew presentation via Uber. When I arrived, I walked around the space, did a few social media posts, interviewed Andrew and even had my picture snapped for my look. “It’s the heels,” I said to myself, loving them more with each step.

Next, I trekked back uptown to write a quick article and then had to head right back downtown for the 6 p.m. Chromat runway show. This time, I took public transportation and was ready to really see how the shoes would hold up. I had to literally run out of the office (almost knocking over our executive editor) and to the metro station in order to make it on time, and I was genuinely impressed with how supportive the stilettos were. In fact, I was intrigued to look deeper into the construction of the shoes to learn exactly how they could be so comfortable.

kenneth cole, riley heels, nia groce
Running around in the Kenneth Cole Riley 85 heel in black.
CREDIT: George Chinsee

I pulled up the original e-mail and skimmed over the list of properties. According to the brand, the shoes feature a Rebound System, which means there are six cushioning layers: a rubber-injected sole for flexibility, a window-cut insole in the ball area lined with 2 millimeters of memory foam, a 3-millimeter memory foam pod in the window-cut area, 1 millimeter of memory foam on the insole board, another 3-millimeter memory foam pod positioned across the heel and, finally, a soft leather sock for a smooth finish.

I’m no engineer, but I can attest that comfort was not only provided, but the entire experience exceeded my expectations.

With my skepticism completely eradicated, I headed from Chromat to the WWD x Samsung party — my last official stop of the night. At this point, I was excited to show the heels off. “I’m doing an experiential post on these Kenneth Coles to see how they worked out for running around Fashion Week,” I said to our digital news editor, hoping for an inquiry.

“Oh, how have they been?” she said.

“Honestly, incredible! I can’t even believe how comfortable they are, no joke,” I replied.

kenneth cole, riley heels, nia groce
Running around in the Kenneth Cole Riley 85 heel in black.
CREDIT: George Chinsee

And that was the day I officially became a fan of the Riley heel.

By evening, I did feel a pinching sensation on the sides of my feet, which was more from wearing pointy-toe shoes for eight-plus hours than from the heels themselves. To further demonstrate my approval, when I finally made it home around 9:30 p.m., I stayed in them a bit longer — just for kicks. They were that cozy (and never did I think I’d describe a pair of pumps as cozy).

But don’t take my word for it; even Beyoncé has relied on Kenneth Cole shoes (though not the Riley heel) while performing during her “On the Run II” tour this summer. If one of the world’s biggest superstars can stomp out on stage wearing the brand, then I should have guessed that the Kenneth Cole team knows a thing or two about making a comfortable pump.

The Kenneth Cole Riley heels are available now for $150 at KennethCole.com, along with other silhouettes including booties and slingbacks. Be on the lookout for new styles in holiday — I know I will.

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