Local co-designers Megan Papay and Cristina Palomo Nelson make wear-everywhere shoes that can tackle San Francisco's steep terrain without sacrificing style. The duo launched their label in fall 2012 with a collection of convertible leather ankle boots and snakeskin-print leather loafers that were an instant hit among Bay Area style bloggers. (Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Elle caught on shortly thereafter.) Since then, the pair has branched into chunky heeled booties, multi-strap sandals, and wedge sneakers, all artfully displayed across bookshelves and coffee tables in their Cow Hollow design studio and shop. The store itself looks more like an it-girl's apartment, decked with mid-century modern couches, repurposed theater seating, cowhide rugs, and artful vignettes that mash up family heirlooms, fashion collages, flea market ephemera, and glamorous depictions of the store's namesake, Frida Kahlo. Though the shoes are distinctively chic, they're built for the long haul. Palomo Nelson hails from a family of shoemakers, and the collection is produced at one of their factories in Spain.
Despite what you may see pedaling down Valencia Street and splayed around the parks, there’s more to San Francisco’s footwear options than Toms and well-worn ballet flats. The best shoe stores in San Francisco offer a little something for everyone, from D’Orsay flats to oxfords—as well as that elusive perfect boot. Sneakerheads can trawl the latest Nikes, Asics, Vans, and Adidas at Hayes Valley standby Undefeated, while those with more artistic leanings can design their own canvas kicks—and have them printed while they wait—at the Converse flagship in mid-Market. Red-sole fetishists flock to Christian Louboutin—the first outpost in the U.S. to combine both women’s and men’s shoes on one floor—in Union Square. It’s also worth checking out vintage clothing shops and thrift stores—Buffalo Exchange is particularly good for footwear.