When it comes to watching K-Pop live performances, I’ve found that one’s state of mind usually oscillates between unsuccessfully acknowledging the reality that the idols you’ve only since then peered at through screens are now a) in such close proximity that they are capable of flinging their hair sweat at you (thrilling), and b) focusing on breathing through a thick ocean of hyper-stimulated bodies. In those glorious, hellish minutes and hours, the only thing keeping you jumping and popping (we jopping) are your feet. And boy, will they be taking all the beating.
In the past two years, I’ve watched seasoned veterans carry a change of shoes to venues. From comfy white sneakers swapped for precarious five-inch clunky platforms that nip at your pinky toe once the lights go out, to strappy heels changed into platform stilettos, I’ve gasped and gawked at the pain tolerance of many for what to me is the concert footwear equivalent of McQueen’s Armadillos.
In the few years I’ve found myself in this space, I’ve come up with a simple list of shoes that bring my five-foot frame if but an inch closer to my bias, while not punishing the sad excuse I call my foot muscles into throbbing, screaming oblivion.
Below is the said list, which is also, unknowingly, an archive of mishaps wherein I found myself floundering that other K-pop fans may relate to, considering how we are all in this writhing pit together.
NOTE: If you’re blessed with vertical capacity then please feel free to ignore the advice of a five-footer, unless you’d like to add more altitude to your already Himalayan heights and leave us small ones in the (literal) dark. That statement is not a guilt trip; only a vibe check, a gentle reminder if you will.
Specifically for: Concerts when you can be seated.
I’m old. Let’s just get that out there. I am but a half-alive R.I.P. Vine Compilation on Youtube. And as much as I want to catch the picks thrown by one of my favorite bands, I can only reserve so much of my reserve Standing Energy for my You’re It. You’re the Ultimate group. (I will destroy universes for you, SHINee.)
During the times I find myself given the opportunity for seated sections with proper elevation, comfy sneakers are way up there on my list if only because the kind of sandals and sling-back flats I often wear, slip off when I get too excited (a lot). And though my bones are on the verge of breaking, I do very much enjoy dancing (flailing my limbs) at concerts. The Converse 70s, I’ve found, give you a nice extra half an inch and comfort that allows you to jump, unstopping like a deranged Tigger holding a lightstick for an hour and a half.
Specifically for: Frantically running between broadcasting stations, holding on to your last shred of hope while standing in a queue of seemingly infinite people
I landed at Incheon wearing black patent platform loafers, and what followed the hectic 30 minutes after I had gone through immigration were four days of me running through Seoul like a madman. All that cardio for a nearly impossible chance at hearing my favorite group sing for a maximum of 10 minutes at 2AM. Between those 66,226 steps, I considered wearing the only other pair I brought during that trip (worn-in Feiyue sneakers) but navigating the subway system immediately reminded me that I am at least five inches shorter than everyone else in that city. The generous two inches freely given by those loafers may have saved me from being trampled. During those days of “brisk-walking”, the Instagram-bought black patent loafers became my dearly beloved. And I would like to believe it was because they were so damn comfortable and not because I lost all feeling in my legs after day two of a SHINee prerecording marathon I did not know I joyously signed up for.
Specifically for: Standing sections at your home court. 10/10 would recommend for wearing when you’re having an emotional breakdown in the standing section of a concert trying to forget that you are 1) very dehydrated, 2) asthmatic, and 3) claustrophobic.
Back here at home, I can count on the differences in height, i.e. not much. While you do have your outliers of 5’8” aboves, they are but the strands baby hair sticking out of your otherwise blowdried head of hair. Plenty, sure, but still outnumbered. Scooch over a little away from them and your view will once again be clear as day. A good chunky heel of about an inch or two does a fantastic job of keeping you balanced when your concertmate starts crying to Change Up and leans the entire weight of her soul and being on you. In this moment, through those boots, you can keep your head relatively above the crowd, providing enough altitude to take a good enough fancam of the previous love of your life rapping and brrrrrrrrrrrah-ing in front of you.
Specifically for: High stakes situations a.k.a. I flew out for a standing-section-but-everyone-in-this-country-is-so-tall
Also known as: four to five-inch sneaker platforms popular among K-fans. These used to be the kind of shoe that only looked enticing once you knew the taste of an elbow of a fansite rammed against your face. I truly have nothing against the shoes, except that they’re not the most aesthetically pleasing design (think the cross section of Conti’s mango bravo cake). In the past years, they’ve evolved into a less painful-to-look-at, higher heeled dad sneaker. Concert pits are very unforgiving to us smaller cretins. And unless you want to spend an hour trying to fight your way through a view obstructed by long limbs and smuggled-in cameras; a view for which you paid hard earned money and flew thousands of miles, then Get. The. Concert. Sneakers. At first (second, and third) glance, the shoe height is ridiculous, but next to a five foot ten inch someone with an (illegal) three-step ladder, the mind numbing height of the concert sneaker heel seems… reasonable, even desirable. In that moment, that shoe height looks like justice.
Illustrations by Mags Ocampo
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