The Agony of Da Feet! Sexy Shoe-Fixer Flexes

You crazy little fool! You careened around town in spike heels for years without any regard to the consequences. You had a vague idea that you were damaging your reputation, but you had no idea that you were damaging something far more important: your feet! Let’s face it, you were too plastered to register anything much. (Even pain.) Then you sobered up. And now all you’re left with is a throbbing hangover and bunions to match.

Cheer up! That hangover will eventually evaporate, and-best news of all-those bunions can be accommodated. No, I’m not talking about debilitating foot surgery! Just shuffle/stagger on over to the legendary Shoe Service Plus at 15 West 55th Street (212-262-4823) and demand to see proprietor Carlos Mesquita’s miraculous new bunion-stretching machine. You never know whom you’ll run into.

In a town where shoes are a religion, Carlos’ shop is something of a midnight mission for worn-out soles. Blahnik lovers, Broadway hoofers, strippers, actresses and Vogue -ettes of all ages (Anna Wintour’s sling-backs and mules are refurbished by Carlos himself) and genders (ditto André Leon Talley) line up every day clutching damaged and worn designer shoes, giving this establishment the air of a trampy, trendy soup kitchen. Though many customers seem to have come to flirt with the ultra-distinguished Carlos, 53, or his attractive son David, 23, all of the women I spoke to extolled the amazing service and value. At $25 a pop, Carlos’ legendary refurbishments are a total bargain. “He can bring shoes back from the dead,” said patiently waiting P.R. chief executive Lisa Linden, who will not even think of wearing new shoes until Carlos has Scotchgarded them and given them the once-over.

A handsome Portuguese heterosexual, Mr. Mesquita has an almost kinky rapport with his customers. “I can tell everything about a woman by her shoes,” he said when I spoke to him recently as the lunchtime midtown rush was subsiding. “The way she takes care of them, or not; where they are worn; how they smell….” Eeeuw! “I have a closet like a woman,” the French-raised Carlos continued provocatively, adding by way of clarification: “I wear the best shoes-John Lobb and Gucci-so I understand the feelings and needs of my female customers.”

As we spoke, Carlos cradled-as if it were a bird with a broken wing-an injured Jimmy Choo cat-poo-colored, knee-length boot with a broken heel (again, a mere $25 to repair), prompting me to ask: Who makes the crappiest shoes? Which schlocky brands are most frequently placed in his healing hands? “Some shoes are prettier than others, some are stronger,” replied Carlos diplomatically as he demonstrated his bunion-stretching machine, which is about the size of a small George Foreman grill. “Any shoe can give you bunions,” he added, marking the area on the shoe which corresponds to the peak of a big-toe adjacent, Mt. Saint Helens–sized bunion. “And once women are becoming 30, the bones in the feet get flatter and the foot is getting wider. Then comes the bunions.” Along with his regular refurbishments, Carlos performs about 40 bunion-accommodation procedures per day. At $10 a pair-$5 per bunion-Carlos’ bunion-stretching is more economical than your Ibuprofin habit ($12.99 for 500 caps at Duane Reade).

N.B.: If your pedi-problem is truly dire, contact groovy Central Park West podiatrist Dr. Lewis Galle at 212-262-4588; he tends to the Rockettes’ overstressed hooves.

Re shoes: Postmodern juxtapositions are big news this summer. Last winter, we had the high-heeled Timberland boot (originally created by Manolo Blahnik and subsequently knocked off ad nauseam). This season, Mr. Blahnik brings us an exquisitely rendered high-heeled basketball sneaker/mule ($455) that comes in, of all things, pink. Meanwhile, downtown at Sigerson Morrison, the high-heeled rubber flip-flop is provoking Baghdad-like riots. By early May, this fabulously engineered, perverse little item ($85, in fluorescent orange, fuchsia, red, lime green, chalky white, chocolate or black) had already become a sold-out footwear icon. The Mott Street store just received a fresh shipment. The next one doesn’t arrive until mid-June, so get in line now (the store opens at 11 a.m. from Monday to Saturday; noon on Sundays).

And no, the high-heeled flip-flop is not just for young Calypso and Scoop-type chicks. You former gin-swilling funsters should also be eagerly partaking. All that freedom and unobstructed vision will be like a Fresh Air Fund weekend for those crusty bunions. Don’t forget to sun-block your tootsies!