07/05/2012 12:42 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

Flat Shoes vs. High Heels: Why I Traded In My Stilettos For A Stylish, Comfortable Option

These days I live life in the flat lane. After decades of trying every height of heel imaginable, I can now say with almost giddy abandon, "I'm free to be me." In flats! I'm just a few inches shorter than before!

Flats are, in a word, fabulous. Who knew feet could feel so good, so happy -- even after walking for hours! Shoes have always been my weakness, but for years they were also my best friend, my accomplice, and, sad to admit, the key to my self-esteem. Embracing flats, for me, reflects self-acceptance, as I spent years trying to fight my naturally petite stature.

Some might call me an average height, some might say I'm on the shorter side of normal, but I've always felt petite. While my drivers license read 5' 4", my real height was, and has always been, 5' 3" and a ½ inches. In my early teens, I found my height acceptable because I hung out with other people of petite-to-normal height. At that time, I was more focused on my weight, and how to keep the poundage off my body (which was, in itself, a job). And my shoe obsession was already in full force: Pappagallo's, the original buttery ballet slippers that came in an array of two toned pre-Kate Spade colors, sneakers and bare feet all summer worked just fine.

After moving to New York City, my life became a schizophrenic dance between downtown actress/uptown young wife on the scene. My goals changed. Now I had the body, but needed height as all of my friends were all tall. Truthfully, I grew up believing another few inches in height would, if not change my life, make me "prettier." Maybe this is because at the time, I was an actress in New York City and most of my girlfriends were also actresses and/or models. They averaged around 5' 9", which was a staggering 5" taller than even the exaggerated version of my own height.

The year was 1976, Wynn Handman's acting class at The American Place. My pals Leone James (the Summer's Eve's girl, 5'10), Hilary Jean Beane (the Leggs Girl, 5'10 at least) and Ingrid Boulting, who at 5'8" was on the shorter side, but had a face you could die for, but my best friends were my treasured platform boots. I saw them in a store window on West 57th street one day and knew they needed to be mine. I bought them in both colors: a Christmas red that looked like it came out of a Chanel lipstick tube and a British racing green that resembled the Jaguar XKE I fantasized about owning back then. The boots were splendid soft leather knee highs with a simple yet thick three-inch-high platform. When I wore them, I became my dream self, even though they were $200 a pair. This initial, necessary footwear splurge made me a sitting duck years later when I first heard the two sacred words: Manolo Blahnik.

I wore these boots with everything that was '70s appropriate. I wore them over my jeans that were so faded they were almost white, paired them with skin-tight navy blue velvet jeans and, of course, a very fitted flannel shirt. That extra few inches below my ankles made me feel like I could just keep up with my model gal pals, even though my posture suffered.

Words cannot describe how I adored those boots. I lived in them until summer came, when I switched them out for platform espadrilles I found in Spain. Like I did before, I purchased these in several colors. These, however, were a find as although of high quality, shopping in Spain was a bargain in those days. The boots and the espadrilles were eventually replaced by Yves Saint Laurent and Dior pumps, but they were all tools in the path that I have walked towards becoming me and embracing my natural height. Also, they hurt like hell.

And my Manolos? Please, he was my hero before Carrie Bradshaw was even born. They still hang like gold trophies lining my closet wall, but truth be told, they crippled me. Halfway into an evening out and my feet would be on fire, all ten toes were numb. This is not a new phenomenon, as I get older, it's always been that way. When I was younger I would just put up with it for vanity, insecurity, love and lust.

But those days are over. Saying that excites me, however, like I'm morphing into my own version of the old Virginia Slims gal (I've come a long way!). I can actually sigh with relief (and ecstasy) and know I've come a long way when I look at my shoe rack where there's not a heel to be seen (except on the top racks, there as art to be admired only).

Now I say it proudly: Flats are where it's at! From Chanel ballet flats to Target flip flops, these comfortable, wearable shoes are the key to my happiness and survival for the rest of my life. They are (I shouldn't write this as my daughters may read it) like sex at my age: A fabulous surprise, a perk that comes with aging that you wouldn't believe until you felt it yourself! Bliss!

Sheer Bliss. And that's how I'm rollin' these days, close to the ground, and happily in flats!

Take a peek in the gallery below to see some of Annie's shoe collection.

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Flats vs. Heels