The Reader's Choice: Akira
I used to bemoan the fact that the women's shoes at Akira seemed to consist mainly of heels at punishing heights—great when you're cabbing it to the club, not so wonderful when you're hoofing it to the corner bar. But in the last several years the company's expansion has pushed it into offering more foot-friendly styles like flats and lower heels by trend-conscious companies (e.g., Corso Como) that make comfort a priority. "Dressing from the shoe up" is easy and affordable here, with of-the-nanosecond styles from brands beloved of the budget-challenged—Seychelles, Jeffrey Campbell, Chinese Laundry. But there are also droolworthy designs from more expensive lines like Frye and L.A.M.B. Guys, too, have a range of options—sneaks from Adidas and Converse, a contemporary take on the classic wingtip by Bronx, and LA rocker boots from Mark Nason. What I like best: many sizes are out on the floor already so you can try on a half dozen without feeling like a schlump if you don't want to buy—a retail idea more shoe stores should adopt. 1849 W. North, 773-342-8684, and 122 S. State, 312-346-3034, akirachicago.com. —Heather Kenny
&Our readers' choice: DSW
1101 S. Canal, 312-880-0245; 3131 N. Clark, 773-975-7182; 9601 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-674-2772; dsw.com.