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Give your feet a break without losing a step

By now, your shoe arsenal may already feature a flat or two, as the low-maintenance options stepped onto the fashion scene in a big way last year. Top shoe gurus like Manolo Blahnik and Christian Lacroix now are upping the ante, showing fresh takes on the easy-to-wear flats.

Bold prints, stunning patent and heavy embellishments are making this season's flat anything but that.

While we understand the urge to elevate with wedges and stilettos, flats offer a simple, yet chic, way to pull together a winning look minus the pain. Many of the low-sole styles easily rival the allure and ready-for-evening attitude offered by their strappier, higher heeled counterparts.

For many, flats are equated with basic ballerina shoes, shown in one color, with a tiny bow thrown in for added effect. However, as flats continue to be the foot dressing of choice for more women, regardless of their stature, they're now offered in a rainbow of shades and fabrics.

Casual-shoe fans can slip into cool canvas kicks. Those looking for strong neutrals have plenty of options, with most adorned with a bit of flashy detail to make the shoe stand out.

And while we'd usually never advocate cheating, some shoe designers are bending the style rules a bit, giving their flats an ever-so-slight touch of height. Although they aren't "true" flats, we're willing to let them slide.

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