Exotic colors and prints make this a season of fancy footwork

In line with the ready-to-wear trends of the moment, new footwear has been given the light, feminized touch. Styling is more delicate, featuring lots of openwork. The strippy sandal is back, replacing last year's broad-banded type. A key style is the opened-up pump with bare sides; it often features what Garolini calls ``dressmaker details'' like shirring, pleating, draping, and interwoven braiding. There's nothing weighty or overly extreme about the new shoes, no curiously shaped heels or heavy looks. Only the running shoe, standby of joggers and those who walk to the office, retains its clumpy charm. But of course even that now comes in bonbon shades like pink or lavender.

The barometrics of heel heights continues to be variable, but higher, more slender heels are the favorites. Those who are only happy in flats have been attended to, but the trend now is up, not down -- high to mid, not low.

According to the Footwear Council, oracle of the shoe industry, the big news is in color and print. Colorings will be a pickup. They tend to be clean, bright primaries, secondaries, or soothing pastels. Patent is still a sure bet with the perennial black as reliable as ever. But the spectrum really starts with basic white, the leading neutral of the season. This means the rules are looser; no matter what your mother told you about wearing white shoes before the first of June, you can now wear them in May without raising any eyebrows.

Printed shoes, which haven't been around for many a moon, are back in force. These are apt to be either graphic abstracts or Hawaiian inspirations. For those who hear Honolulu calling, there is Easton International's legwear in island prints to wear with Mootsie Tootsie's patterned skimmer or the Cin Cin ankle-wrap sandal of exotic floral print.

New editions of the classics have a relaxed air. They include loafers with sling backs, T-strap ballerinas, and fisherman sandals or huaraches in soft pastel kid. Any of them would team up well with big shirts and shorts. Spectator styles abound. Besides the traditional pump with stacked heel, there are flats like Delman's (in taupe and white as well as traditional navy and white) or like Ralph Lauren's low brown-and-white spectators. The feminized menswear theme comes through in such styles as slip-ons of pink suede with open toes or white kid with mesh inserts.

Cutouts and perforations are other decorative notes, but the ornamentation doesn't stop there. Colored stones, flowers, shells, fruits, buttons, and bows make this a season of fancy footwork. And for evening, there are paillette, ribbon, and lace trims on metallic pink or red high-heels to carry out the fashionable ``Hot Carmen'' theme.

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