We could all use a little lift from time to time, but especially during the dog days of summer. Luckily, there is no shortage of height when it comes to sandals this season. And I’m not talking about the four-inch needles we’re used to shoving our feet into (as if!) for the last few seasons. No ma’am, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief as summer has given way to tall and slightly more substantial wedges. They are the It shoe of the season, and you definitely do not want to be caught without a pair.

Because a thicker sole doesn’t exactly mean an easier strut, I spent some time at Raleigh shoe haven Plush (North Hills Shopping Center, Raleigh, 420-7755) practicing my walk while getting the lowdown on the season’s high heels. Their walls are lined with a multitude of summer styles from towering raffia wedges to a lower, more demure metallic thong wedge. Turns out that unlike their spiked counterparts, wedges are not exclusive–anyone can take part in this trend. And they are great with just about everything in your closet–save extremely short shorts and gym clothes–therefore eliminating your daily rant of “I have nothing to wear with this skirt/dress/suit.” Sometimes a caveat has to be added lest a fashion catastrophe take hold (“I swear these metallic wedges looked OK with my terry cloth shorts when I gazed at my reflection in the coffee shop window”).

Now, it should be noted that not all wedges are created equal, and we’re thankful for that. (What would we do if we only needed one?) You’ve got your high-heeled as well as your lower-heeled styles. There are casual wedges for play and more conservative ones for work. There are styles for the hippie, ingénue and first mate in all of us. And it doesn’t just end there. I’m telling you, you’ve got room to really expand–find your style, try something new. Rope-soled, wood, raffia, satin, printed, solid. The list goes on to dizzying lengths, or heights, I should say.

Ready to rush out and purchase at least two pairs of this season’s must-have item? (You very well know you can’t embrace a trend with just a single pair. ) Look for your sole mate at either Plush or Monkee’s (Meadowmont Village Circle, Chapel Hill, 967-6830).

If being flat-footed is your thing (and I’ll admit to dabbling in lower heels every now and then), there is no shortage of fashionable flats. Despite traipsing to the pool or beach, I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of flip-flops and think there are more than enough alternatives out there. Try replacing your rubber thongs with Eastern-inspired metallic sandals. With their leather soles and semi-exotic toe hold, these sandals are a serious step above your average flops and much more appropriate for a night or even day out. You can find bold metallics in pink, silver and blue at Plush. Even a thonged sandal with a bit of a heel (not a three-inch thick sole though, please) offers more je ne sais quoi than your worn-to-shreds Reefs.

With your footwear purchased and safely on your feet, you’ll be free to peruse the season’s sales. With fall merchandise not arriving until August or late July at best, we have only the end-of-season sales to satisfy our retail needs. Now, normally I’m not much of a sale rack shopper–I usually can’t wait that long for each season’s scores–but I decided to give it a try because of all the new (and old favorite) boutiques in the area. I figured if nothing else I could stock up on some of the seasonal favorites that no fashionista should be without: Bermudas, colorful tanks, fuller skirts. If you’re one of the few that’s been holding out on the boho-luxe trend sweeping the country, you might find some printed skirts, tunics and embellished dresses still around. But don’t bet on it.

Topping my list of stores with sales (and stores in general) that you simply can’t miss is Vermillion (North Hills, 787-9780) for their card-maxing-worthy lineup of today’s hottest designers (Derek Lam, Tory Burch and Proenza Schouler included). Excuse me, but when have such names ever hit the Triangle, and some of them at half-off, no less? Sales aside, this shop is a major must-visit for its sleek urban décor, its super-friendly, super-helpful and super-chic owner, Ashley Harris, and the mannequin molded after Gisele.

Also on my to-do list of sales is Fleur (Meadowmont, 933-3026) for its fabulous dress selection (M Missoni anyone?) and Uniquities (Cameron Village, Raleigh, 832-1234). It’s so uncommon for Uniquities–that powerhouse of lines–to have sales, so you can imagine my surprise. Turns out they are expanding their offerings to include an even more impressive lineup of emerging designers.