Saturday, 5 September 2009

My tips to buying shoes

"What is it about shoes? I mean, I like most kinds of clothes, but a fabulous pair of shoes can just reduce me to jelly." ~ Becky Bloomwood, 'Shopaholic Abroad'

Since I’m officially a shoeaholic now, and the bloody statistics software I tried to understand has not open up to me yet (this program must be a male!), I think I will just jot down some ideas for myself and whoever wants to read this.

First rule: Love your feet and legs first. Then love your shoes. NOT the other way around. Comfort comes first.

Get that? You buy shoes for your feet and legs. You don’t mould your feet and legs to accommodate your shoes. Well, this rule can be 'stretched' to certain extend, but comfort comes first. Always.

Buying shoes directly at stores

This is a rather piece of cake.
1. Time of purchase: Attempt to buy shoes at the end of the day, for your feet tend to get larger in the afternoon/evening

2. Try, try, try! Don’t worry if the seller isn’t happy at your nth attempt to find the correct pair. NEVER buy a pair of shoes just to please the seller (I almost did that once!). Buy them because you are happy with it.

3. If it’s running shoes/sneakers or boots, always allow about 1cm extra space at the toe pad. Particularly for these types of shoes, they should serve you comfort (and joy, if possible). Make sure that you don’t sacrifice your calves by putting boots that are too tight for them. No boots are sexy when you have to squint and flinch while wearing them.

4. If it’s pump/court shoes or slingbacks, it’s a bit tricky. Colin McDowell said that ‘Shoes which fit well are a modern luxury’. I agree, particularly with pumps and slingbacks. It has to fit just right. Just snug enough for you to walk comfortably without screaming inside your heart (along with the feet). It can’t be too loose either, for it will be like flip-flops and gives blisters at the heels instead of sexiness. BUT you can always do the tricks for loose pumps. Put cushion pads at the ball of feet and, if this is not enough, place bits of cloth remnants at the toe parts to make it snugger. Or place sticky gels at the slingbacks to keep them in place.

5. Heels have to be of the right height. I know that shoe-fetish likes high heels because they accentuate women’s legs and I do agree with that. I just don’t agree that we should sacrifice comfort and health in the name of fashion. Some health-feet websites would recommend approx 2.5” (6cm) maximum height for comfort. Sturdy heels are better than kitten heels (tho those kitten heels are truly cute!), let alone stilettos. See Oh! Shoes for more info, among others. Adding extra gel cushions at the ball of feet helps distributing the weight off our ball of foot as well.

6. Colour: at least you should have three colours, IMO. Black, silver and gold. Then add other colours of your preference: red, orange, pink, blue or even taupe or nude. Pick colours that will go well with your dresses. I tend to pick shoes that complement my dresses/skirts/tops, not the other way around. But if you find a pair of nice shoes with extraordinary colour and you really like it, well, get it. Just make sure you don’t wear it only once (for instance because it clashes with your clothes), for it will be a wasted investment.

Buying shoes online

1. Almost all points above are also applicable for online shoe purchase (except for time of purchase, duh!). The point about the seller is also applicable. Yes, because I tell you what: you have the right to ‘hassle’ sellers for information about the shoes. You have to exercise that right and the seller has to respond to it.

2. Found this handy tip from good buyers at eBay: Measurement, measurement, measurement! Since you can’t try the shoes yourself online, you HAVE to ask for exact measurements to sellers. Don’t rely on the stated size, for size varies according to manufacturers. I go between size AU 8-9 (EU 39-40, UK 6-7), but sometimes I could fit size AU 7 (EU 38, UK 5)! The important measurements you must seek are: insole length, width of ball of foot, and heel height. For boots, add the calf circumference. Then, compare the measurement provided with the fittest pair of shoes you have. If you want to buy pumps, you have to compare it with pumps you already have. If you don’t have pumps, and this will be your first purchase of pump shoes (online, even!), get your feet measured. Check this site on how to do it.

Also remember, if you buy pointy or narrow shoes, you have to add more to the insole length. Ask the seller for the maximum length where the toes end, NOT only the total insole length. Depending on how pointy it is, the maximum length could be 2-3cm shorter than the total insole length, and you should use this shorter one instead of the longer one.

What if it doesn’t fit?!

It happened to me, you know, with my online purchase (with the correct measurement, really! Alas, they were a bit pointy and I wasn't aware of it). Or it often happen that the shoes you tried at the store fit, but then it does not fit anymore at home. If the shoes are just a tad too narrow, you’re saved. But if it’s more than 1 size too small, you better let it go. Don’t mould your feet for the shoes; you're not Cinderella's sisters and no prince to charm anyway. Return the shoes or sell them back at eBay. So this is what I did for shoes that were a bit narrow. They worked the charms, though none of my shoes that required stretching were made of leather (all of stretching techniques are most effective for leather shoes):

1. Hair-dry the shoes (black satin pumps) and wear them right away. The feet will mould the shoes. Wear them around the house or inside your office, just to get your feet used to them.

2. Use the ice technique as Michelle Phan (she’s so cute!) described in YouTube. It worked a bit for my beautiful brocade shoes (tad too narrow at the width), for it breaks the materials so it’s easier to mould

3. Since it’s still not enough, I went to local cobbler and have it stretched. He stretched them for two days and now they’re better. I can walk with it now, tho they’re still a bit narrow (due to the nature of the materials, not because the cobbler didn't do a good job. In fact, he was a good cobbler, and a nice one too!)

4. Buy a shoe stretcher (or two) and stretch the shoes myself. That’s what I plan to do with my brocade shoes (she’s the hardest to break), for she’s already okay now. Just need several stretches more to really make her flexible. I’ve bought one from eBay and I will tell you in a few weeks how it goes! Investing in a shoe stretcher is also good because you can do it all over again with your other shoes, or with shoes that haven't been worn for a long time and shrink a little.

Bottom line: don’t use your own feet to break the shoes. Use other tools/methods for that purpose. Love your feet first, then the shoes

Caring for your shoes

Caring for our shoes make them long-lasting and it means savings in the future, for you don't need to replace them every so often.

1. Keep the shoe boxes to store the shoes. If the shoes came without the box, at least wrap them with tissue paper and keep them inside a plastic bag or purchase a transparent container to keep them in

2. Keep the shoes out of dust and damp. Use water absorber if necessary. Your shoes are your investment, appreciate and take care of them!

3. Some people would put pictures of their shoes at each box for easier identification, but I find it too much to do. I just memorise them, for each pair of shoes came with different boxes, but you’re welcome to do the pix!

4. Do we really need a shoe closet? Well, if you can afford it, why not? But if not, a cupboard or shelves are useful too

5. Invest on shoe shampoo to clean your shoes (particularly the fabric ones), shoe polisher (for the leather ones) and shoe protector (that’s a spray to apply layers of protection on top of the shoes). They’re worth it, and the shampoo has nice fragrance. Clean the shoes regularly and let them dry before storing them properly

Caring for your feet

I believe that healthy feet contribute significantly to healthy body and good life. Here's what I do to myself towards that purpose:

1. Don't wear high heel too often. We have loads of fashionable flat shoes nowadays, the Gladiator style and ballet flats are good examples. Giselle Bundchen has been producing a great line of comfy Ipanema sandals. Choose them for daily wear instead of high heels, if possible. If your work place requires high heels, always keep a pair of ballet flats or similar comfy shoes behind your desk so that you can interchangeably wear them during breaks. But you might want to still add up to 2.5cm height to those flats, for it helps reducing pain in the shins, or so these guys said.

2. Do feet exercise. Turn one foot slowly left to right, and then the other. Massage them. Love them. Talk to them. They take you everywhere. If the battle ensues between feet and shoes, make sure you're on the feet side, not the other way around. You want to keep walking straight as you can even though you're reaching 70!

3. If occasion arises for high heels, make sure you have enough padding in them. Use gel cushion, heel pads and other tools easily available in local chemists to increase the comfort. After the exciting party, make sure that you take care of your feet again. Massage them, thank them for the good dance/party, and sleep with elevated legs to release the pressures.

Good luck! Remember, love your shoes. But love your feet first!

Pic 2. Cinderella's glass pump shoes, from
Pic 3. Poor Anastasia... from Popcorn UK


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips, Icha. I was just about to throw out a brand new pair of shoes ordered through the mail because they did not fit correctly. Now I shall give it a 'stretch' and see what happens.

Yrs aff'ly,
Linda the Librarian

Icha said...

Ha! Good to know that my rambling helps, Linda dear! Lemme know how the stretching goes. Shoe stretchers are not expensive, these days.