Yes, I know, you've had your feet as long as you've been alive. What else could you possibly need to know?
Well, I've been helping customers with their footwear for over 15 years and, although many people are happy and confident asking for what they want, a number of questions and issues come up every year.
To avoid these simple mistakes, I'd like to share my experience...There might be something that you hadn't thought of.
- Once you've picked out what you like, it's worth having a quick chat with the shoe retailer, especially if you struggle to find what you need. They are there to help you.
- If you explain what you are going to use the shoes for (sailing, holiday, work, urban living, walking across wet fields, wading rivers), we can help steer you in the right direction.
- When you've got your shoes, put both on. Having two feet exactly the same size is very rare.
- Stand up. Sitting down is great if you having a nice cup of tea, but shoes are meant for walking, so take a little stroll around the room.
- Give it time. These shoes have never met your feet before and will need a few minutes to make their acquaintance.
- Length is important. There should be 1.0-1.5cm between the end of your toes and the tip of the shoe. If your big toe is pushing on the end you will definitely damage the shoes and potentially your feet.
- The width should be snug, not tight. Yes, leather and suede will give, but we all have limits.
- If the shoes are too roomy, you can correct this with a thin insole or, in the case of a deck shoe, you should be able to tighten them up a little with the all-round lace.
- You should be able to wiggle your toes comfortably. You don't want overcrowding in there.
- Look in the mirror. This is what everyone else can see. Looking straight down is a view that is unique to you.
Socks or no socks
- If you would normally wear the shoes or boots with socks, try them on with socks.
- If not, try them on with clean, bare feet or using a pop sock.
- A leather lined shoe is a great comfort choice for the no-sock option.
- Short, hidden socks are a great too. Try to find ones with high cotton or bamboo content.
- Last years loafers will have stretched if you've over-wintered in them with socks. So don't be surprised if they're a bit sloppy without them and don't be surprised if the brand new pair are not immediately as comfortable as your "old friends".
Different brands vary
- If you take a size in one brand, it may not be the same size in another. Each company uses their own lasts (foot moulds), so the shoes will vary in their shape.
- This can also true of different styles within a brand, so if you're not sure, ask.
- European shoe sizing is based on a fixed metric measurement using small increments, so is (usually) an accurate way to get the size that you want.
- UK shoe sizing was originally based on the length of an ear of wheat (true story!), so can vary considerably from brand to brand. The incremental steps are also bigger than European.
- There is no fixed scale to translate UK and Euro sizes. If in doubt, seek advice from the person selling the shoes.
What's the weather like?
- The best time to try shoes on is mid-morning to the middle of the day. This is when your feet are their "average" size.
- If you wait until the end of the day and you've been walking for miles, nothing will be comfortable.
- If is it extremely hot, your feet will be at their biggest, so you are not really giving these new shoes a fair chance.
- Likewise, if your feet are cold, you will need to be mindful of this.
- If you're buying shoes for a holiday, what is the weather like in the place that you are going?
Every Spring we come out of our cosy socks and boots and straight into slip-on or low cut shoes. There are a few things to be aware of here:
- Your skin will be more sensitive to ridges, stitching and contact points within the shoe, such as the heel. For most people, this is only true for the first few weeks, but for some, especially younger people, this can be a difficult transition time, involving plasters and blister packs. My advice here is to wear your shoes in gently. You may want to opt for suede rather than leather as it is softer on the skin.
- If you've put on a little "Lock-down Weight", your feet will have too...sorry but this is a fact.
- The good news is that it is much easier to go back into boots in Autumn...unless you've been running bare foot on the beach all summer!
- I know its hard to hear, but as you feet get older, your feet will change too. You may not be able to wear those fabulous 80's style heels anymore. Trust me, the ability to walk, run and move freely is much more important.
Low quality materials can lead to three key fit issues:
- The shoes can feel small as the factory has cut the leather/fabric as tight as possible to save costs.
- The stitching can be too close to the edge, causing splitting at the seams.
- The material loses its shape quickly resulting in floppy shoes.
High grade suedes and premium grade leathers will mould to your feet, making them super comfortable, but will also hold their shape over a much longer period of time.
Are bunions embarrassing?
Simply, no. This is something that happens to many (mostly) women. It can be caused by wearing heels over a long period of time or its a genetic thing - in which case, you can blame your mother!
They can be very painful, which is a stressful way to live, but nothing to be ashamed of. A good retailer will listen to you concerns, offer good advice on their footwear range and give you plenty of time to test whether the shoes are right for you.
The same is also true for damaged feet, wide feet, narrow feet, mis-matched feet, wonky toes, slim ankles, flat feet, high arches, you name it.
What if it's still not right?
Your rights vary depending on whether you have bought shoes online or from a fixed shop. We offer a free returns and exchange service for our mail order customers, with 31 days to think about it. This can be extended to our shop customers too. Other retailers may be different, so check quickly if you are not happy.
Well, I hope that has helped you.
If you think I've left something out, let me know. I'd love to hear from you.