Shoes have always been the bane of my life. By the age of about 12 I was 5’10” and had size 8 feet. In those days it was even more difficult to find size 8s than it is now so my earliest shoe memory – after the glory years of jelly shoes and child sized feet – is trying to find a pair of black shoes that fitted and I didn’t deem hideous. Once found, I would wear them until they were well past their best days. I still feel guilty about a pair of loafer types that my mum bought me in desperation but I refused to ever wear. These seem to come in and out of fashion all the time but they will never suit me.
The shop owner told me ‘I would never get a better fit anywhere else.’ He might have been right but I still hated them.
As I got older I moved to London and had no money so would take what I could get in the size 8 sale section. This mean no black shoes (rarely on sale) and having to come to terms with my height and just buying buying heels. Long departed shoe shop Shelley’s was often a winner in those days.
Sizing is a shoe factory sized bag of snakes.
Like high street textile fashion, shoes are different sizes in every shop. But that’s not what makes me so mad. When I was younger a European size 42 was a UK size 8, and so it still is in a few shops. However, at some point some bright spark decided that in their brand a 41 was an 8 and that’s where they stopped. I spent years thinking that all shoes were violently painful for the first few weeks, if they weren’t leather then they would be so forever. After visiting a chiropodist because I had painful toe joints she drew around my feet on two pieces of card and said that if the card didn’t fit inside the shoe then it didn’t fit. That cancelled out pretty much every shoe in my collection! I haven’t followed it entirely to the letter – sometimes I can get away with ill fitting shoes for a few hours or if I’m not walking too much – but I ditched a lot, bought new trainers and am strict with myself about what I now buy new.
Occasion shoes can be especially problematic.
Bridesmaid shoe shopping was another low. Whatever perfect shoes we found didn’t go up to big enough for me so my size 5 and 6 friends wore the shoes I loved. Luckily we found some I loved as much elsewhere but they weren’t as perfect as the others. When I got married myself I threw all the money at the problem and bought some beautiful Rachel Simpson Isabelle shoes. I went for a high heel and they are so so beautiful. But my God they hurt after a couple of hours. I had back-up shoes which I was in by dinner. I tried them again for a friend’s wedding and ended up barefoot and swearing never to wear them again.
I’m still eternally on the quest for the perfectly fitted shoe. I’ve toyed with purchasing them from Shoes of Prey but I’m too nervous to buy online in case they don’t fit, and they cost a lot of money. There’s also a shoe making class in London I might like to do.
Lessons I’ve learnt about buying shoes (for me specifically)
- Buy two pairs if they are comfortable and make you happy. I have two pairs of exactly the same Finery boots in different colourways.
- Pointed toes will never be ok. My feet aren’t shaped that way. (for a useful guide to foot shapes and shoes that will work for you go to Justine Leconte’s YouTube).
- Clarks, M&S, Next and Finery are all a winner for me. Which leads to the next point…
- Forget fashion (to a point). Trends come and go (gladiator sandals or Ugg boots anyone?) but certain styles will always be in fashion.
- Metallics go with everything.
- Shoes will almost never ‘get more comfortable’. But if, in the absence of a 42, I can find a size 43 these brilliant Shoe Sizers can make them smaller. This has literally only ever happened once in my life.
- I will never find another pair as easy to wear as the two low wedge dancing style pairs I had from Office. Which is odd as their shoes don’t fit me any more.