design rules to live by: thou shalt not wear crap shoes
Of the many things I've learnt growing up, this revelation has probably given me the most joy: appreciate your feet. I'm serious. You only get one pair, and you need them every day, so don't be horrible to them by squashing them inside cheap nasty plastic. So begets one of my favourite design-rules-to-live-by:
THOU SHALT NOT WEAR CRAP SHOES.
Shoes are one of the last bastions of fashion where functionality really is key. Not always adhered to, mind, but at the end of the day no matter how beautiful the design, if you've been burned by a pair of shoes they'll forever be tainted. The memory of cramped toes, aching soles and cut heels doesn't fade quickly. Comfort is, of course, lifestyle dependant, but if I can't last a night in a pair of shoes there's no point owning them (my rule of thumb is that if I couldn't realistically run in them if necessary they will cause more harm than good - no 'just for dinner' heels!). It can be difficult to judge when shopping online, or presented with a well-copied model in a high street store (think Wittner just has a really great design team? Think again.), so here are some things I've learnt along the way:
1. Good shoes aren't cheap. Shoes are complicated - heels especially so. By their very nature they get kicked about, scraped on pavement, stomped on with considerable force by something many times their mass, so it stands to reason that good shoes are not only designed, but engineered. There is weight distribution to think about. Balance. Angles of pressure, and how to keep the various elements conjoined under said pressure. The design development and craftsmanship involved in achieving these factors is time consuming and expensive. Try equivalent styles in high end and high street brands - you'll feel the difference.
2. Leather is better - lining especially. PVC lining, avoid, avoid, avoid (although notable exceptions are Stella McCartney and Melissa, both of whom design in non-leather and have overwhelmingly managed to address the comfort issues by using high grade plastic fabrications). Leather moulds to your foot shape, ages well and can be polished and conditioned.
3. Get to know your size (all variations of!), understand your foot shape and make informed decisions about fit. I range from a 38 - 39, have wide toes and a high arch, and my left foot is half a size bigger than my right. I know I have no hope of getting into boots with a fitted vamp that don't have a zip, so I know to avoid styles like that. Sizing varies wildly between brands (sometimes within brands!) so if you can't try on in person read the fit notes and search for reviews.
4. Protect your investment - befriend thy cobbler! Ideally you should get leather soled shoes Topy'd (a thin rubber base permanently stuck on the sole that protects & adds grip) before you wear them but I usually don't have that kind of restraint - but the sooner the better. Get worn down heels repaired, scuffs buffed out...you can even get shoes colour changed! For home maintenance waterproofing spray, Zanolin polish and heel grips are always in my arsenal.
We're obviously not all in a position to completely outfit ourselves with top end shoes all the time, but footwear purchases really do benefit from the good old cost-per-wear scrutiny. With the exception of my Acne boots all my 'good' shoes have been sourced on sale or eBay - you just have to know what you're looking for!