design rules to live by: thou shalt not wear crap shoes


thou shalt not wear crap shoes

thou shalt not wear crap shoes

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:

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 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!


Mica said...

Sales are the best time to buy good shoes! :D

After my first pair of Marc by Marc Jacobs flats I was hooked - no other flats can compare to them now. Although admittedly I'm too unsure to try other brands in case the sizing or comfort doesn't work out.

Apart from Wittner, are there any other good Aussie companies that have leather shoes? The wittner sales are great for the staples like the perfect little black heel for work.

Stacy said...

Great points!
If I could find a pair of size seven in this city I'd be happy!

harbourmaster said...

I'm definitely brand loyal when I find a style that works for me too! It can be a leap of faith investing in a brand you haven't worn before, I think that's where it helps to know your foot shape really well so you can judge fit.

I actually don't shop at Wittner - they're terrible knock off merchants which is a culture I try not to support! To be honest I avoid all the big Australian footwear labels/high st brands that do shoes, I've just had too many bad experiences with comfort & quality over the years - I'd love for them to prove me wrong but it hasn't happened yet! I have just come across an Australian label called Bared though which I'll be introducing in a post soon, they're designed by a podiatrist & I have high hopes!

Stacy I hear you - having an 'average' size seems like more of a curse than a blessing, they always sell out first!

Kirby Bee said...

You make some excellent points. Especially about caring for your shoes, and making friends with your cobbler. Very important. Good shoes should be seen as an investment.

That said, I’ve heard/read a few scary stories about incredibly uncomfortable designer shoes, particularly of the A.Wang and Louboutin variety. And while that may have a little to do with mistakes made by the buyer, I’m not of the opinion that a high price directly correlates with high quality/comfort. That being said if you pay very little for a pair of shoes you can’t expect a great deal in return either.

As for Australian ‘high street’ retailers, I’m on the fence. When I see such deliberate and obvious rip offs, Balenciaga cut out boots and Gucci ankle straps for example, it is a little disheartening. But I also own some really great shoes from brands like Tony Bianco, Wittner and Siren. Like I said, on the fence.

harbourmaster said...

Kirby I definitely agree - anything touting a designer label has a sliding scale of worth the $ vs pose factor only...I don't think high end designer necessarily equates to comfortable or sensible, though they usually have the upper hand in construction and material quality.

Alexander Wang's shoes are REALLY narrow, I can't wear them - and Louboutin is, quite frankly, ridiculous most of the time. The height on those things! I don't think anyone has the power to make a 6 inch stiletto comfortable (I'm always amazed when I see pictures of Charlotte Olympia trotting around in her super high heels, gorgeous yes but it can't be easy)!

Admittedly I try to avoid high street retailers in general (don't want to be tempted to buy something I know is a direct copy, usually despise anything that isn't) so haven't bought footwear from any of them for a good two years - I remember looking through Zomp (which I used to LOVE) and seeing their own-brand shoes practically falling apart in front of my eyes, so disappointing. But I shall do some recon, perhaps I'm judging too harshly!

jamie-lee said...

Great post - I have to say most of my shoes are designer, otherwise I tend to go for Topshop, which make a decent leather shoe which in my experience have generally been quite comfortable.

I often wait until sale time though, of course, so that I can buy a few more. And have to say I agree with Kirby - designer shoes can be uncomfortable, which is a lesson I have learnt a few times, but more often than not I've found them to be far superiour than most shoes found in the general shoe stores.