Everything you need to know to build the perfect footwear wardrobe
This is something that many experts find perplexing as wearing the wrong shoes can permanently damage your feet. These side effects can include blisters, bunions, and even the shape of your toes changing permanently.
Even when your shoes do fit, they are not appropriate to wear everywhere – for both physical and social reasons.
In this article, we are going to help you find the perfect fitting pair of shoes, talk you through what shoes are appropriate for which situation, and explain the signs that show your shoes are too old.
Table of Contents
Tips For Buying Shoes
Shoes tend to be pretty tricky to return, so it is important that you make sure they fit properly before you buy them. Most people end up with ill-fitting shoes because they don’t know how to test them correctly in the shop – that ends today.
Buying Shoes For Adults
Let’s look at how to make sure that your own shoes fit well.
You should use this section of the article as a checklist that will help you leave the shoe store with shoes that love your feet as much as you love them.
Measure Both Of Your Feet Before Shopping
You want to think carefully about when you go shopping as your feet tend to swell up as the day goes on and be at their smallest in the morning. You should go shoe shopping at the end of the day, if you can. Your feet will be at their biggest and you are less likely to end up with shoes that are too small.
We suggest that you measure your feet before you set out shopping, as your feet will swell up a little bit as you make your way to the shoe shop.
Wear The Same Type Of Socks To The Store That You Intend On Wearing With The Shoe
You should also carefully pick out the type of socks you are going to wear. If your office is cold, so you wear thick socks every day, then you are going to want to wear thick socks to the shop.
But, if you are looking for running shoes then you should wear running socks.
Stand In The Shoes When Trying Them On
You will want to make sure that you stand up and walk around in your shoes. This will give you a better idea of how they will feel while you wear them.
You will want to check that your shoes don’t hurt if you put all your weight on your toes or on your heels.
Make Sure You Have Half An Inch Of Space Between Your Longest Toe And The End Of Your Shoe
Your feet will typically swell throughout the day and be about ¼ of an inch longer than when you wake up. You want to make sure that you have enough space in your shoes to accommodate for this.
Walk Around In The Shoes
When you are walking around in your shoes concentrate on how they feel around your ankle and your toes.
Do you feel the shoes forcing your toes to curl inwards? Are they rubbing on your ankles? Are the shoes biting into your ankles?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes – these are not the right shoes for you.
Know Your Comfort Level
If you are trying to weigh up the balance between a pair of good-looking shoes and how painful they are – think about what your comfort level is. Will you really wear these shoes if they are still uncomfortable (even if they are cute)?
Feel The Inside Of The Shoe, Note Anything That Could Irritate Your Foot
Our final tip is to check out the inside of the shoes with your fingertips. You are going to make sure there is nothing sticking out on the inside of the shoe that could damage your feet in the long run.
You should be on the lookout for tags, hard seams, poorly fitted insoles and even materials that aren’t feet friendly. If anything sticks out at you then you should consider walking away from that pair of shoes.
You shouldn’t settle for a shoe unless they are perfect.
Buying Shoes For Children
Buying shoes for children can be a little tricky because they do not always know what they are looking for in shoes and unless you ask the right questions they might not tell you they are in pain.
Don’t Buy Too Big
When you are buying shoes for children it is always growing, it can be tempting to buy them a set of shoes that they will grow into. However, this is something that you should avoid doing.
Your child is more likely to fall over or hurt their ankles if their shoes are too big as they will not provide enough ankle support. Shoes that are too big are also more likely to get caught in machinery and throw off your child’s balance.
Always Check Your Child’s Toes
You want to make sure that your child is able to wiggle their toes inside their shoes and that their toes are not getting pinched. Wearing shoes that are too small for them at a young age can permanently affect the shape of their feet.
Use Your Thumb Shoe To Make Sure That They Have Enough Space
Just like you would with your own shoes – press your thumb into the tip of the shoes to make sure that there is about half an inch of space between their toes and the end of the shoes.
Here are some questions that you can ask your children to get a better idea of how the shoes feel on their feet.
Can you wiggle your toes?
Do your toes touch the end of the shoe?
Does your heel slide around or is it too tight?
Do the shoes pinch the back of your ankle?
Why You Should Invest In Footwear
Above, we covered that buying shoes for yourself and for children are very different activities.
We also think that it is worth mentioning that investing in kids’ shoes is not always worth it. There is very little difference in quality between high-end kids’ shoes and shoes that you could get from Target.
However, when it comes to buying shoes for yourself, the difference between high-end and cheaper shoes is immeasurable. Here are 4 differences that investing in the right pair of shoes can make in your life.
Better Quality Shoes
Let’s start with the obvious – spending more on a pair of shoes generally means that you are going to end up with better quality shoes.
A prime example of this is Doc Martens, this company has been making shoes for over 120 years. During this time they have never had to lower their prices because they have a reputation for making shoes that last for decades.
People are prepared to pay over $120+ for a pair of boots because odds are they won’t have to replace them for 25 years. When the boots last for that long then they will have paid about $6 a year for the pair.
There are some brands that overcharge for shoes. So make sure that you do some research into a brand before you buy from them. You want to make sure that you are investing in quality.
Fast Fashion is a huge contributor to climate change that many of us aren’t aware of.
Fast Fashion is the practice of wearing clothes a few times, for one event, or for one season then throwing them away before replacing them with new clothes. Some large fashion brands change their stock every 6 weeks.
If we were all more selective about the shoes that we bought, we could end up throwing away a lot less.
When you invest in your footwear, you tend to be buying shoes that are made of high-quality materials and shoes that are going to last longer. Both of these factors can help to fight the damage being done by fast fashion companies.
You can spend some time looking into what companies are fast fashion brands and which companies are using sustainable business practices to know you are making the world a better place with every step you take.
Quality Over Quantity
Some people actually save money when they invest in their shoes.
How is this possible? Well, earlier we talked about how some more expensive brands make shoes that can last for decades. Well, if you were to spend $125 on a pair of boots that lasted you for 25 years – you would save a lot of money compared to buying $10 shoes that you have to replace every 6 months.
Another benefit of investing in your shoes is that more expensive shoes can be repaired rather than replaced.
If you invest in a really nice pair of Oxfords, you are going to find that you can replace the soles and the heel of the shoes without having to get rid of the whole shoe. Again, this is cheaper than having to replace the whole shoe every six months, like you would have to with a lower quality shoe.
Finally, we want to talk about how investing in your footwear wardrobe can make it more ethical.
Lots of the brands that mass produce shoes at a low cost make their profits by employing unethical practices – like underpaying their staff members and using child labor. The laws surrounding what companies can and can’t do vary wildly depending on where they are based.
Some countries have rules surrounding whether a company has to declare unethical practices like this. The US does not have any of these rules. However, there are many journalists in this country who have done investigations into the practices of many of the fast fashion companies.
If you want to learn more about the kind of labor a company uses you may find the following resources useful – Wise Step, a report from the United States Government, and Good On You (an ethical fashion rating website).
Companies that make high-quality shoes that don’t mark down the prices typically use ethical labor pools.
Shoes And Occasions
Another thing you will need to bear in mind when putting together your perfect footwear wardrobe is making sure that it is stocked for all occasions.
Even if the shoe fits, it’s not always appropriate to wear. For example, you don’t want to run a marathon in stilettos. Equally, you do not want to wear open-toed sandals to a black-tie event or to your wedding.
If the world of shoes and their appropriate occasions is something that you struggle with, don’t worry. You have come to the right place. In this section, we are going to give you the ultimate guide to what shoes you should be wearing and when.
Let’s start with the most difficult occasion to get right – formal footwear.
Sadly (for some), men have this a lot easier than women when it comes to formal footwear. They usually have a choice of two types of shoes – dress shoes and loafers. For women, it’s a little more complicated.
Dress shoes (men and women)
If in doubt, wear black dress shoes to a formal event. Black is classy, opulent, and always looks sleek. You cannot go wrong with a simple, black dress shoe.
If you want to take more of a risk with your dress shoes then you should consider black dress shoes with a pattern, like snakeskin. This will allow you to keep things formal but look good while doing it.
Stilettos, pumps, mules, wedged heels, etc.
A classy pair of high heels is a great choice for women if you are looking to make an impact at a formal event. They will make you look taller, your legs look longer, and will most likely make you feel more confident.
Be aware, most high heels are very uncomfortable after a few hours.
If you are looking for a more comfortable alternative to high heels then you should consider a boot with heels. If you want to keep the glamour levels up then you could wear a pair of thigh-high boots or if you just want to be comfortable, pick out a pair of Chelsea boots.
Loafers are a great smart casual option for both men and women. To make them look more formal, look out for black loafers that have some kind of gold or silver detailing on the top.
Athletic shoes are the types of footwear that have the narrowest occasions to wear them in.
Athletic shoes are made for a purpose and should only be worn when doing exactly what the shoe is designed for.
For example, you cannot wear every type of sneaker when running or climbing.
There are many different types of sneakers out there. Some, like Chuck Taylor’s, are designed for Basketball, while others are designed for running, or even weight lifting. Those last two shoe types are the most commonly used.
If you are looking for new running shoes then you should visit a running shoe store and have a personal fitting session.
For weightlifting, you want to look for those that have a less flexible soul and a wider heel for stability.
When you go hiking you will want to wear hiking boots because they can protect you from blisters, ticks, sharp objects on the ground and they will also improve your balance.
Finally, we are going to talk about situations where it is appropriate to wear casual shoes.
You may wear casual shoes when you are out shopping, visiting friends and family, or hanging out in your home. Some people also wear casual shoes to work if they spend a lot of time on their feet or have a very active job.
(sneakers, sandals, boots, etc)
One of the joys of casual shoes is how comfy they are. However, you want to make sure that they still provide adequate support and protection for your feet.
Any boot, sneaker, and even sandals are appropriate casual shoes – especially in the hot months.
In these months, shoes that do not allow your feet to breathe will make you uncomfortable and could potentially cause infections like athlete’s foot.
Small Heeled Shoes
(mules, boots, etc)
If you turn up to a casual event in a pair of high heels people might suggest that you are a little bit overdressed. If you want to take a casual look to another level why not pair it with a pair of shoes with a small heel.
Colorful and patterned loafers walk the line between smart and casual. They are appropriate to wear in most situations.
Different Types Of Shoe Soles
The soles of your shoes are one of the most important parts of your footwear. It is the soles that protect your feet from objects on the ground and cushion the impact of your feet hitting the floor.
The best type of sole for your shoe will depend on how often you wear your shoes, what situation you want to wear them in, and how you walk.
Let’s learn more.
These soles are the most common on casual and work shoes. Rubber is the best synthetic alternative to leather (see below) and will last longer than most other types of soles.
However, after they have been worn for too long, rubber soles will start to crack.
Leather soles are the oldest type of soles. They are also one of the best. They are waterproof and tend to wear evenly, even if they are worn every day. They are also breathable and stop sweat build-up inside the shoe.
Combination (rubber and leather)
The major benefit of wearing combination leather and rubber shoes is that you get the breathability of leather paired with the gripping power of rubber.
You will find that a lot of work shoes and formal shoes use this combination.
These are a more modern take on the rubber sole. Instead of offering a flatter sole, Ridgeway shoes have deep ridges in them – this helps to prevent cracking and extends the lifespan of the shoe as they wear away more slowly.
Dainite sole looks a little like football cleats. They have round points on the bottom that offer a similar benefit to the ridges on Ridgeway shoes but have a much slimmer profile.
You will typically find commando soles on hiking boots and military-style footwear. They have a thick layer of rubber and little to no heel.
All the ridges are on the front of the boot to provide more grip when walking off-road or running.
Wedge shoes tend to feel like foam. They appear flat when you look from underneath but you will see something else when you look at the side profile.
There is a wedge at the back of the foot that smoothly slopes down until it reaches the toes.
Vibram is a brand that is famous for making industry-approved work boots. They have also started to make hiking boots.
These shoes have thick soles that come with a lot of grips but won’t be pierced if you step on an unexpected object.
If you can, avoid buying any shoes with a crepe sole.
While they are included on many trending and fashionable footwear items, they offer little to no support and absolutely no traction.
These soles are made from a combination of rubber and cork. They have three major benefits.
Firstly, the cork makes them incredibly lightweight. Secondly, they are oil and slip-resistant. Thirdly, you can replace the sole with ease.
You will most commonly see lug soles on winter boots, hiking boots, and work boots.
Their key characteristics are a thick heel that helps to balance the body weight. A thick sole that protects the foot from impact and foreign objects. And deep ridges that add grip.
Camp soles are made up of a very thin layer of rubber. You will typically see them on shoes like plimsolls and Vans.
They are incredibly lightweight but wear through quickly if worn frequently.
Raw cord soles date back to WW2 when rubber was in short supply. They ended up melting down old tires and running nylon cords through them to add stability and grip.
Some shoe manufacturers still use this technique – it is particularly popular with dock workers and ship hands.
These are rubber sole shoes that are made up of interlocking rubber pieces. They are mostly used by long-distance runners because they fit incredibly snuggly to the foot and you almost feel like you are wearing nothing.
Polyvinyl chloride soles’ main benefit is their insulation against electricity and the cold. They are typically used by construction workers and electricians.
They have thick soles and are well-balanced, you will have no trouble standing around in these all day.
When You Should Replace Your Footwear
Before we go, we want to give you some advice about how to tell if you have been wearing your shoes for too long and it is time to repair or replace them.
We will be the first to admit that in our younger days we used to wear our shoes until they fell apart. However, since we learned that doing this can actually be really bad for your feet, legs, and hips – we have stopped doing this.
Now, we carefully keep track of how long we have owned and how far we have walked in each of our shoes. We take care to buy high quality shoes that will last us longer and that we can repair instead of replacing them.
Time Period – How Long Have You Had The Shoes?
Let’s start with the easiest rule to keep in mind – replace your shoes when you have owned them for too long.
Shoes will lose their integrity as they age, even if they aren’t worn – especially if they are cheap shoes. Some companies design their shoes not to last (in the hopes that you will spend more money replacing them.
Shoes that you wear most days (3-4 times a week) will need to be replaced every year. You should consider replacing shoes you wear infrequently after 5 years unless they are really high quality.
Your running shoes should be replaced for every 500 miles you run in them.
Have The Material/Soles Worn Away?
Another sign that you have worn your shoes for too long or too many times is that the soles of the shoes are wearing away.
This is actually one of the most important parts of the shoe. It is the sole that keeps your hips aligned correctly while you walk and protects your shoes from impacting against the ground.
The soles of your shoes are typically the first part to go. If you have a high-quality shoe, you should be able to get the heels and the soles of your shoes replaced. However, for sneakers and other athletic shoes, this is usually not possible.
Check The Stitching And General Quality Of The Shoe – Are They Wearable?
We mentioned that to save money when we were younger, we used to wear our shoes until they literally fell apart around our feet. This is obviously not a good idea. It also used to drive our mom crazy.
Every part of the shoe is important – from the stitching around the ankle, the insole, to the tips of the toes. If one part of the shoe loses its integrity then all of it does. Once a shoe starts to lose its integrity then it stops being able to function correctly as a shoe.
You should be regularly checking the different elements of your shoes.
Is The Shoe Losing Its Shape?
When shoes start to lose their shape it means that they have been worn for too long and they will no longer be able to offer your feet and ankles adequate support. This is something you need to keep an eye out for.
This most commonly happens with casual shoes and athletic shoes. Most of us do not wear our formal shoes enough to see this happen to them.
Making sure that your shoes support your ankles is vital. You do not want to end up injuring yourself because your shoes are too old. A new pair of shoes is much cheaper than a medical bill.
Have You Been Experiencing Any Joint Pain Or Aches After Wearing The Shoe?
Finally, if your feet hurt after you have been wearing a set of shoes then you should replace them.
The reason your feet are hurting will probably be because of one of the problems listed above. Sometimes the soles of our shoes wear away and our shins are no longer protected from impact against the ground.
Sometimes some of the linings in our shoes have disintegrated and we are getting sore skin and blisters because of it.
You may also be experiencing pain in your feet, ankles, hips, or legs because your shoes are too small for you or do not fit correctly.
Shoes are one of the most important items in our wardrobe. Not only do they provide comfort and protection for our feet. But they can also give us confidence and help us to fit in better in certain social situations.
Wearing an ill-fitting shoe can permanently damage your feet, but wearing a shoe that fits the wrong event can also be a bad thing.
It is important that your wardrobe includes multiple pairs of shoes that fit you well and don’t hurt your feet. You should make sure that you have shoes that are suitable for formal, casual, and athletic wear.