I’m not just unusual when it comes to body shape, I also have it rough when it comes to buying shoes.
Admittedly my feet are standard length, British size 6.5 (European 39), they are however unusually wide and have a high instep. This makes about 90% of shoes that are supposedly produced for my size utterly useless. Also, my right foot has been permanently swollen for the last few years, which makes it even more difficult for it to fit into most shoes.
Furthermore, if I wear regular, cheap shoes, ones that come without a comfortably profiled and padded insole, after one day my hip joints declare a strike and stop working for at least another day (there have been times when I literally couldn’t get out of bed).
Moreover, I get blisters and painful skin injuries from pretty much anything that isn’t very soft, and wearing high heels makes my back hurt badly.
And besides everything else I’m also terribly fussy when it comes to style – I just hate most of the shoes that are available these days! I absolutely hate glitter, animal patterns, bows, peep toe style, shiny and sparkly details (especially gold tone), huge flower ornaments, pom-poms, pointy noses, thick crude heels (both low and high), wedge heels (especially high) – although there have been exceptions; I’m not a big fan of patent leather either (there’s an exception to this one too).
How many options do you think I have left if I remove all those factors if I want to wear shoes that I actually like?
I’ve discovered a few helpful tricks, and I know several brands that make comfortable shoes for my kind of feet, so now I’m going to share that experience.
- Usually I just buy shoes that are one size bigger (British 7 or European 40). They’re usually a little bit wider, enough for my feet to fit in, and even though they are slightly too long, it isn’t that bad. Actually a lot of British brands just don’t do half sizes, so there’s no 6.5 size, just 6 and 7. I can always use an extra pair of insoles if the shoes feel too spacious.
- I only ever consider shoes that have round noses. Anything with pointy noses just won’t work – if I somehow manage to fit in it, it’ll look weird on my wide feet and I’ll get painful blisters anyway.
- Mary Jane style shoes (with a strap) are much better for me than regular ballerinas/pumps (without a strap). Let me tell you why: the strap keeps the shoe in place well enough, so the whole construction doesn’t have to be as full as in strapless shoes, hence it doesn’t dig into the instep as much. As a result I only ever try on ballerinas that are made of a very soft leather, to minimize the rubbing (and I still haven’t found a perfect pair so far).
- I always try to look for shoes that have adjustable elements, like tiny sections made of rubbery fabric or Velcro straps; there’s a better chance such a pair will fit more comfortably.
- Sometimes I get my shoes stretched by a cobbler. The cost of it is about €8 where I live, and it prevented me from throwing out a pair or two. It works with leather shoes only, I’m afraid, as most synthetic materials don’t stretch well.
- There are shoe stretching spray products that don’t work as well as getting your shoes widened by a cobbler, but can sometimes be enough. You can buy a few of them at Amazon for less than £10 (also they’re available at various shoe stores).
With most shoes however I just have to accept the fact that they’re not suitable for my feet but I know several brands that I use and like. Here they are:
Dr Martens – I avoided this brand for a long time, just because a lot of people use it and I don’t like to wear whatever half of Dublin’s population is wearing. The brand is so popular for a reason, though – the shoes they make are wonderfully comfortable. Now Dr Martens is one of my fav brands. Most of their shoes are wide enough for me to wear my true size (6). They’re also high quality (last long) and don’t give me blisters. Unfortunately the range of their design is somewhat limited, unless you like to wear heavy boots with everything. I managed to get a Dr Martens medium heel Mary Janes a few years ago, they’re very comfortable for heeled shoes, but I still can’t manage to walk around in them a whole day, so keep them for occasions where I have to mostly sit. In 1460 type boots what I have to do is exchange the default insole for a thinner one, so my foot fits in them height-wise (these damned high insteps). After the change they’re perfectly comfortable.
Hush Puppies – Their low heeled shoes are my favourite elegant option – more comfortable than high heels and even prettier. I still have to use a gel pad under the midfoot with them, but I can manage to walk around in them for quite a while. I have to buy a size 7 to fit in comfortably, but they don’t give me any blisters either. What I love about them the most is the design. I’d get half the collection if I could afford it! And they almost never give me blisters.
Rieker – Very high quality and very comfortable, I can’t however fit into all of their styles, just some of them. Their shoes are usually made of a soft leather, pleasant to the touch, their designs can be pretty and stylish. I recommend this brand to all those people who get blisters in most shoes.
Clarks – Most of their shoes I can barely fit into (or can’t fit at all), but some of their styles are suitable for wider feet. Their shoes give me blisters in the beginning though, and must be broken in.
Evans is a British brand famous for their plus-size wide-feet shoes, and admittedly they’re the only brand so far that makes calf-high boots that I fit into. There is one thing however that makes me think twice before I buy shoes from this brand: their shoes are terribly uncomfortable. I have to wear extra padding in the form of soft insole, thick socks and midfoot silicone pad (all those things at the same time), and I still get blisters sometimes.
They’re also not of very high quality – last winter I had to have my Evans ankle boots repaired just after two weeks of wearing in rainy weather – the sole came off partially and they started to leak badly. I don’t much like their design either, but generic boots are okay.
When it comes to design, Evans shoes are usually the quintessence of everything I can’t stand, but generic boots can be okay.
Ecco – makes nice sports and hiking shoes, which saved my holiday one Summer (“wow, I can walk” as opposed to “leave me alone, I’m not going anywhere”)
I also like their ballerinas and sandals, but their court shoes are noticeably narrower, the leather is stiff and non-stretchy, so I’ve never managed to fit into any of them so far. Their designs are usually kind of crude, but they have their moments. Depending on the style, I fit into either 6.5 or 7.
T.U.K. Shoes – I only have one pair made by them, and I bought it online without trying it on first – it’s a bit spacious, but it’s a size 7. I probably could have gone with the size 6 because this particular style is relatively wide. I’m using extra insoles with them however and they’re very comfortable this way. Works better for my hip joints too. I wish there was a store in Dublin (or in Wroclaw, Poland where I spend a good part of almost each year, for that matter) where I could try this brand of shoes on. I love their designs and I think they have a lot of potential.
There are several brands whose shoes I haven’t had a chance to try on yet but think they have a lot of potential, for example: Fly London, Birkenstock and DUO (beautiful design but terribly pricey). Does any of you wide-footed girls have any experience with those brands? What other brands do you know that cater for difficult feet?
To summarize my observations – it’s possible to wear comfortable and stylish shoes if your feet are difficult, but it requires more effort (both research-wise and when it comes to taking care of them later) and also more money. A pair of Hush Puppies or Dr Martens shoes can dig a substantial hole in your home budget – fortunately they last long enough to be in fact more cost-effective than your regular cheaper shoes.
What shoe-related issues do you have? Please share your experience.