How to Buy a Great Pair of Shoes

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Monday 11th October 2010
In this article
  • When to buy shoes.
  • What to look for in your shoes.
  • What to watch out for — even with expensive shoes.

Buying shoes always seems like a no-brainer. You go in, pick a style, and come out with an extra pair and less money in your wallet. Is that it? Hardly. Whether you’re spending a lot or a little, a few simple fitting rules apply. Failing to take these into account could result in a bad fit and a worse buy — no matter how expensive the shoe is. Check out these SharpGrooming tips for fitting and buying a great pair of shoes:

When and what to wear for shoe shopping.

The best time to shop for shoes is after a late lunch. Since feet swell and "spread" throughout the day, shopping at this time allows you to get a more realistic fit and feel. Make a point of wearing the same thickness of sock into the store as you intend to wear with the shoes you want to purchase. Borrowing socks from the merchant is never the same. If you’re shopping for a more formal dress shoe, don’t wear casual-fit shoes, like athletic shoes, as anything is bound to feel tight when you take off these types of shoes.

Figuring out your shoe size — again.

Every time you sit down to try on a new pair of shoes, insist that the salesperson measure both feet with a Brannock Device. This will ensure that however much your foot has changed (and they do seasonally), you will always be assured the perfect fit.

If you’ve found a good fit in the past, consider purchasing another pair from the same maker. You’ll find that most shoe manufacturers are consistent in their sizing, and that if one shoe fits well, chances are that others by the same maker will also be comfortable.

How should your foot fit in the shoe?

The ball of your foot should be aligned with the widest part of the shoe. There should also be about half an inch of dead space, or "breathing room," between your biggest toe and the end of the shoe interior. You should be able to feel the arch of the shoe snugly against the arch of your foot. If the two don’t match, your arch will consistently "fall" to meet the shoe surface every time you step, resulting in a painful shoe with insufficient support. Finally, when you walk, the shoe should bend (crease) just past the joint of your largest toe. If it creases any further down, you don’t want the shoe — unless, of course, you enjoy toe pain and blisters.

What to watch out for.

Remember that every shoe feels cool when you first try it on. Often this pleasant sensation leads the buyer to believe the shoe is comfortable, when in fact, it’s simply cool. Make sure you focus on the fit of the shoe when determining comfort. Let the foot settle in, take a few steps and then decide.

Test-driving expensive shoes.

When buying expensive shoes, consider "test-driving" them before making a final decision. Purchase the shoes and take them home. Then wear the shoes while walking a soft carpet or with athletic socks over the entire shoe. This way, if you determine that the shoes are not right for you, you can return them scuff-free.

Breaking shoes in.

No shoe should be broken in one long wearing — and no foot should be subjected to this kind of discomfort. Break new shoes in by wearing them for short periods of time (changing into other shoes as needed). This allows the shoe, and more importantly, your feet, to have a well-deserved rest. Use shoe trees to hold the new shape in between wearings.

This article last updated on Wednesday 13th October 2010
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