A lot of women have problem feet in one way or another — wide feet, narrow heels, fallen arches, bunions, weak ankles, size 11, size 5, etc, etc, etc. I’ve gotten a few questions from readers and I thought it would be an interesting discussion — how DO you find comfortable heels and shoes? We’ve talked about comfortable heels before (of course; it’s one of our top posts!) but not specifically about how to find comfortable shoes. (Pictured: Buzzfeed had a fun guide to shoe storage earlier this year…)
I have a few ideas, but I’m curious what resources the other readers may know about…
- Shop within shoe families. If you have one shoe that you love, see what other brands that manufacturer makes, because odds are good that the last will be similar. Annoyingly you sometimes have to do a bit of digging — for example, even though I know that Børn and Isolá shoes are made by the same manufacturer (HH Brown), there’s no sign of that on the Børn website. Investigate all of the links on the website (clicking the “Retailers” link on Børn’s site brought me to a more B2B product page talking about HH Brown orders); ask your shoe salesman; read the blog.
- Find a good blog (or even a blog post) about your foot problem. I’ve recommended Barking Dog Shoes in the past and I’ll do it again now — I’ve combed through their multiple posts on the best shoe brands for bunions as well as narrow heels many times.
- Look for specialty retailers. I think Lisa from Privilege (who recently got married; congrats, Lisa!) calls them “Shoes That Don’t Hurt” stores, and every city has them — stores that specialize in problem feet, such as Eneslow’s or Tip Top Shoes here in NYC to my mom’s favorite store in Cleveland, Lucky Shoes. In today’s day and age I would think of these as ways to get started rather than the final word — you can go in and try on a bunch of different brands, see how they’re made, talk to the sales person about your feet (they may immediately put a name to a problem you didn’t even know you had but explains why you’re having problems with your shoes), and more. If you’re happy with the selection in the store (or someone who vastly prefers to try shoes on in the store), then that kind of store is going to be your favorite place. Personally I prefer to research things, order them online, and then just send them back if I don’t like them. Online you can find some as well — Comfortology (for general comfort shoes) to Barefoot Tess (for larger sized shoes) to Alonai (for smaller sized shoes). I think it bears emphasis that not every problem foot needs to wear ugly “comfort shoes” or orthotics — but it may be vastly easier to start there, and then identify what you like/don’t like when you compare the “comfort shoes” to the general shoes you used to buy before. Some trade offs you may be willing to make — comfort, price, style — and some you won’t.
- Know your search options. Zappos offers a special link for “wide shoes,“so does Online Shoes and many others. Sometimes the product recommendations on the page can also help you discover new brands. If size alone is your problem, ShopStyle lets you comb through multiple retailers while allowing you to filter by size (4-14) as well as heel height.
Readers — how do you find comfortable shoes for whatever shoe problem you’ve got? Word of mouth? Research? Investigation? Endless try-ons? Do share…