We all know the frustrating feeling of wanting desperately a pair of shoe and not having it available in our size. Multiple times I have guilty decided to try a smaller size, squeezing my feet into the shoes while lying to myself: ‘the leather will stretch out’ or ‘I just need to wear it a couple of times and it will get better’. Driven by vanity, I bought the shoes, thinking it is never as bad as it seems. But the aftermath comes. And it is measured in pain, bunions and joint problems.
Still, sometimes we are lucky enough to find the right size available, but we are still not fully convinced of how the shoes fit us. The reason for that? We may not know our current shoe size. A study conducted by the College of Podiatry shows that 32 percent of women are wearing the wrong shoe size. Although this may come as a surprise, Lindsey Clark, head of shoe technology at Long Tall Sally explains “A number of factors can influence and change the size of a woman’s foot, including pregnancy, aging, and weight gain or loss, and we recommend that women have their feet professionally measured regularly”.
The truth is: every feet is different. The widths vary, as do the arches. Plus, shoe designers are often most concerned with the look of the shoe and not its practicality. If comfort conflicts with appearance -as it often will- appearance will prevail. It turns out, size is not the only thing contributing to how your feet feel at the end of the day, other factors such as the construction technique, the material also adds to the pain. In order to get more clarity on the topic, we sat down with London-based footwear designer Behnaz Kanani to understand how we can buy shoes that won’t become an agony to wear.
How to find the perfect shoe size?
The first advice here is to not to rely too much on size. “The actual number is not what matters, as each foot is different” and the only way to know what size you are is by measuring your foot and then trying to find a shoe that fits as near as possible to your measure,” Behnaz says. “When trying a new pair be mindful about how your feet truly feel: focus on the feeling the shoes give you when you put your foot inside. The right size shouldn’t squash your toes, press the back of your heel or compress your foot.” Her advice is to spend a few minutes walking on the hard floor in the shop to see how it feels.
Furthermore, it is important to shop for shoes in the afternoon: “while sleeping our feet shrunk a little, therefore when buying shoes, better go late in the day”.
If you are unsure of your shoe-size or haven’t measured your feet recently, she recommends to measure your feet at home: “a simple way you can measure them at home is by placing each foot firmly on a piece of paper, draw around your foot, take the extremities, big toe or your second toe if it’s longer and the back of your heel, then with a ruler measure the length”. Plus also consider “the width is the wider points of your foot but on its own is not enough, you also need to measure the arch. It is necessary to determine the size of the shoe you will be wearing.”
Measuring those last two elements is pretty straight forward: for the width, just use the ruler as you did for the length; for the arch, take advantage of when you have your feet wet and place them on a dry surface, in according to the footprint you see you can take your conclusions. Click here to discover your foot arch. And here to find your true shoe size at home.
What type of styles should I buy to be more comfortable?
When searching for the right style, remember that there is no ‘one-style-fits-all’ option. “Each foot is different and hence different styles would suit different feet. Generally speaking, seek for shoes that give your foot the most support and stability while walking” aids Behnaz. “Sneakers and lowers heels normally have space for more cushioning therefore will generally be a good option.”
Picking the right shoe according to length and width is a very straight forward option once your measures are known. However, according to the different types of arches, some extra advice can be given. For normal arches, try with shoes that have firm and thick soles, good cushioning, and keep your heel stabilized (your heel should sit snugly in the back of your shoe).
If you have flat feet, it’s extra important to buy shoes that keep your foot from rolling inward. Look for shoes with a thick, cushioned sole and lacing that allows you to restrict movement in the shoe. Shoes with cushioning are extra important if you have high arches. The shoes you’re looking for are typically heavier on cushioning and less rigid.
For high-heels, the story can be different. “even a good quality pair starts hurting just after an hour” She advises to “look for heels no higher than 5cm as daily wear and go higher for your special occasions when you don’t need to be wearing them for many hours.” But always remembering that “if you try the shoes on and they don’t feel ok, they will never feel ok.”
When you find a brand or a few brands that fit you well, stick to them, at least for your most important heels. “Normally the price tag of quality shoes is higher. Yet, I always thought the quality is better than quantity. Also as the shoe ages, [a high-quality pair of heels] still look beautiful if not more beautiful, whereas a pair of low quality [heels] after a few times, looks worn out and with lots of wrinkles.
What materials should I give preference to?
Behnaz advises that is necessary to focus on leather materials when buying a pair of shoes. “Leather lining is breathable, is softer and doesn’t give you blisters”. “Of course the price tag of leather shoes is higher, but the foot feels better and adapts more easily to leather than to all other faux leathers. Suede, which is part of the leather family tends to adapt and stretch as well, being a good option.”
About Behnaz Kanani
Born in Iran and raised in Spain, Behnaz is a footwear designer with over 20 years of experience. After years of research into comfort and quality for shoes, she decided to start her current endeavor: Kanani London. The brand breaks with her previous experiences focusing more on how shoes will be purchased in the future while keeping an eye on the luxury segment. All her shoes are ‘made just for you, customized by you and will fit you perfectly’. Her goal is to make sure her clients feel as comfy in heels as they feel in their slippers and pjs. Find more about Behnaz and her incredible label here.