5 WAYS TO TELL IF YOUR SHOES WILL GIVE

Have you ever been told by a sales assistant that the shoes you’re trying on will “give”? So have I! But what does it mean?

Will my shoes stretch or give?

Some shop staff use the word “give” to mean “stretch”. They might encourage you to purchase a pair which are too tight when you try them on, by saying “they’ll give over time”.

Here are my 5 fool-proof ways to tell if your shoes will stretch:

Question 1: Are they lined?

A. If yes, the double layer makes your shoes less likely to stretch than a single unlined piece of leather.

Question 2: What are they made from?

A. Woven fabric and synthetic leather uppers are less likely to stretch than leather. Stretch fabric will usually give to the shape of your foot.

Question 3: Are the uppers stitched?

A. If there’s a row of stitching where you need the shoe to stretch, this will either prevent the “give” effect or the stitching will break under pressure. If there’s a larger panel without stitching, this may stretch a little where your foot pushes against it. Beware of unstitched straps on sandals, because they can quickly stretch and become too long.

Question 4: How stiff is the upper material?

A. Patent materials have an extra coating which creates the shine effect. This is like adding an extra layer which as you’ve seen in Question 1, adds stiffness and reduces the ability to stretch. Any coated materials or extra thick leathers are less likely to give in a short period of time. Suede usually stretches more than standard leather, especially if it’s lined with a stretchier material such as pigskin leather.

Question 5: How much time do you have?

A. Are you willing to go through pain to (possibly) get comfortable shoes? How many wears could you put up with discomfort, before you achieve the holy grail of comfortable, beautiful shoes?

Can I get my shoes stretched?

This is always risky. You should consider the following 6 points before using shoe stretchers, methods on the internet, or taking your beloved pair to a cobbler.

1. Your shoes can become overstretched, or stretched in the wrong places leading to a further compromised fit

2. Stretching could break the stitching, so the life of your shoes could be shortened

3. The upper material could be weakened or torn

4. Shoes will never stretch in length, because the sole and structure prevent this

5. They might not stretch enough, so you could waste time or money

6. The look of your shoes could be altered

Will my shoes get more comfortable?

Unless your shoes have a serious design flaw (I remember a pair of Puma Mostro trainers with a hard plastic heel stiffener – ouch!), they should become a little more comfortable with wear. The upper will crease where your foot flexes, and the material should lose some of its out-of-the-box stiffness…eventually!

One last warning: If you buy shoes which are too narrow and they stretch to accommodate your feet, you could end up with some unsightly bulges on the sides of your shoes.

The moral of the story

You should always buy shoes which fit your feet on first wear, because they’ll look and feel great on you.

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MEET THE DESIGNER – SARGASSO AND GREY

If you enjoyed reading Sarah from Yull’s insights into the world of shoes, you’ll love the next interviewee in my Meet the Designer series.

Katie Owen is the founder and director of Sargasso & Grey. We met a few years ago when she reached out to me for some shoe business advice. Since then her brand – which specialises in wide-fitting footwear – has gone from strength to strength.

Meet Katie Owen

Q. What has been the most successful pair of shoes you’ve designed?

A. The Ava shoe has been a real hit. It is a nice wide EEE fit so even though it is pointed, it doesn’t squash the toes. The heel is a stylish yet sensible height and the lace up detail is ideal for women who may need a wider fit at the front but have slim heels, as it keeps the foot firmly in the shoe. Kitten heels are the hot style for 2017, which makes it stylish as well as comfy! We launched it last autumn in black suede and it got such great feedback that we now do it in a navy suede and a maroon suede.

Q. Can shoes change your life?

A. Well ill-fitting shoes certainly can. But not for the better! I know a number of women, some under 40, who have endured painful foot surgery due, in part, to years of wearing poorly fitting shoes. However, when these same women find a pair of shoes that fit them perfectly and make them feel elegant and comfortable, well then that really can feel life changing!

Q. What are the elements that make a high heel comfortable?

A. Some women can wear heels with little discomfort; others struggle with anything over a few CM. I can happily wear a 10cm heel all day so long as the shoe is wide enough at the front. If you aren’t used to wearing high heels but want to wear them then my advice is to avoid stiletto (skinny) heels and opt for a wider block heel, giving a wider base to support your body weight. Be sure to find a pair of shoes that are the correct width.

Be sure to find a pair of shoes that are the correct width - Katie Owen Click To Tweet

The wider the shoe the bigger the surface area to support the ball of your foot and the more space you have to spread your feet. Cramped toes = pain! A high heeled shoe which has a strap or other type of fastening over the bridge of the foot will help keep the foot back, and help prevent your toes from constantly trying to grip the shoe to keep it on.

Q. What’s your favourite place you’ve travelled with work?

A. The furthest I have travelled for my shoe business is Spain. That said, I love going there and seeing the shoes being made. I also love wine and tapas! In one of my previous jobs I got to live in New York for a while. That was a lot of fun!

Q. How did you become a shoe designer?

A. Quite by accident. I have wide feet and was moaning to a shoe designer friend that I could never find stylish shoes in a wider fit. She suggested I design some of my own and put me in touch with a shoe factory. Things just went from there. I had to educate myself on all aspects of shoe making and design so, as well as visiting a number of shoe factories and learning from the shoe makers themselves, I also enrolled on a shoe design course at London College of Fashion. I can’t really profess to be a shoe designer; I simply make classic shoes for women who want them to be stylish but need them made in a wider fit.

 

Make sure you check out more of Katie’s elegant designs over at Sargasso & Grey. Even if you don’t have wide feet yourself, your wide-footed friends and relations will thank you for a recommendation.

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7 LAST MINUTE VALENTINE’S E-VOUCHERS

Would you rather receive a card picked up in a supermarket, or a lovely pair of shoes for Valentine’s day? I’m guessing that as you’re reading a shoe blog, you’d prefer the latter.

Shoes as Valentines

Do you trust the love of your life to pick out a pair of shoes you love, and which fit you perfectly? Neither do I!

I don’t want anyone to end up with carnations from the garage, or a disappointing pair of shoes. So here are my last-minute shoe e-voucher options. Buy them for your loved one, or drop hints to them so they can fund your shoe habit.

These are all instant e-vouchers, so you don’t have to wait for the postie. Just email them straight to your partner’s inbox, or print them out.

Zalando

This German website has a massive selection of lovely shoes. From brands that you’ll recognise, to smaller made in Spain labels. They offer free delivery and returns to the UK. I’ve ordered several pairs in the past and been impressed with the service.

Evans

Although not top of the range, Evans offers a good selection of affordable footwear. They have wide E fit and extra wide EEE styles as well as standard D fit options.

Debenhams

With a reasonable selection of shoe styles from work to occasion wear, most ladies could find something they like in the Debenhams footwear department. If not, they can always spend their voucher on the great make-up selection.

Ecco

Did you know that Ecco sell comfortable high heels? With cushioning in the right places, soft leather and supportive heels, these could be the answer to your shoe prayers. Ecco also make flat boots, work styles and casual options, as well as being famous for golf footwear.

Karen Millen

A brand famous for its dressy styling, Karen Millen also sells elegant workwear and sleek casual options. The shoe range is concise, like a capsule wardrobe for a sophisticated woman. The quality of manufacture and materials are good, so this voucher will suit those who like a little luxury.

Topshop

If you want trendy shoes inspired by the catwalk, opt for an e-voucher from this High Street stalwart. Topshop are never shy of colour or edgy shapes. Shop here and stand out from the crowd of people wearing generic footwear styles.

House of Fraser

This department store has a great selection of unusual shoes for occasions. That’s on top of plenty of work and casual options. If you haven’t checked out their shoe selection recently, it’s definitely worth a look.

Don’t forget to share this post with your lover (hint hint!) and your friends via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, so everyone gets warm fuzzy feelings on Valentine’s day.

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VALENTINE SHOE TREAT

Are you (im)patiently waiting for Valentine’s Day? Perhaps you’re hoping that your Valentine’s gift will be shoe-shaped.

Pamper yourself

Don’t wait around for someone to shower you with flowers, cards, chocolates (and if you’re lucky, shoes). Treat yourself to something life-changing.

Help I’ve got too many shoes!

Do you have a wardrobe full of shoes you can’t wear? When you book a Shoe Wardrobe Analysis session, I will personally come to your home to help you sort through your footwear.

You’ll try on your shoes and we’ll discuss whether they fit, are comfortable and if they reflect your lifestyle and personality. Don’t worry, this doesn’t take long, because I can spot why a shoe is uncomfortable in an instant.

We’ll then make three piles:

  1. Keep
  2. Sell
  3. Give Away

I’ll look at your clothing, and provide you with a shopping list of missing footwear styles you need.

I can even take away the shoes you don’t want, sell them, and split the profits with you. This saves you time, and means you don’t need to worry about queuing at the post office.

 

The perfect shoes

If you’d like my help to fill your shoe gaps, you’ll love my One-to-One VIP Shoe Shopping experience.

We go shopping for footwear which looks great on you, fits perfectly, is comfortable, works for numerous occasions, and makes you smile.

Painful footwear can ruin your mood, and your day. After you go shopping with me, you’ll never have to hobble to an important meeting again.

It’s important that you look and feel good. High quality footwear doesn’t have to cost a fortune, so I’ll help you understand what to look for. As a result, your shoes will look so good, people will think your clothes are top quality too, even if they’re not.

You’re under no obligation to make a purchase, and I never work on commission for brands or stores. You’ll simply be guided towards the shoes of your dreams.

You can transform your shoe wardrobe with my help.

Because I love to have you reading the blog, I have a Valentine’s shoe treat for you. Get a massive 30% off the regular price of either (or both) of these services:

Simply enter the code “valentine17” when you purchase either of these transformative experiences, and your discount will automatically be taken off the price.*

 

*This discount is available until midnight on February 14th 2017.

 

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MEET THE DESIGNER – YULL

I love meeting people who care about shoes as much as I do.

In my new blog series Meet the Designer, I reveal the fascinating discoveries I’ve made by interviewing my favourite shoe designers. You can read all about what drives and inspires them here.

I first wrote about fabulous British brand Yull’s colourful brogues in 2015, and after meeting the designer Sarah at a trade show, I couldn’t resist sharing her AW16 collection with you.

Meet Sarah Watkinson-Yull

Q. What has been the most successful pair of shoes you’ve designed?

A. Hmmmm, that is a hard one. Our longest standing shoes are the Chelsea Boots which we sell all year round! However our most popular shoe so far has been the Harrogate shoe which is launching for retail at the end of February. The wholesale orders for this one shoe were phenomenal!

Q. Can shoes change your life?

A. Absolutely! I am a firm believer in this. All of our of shoe boxes read ‘Cinderella is proof that a pair of shoes can change your life’ The right pair of shoes can give you confidence to achieve your dreams I believe.

Cinderella is proof that a pair of shoes can change your life - Sarah Watkinson-Yull Click To Tweet

Q. What are the elements that make a high heel comfortable?

A. The pitch is the most important thing. Most people think that it is about height however a higher heel can be a lot easier to walk in and more comfortable than a kitten heel depending on the pitch. The distribution of weight in a shoe as well which is why stilettos are not as comfortable as a block heel. The lining and fabric used on the shoe also matter. We try where possible to put extra padding in our shoes.

Q. What inspires you?

A. All of our shoes are named after and inspired by a place or event in the UK. For example in the new collection we have the new additions Margate, Tenby inspired by the beautiful coastal towns.

Q. What’s your favourite place you’ve travelled with work?

A. Recently with work I’ve been to Hong Kong and Paris. Both amazing cities but very different, too hard to pick a favourite I’m afraid!

Q. How did you become a shoe designer?

A. I’m not really sure to be honest! I sort of fell into it. I think it found me!

 

You can look at/drool over/purchase Sarah Watkinson-Yull’s unique and wonderful designs over at yull.co.uk

Don’t forget to drop shoe-shaped hints to whoever’s trying to woo you this Valentines day!

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SHOE TREATS

  • This season Vogue has given us permission to colour clash (link in blog). Neon embroidery contrasts against sweet pink patent. I love the easy 55mm heel.
  • Rise above others wearing their classic summer colours (blah), in these stark black and white calf leather beauties. The 1970s platform vibe is here to stay.
  • These pointed flats in soft lavender-coloured kid suede give comfort with an edge of cool. The neon red embroidered butterfly is a Sophia Webster signature.
  • These bow sandals are anything but twee, with their tan and neon colouration. They even come in a mini me version for your daughter/niece/granddaughter.
  • Mid height Mary Janes don't have to scream "librarian". These glamorous silver leather shoes have been embellished with a delicious crystal covered bow and heel.
  • Stash these away for the warmer months, or do the socks and sandals thing. Blue sandals make all but the palest bare feet look tanned.

 

Have you got the winter blues? Cheer yourself up with Sophia Webster’s new collection in delightfully unexpected colour and material combinations.

Need more inspiration to try the colour clashing trend? Vogue recently published a feature showing us how to wear 5 unlikely colour combinations.

Click through the slide show to find buy now, wear now styles and a couple to save for Spring.

Can’t afford them yet? Start saving now, or even better, drop some Valentine’s Day hints.

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THE FURRY ALTERNATIVE

Are you embracing these winter months by wearing warm clothes you love? Hygge has seeped into our language courtesy of the Danes. It’s a word that sums up wonderfully the enjoyment of getting cosy.

You’re on the school run in your trendy bobble hat, commuting in your snuggly winter coat, or wrapping your favourite scarf around and around your neck to keep out the chill on a weekend walk.

What about your feet?

If like me your house is old and draughty, you probably wear slippers. How does the transition to outdoor shoes feel for you? Cold leather boots which have spent all night in an unheated hallway, are perhaps the opposite of hygge.

When casual is the order of the day, and the weather is crisp and cold, sheepskin boots are your best friends.

There’s an exciting new sheepskin brand called Ozalia Australia whose products have just become available in the UK. Why exciting? Well….

They’re affordable

Have you been put off buying sheepskin boots because they’re soooo expensive? Ozalia Australia boots cost at least a third less than the leading competitor (even less when there’s a sale on).

They’re ridiculously cosy

You’d think that being affordable, the savings you make would have to come from somewhere. Well as a shoe expert, I can say the reduction in cost certainly hasn’t come from the quality of materials, or manufacture. The twin-faced premium Merino sheepskin is thick and dense, with no blemishes on the suede side (these sheep must take care of their skin).

The binding, stitching, and trimming are all impeccably neat. You can tell these boots were made by craftspeople who care about the quality of the boots they make.

Ozalia Australia boots even come with a Warmest Boot Guarantee. If they’re not the warmest boots you’ve ever worn, you can return them unworn and get your money back.

I found these boots to be very warm and comfortable. They’re like duvets for your feet, so you can get that snug indoor Hygge feeling whilst you’re outside.

They’re water and stain resistant

I poured some water on the toe of one of my boots, and the water rolled off. I don’t dare test the stain resistance with ketchup or red wine (anyway, who wants to waste wine?).

You can get free delivery and returns

This really takes the risk out of trying this new brand. What’s not to like?

They look great

I love how they complement my grey leggings in this shot.

Also, I don’t think these boots will get sloppy or make me drag my feet, because they have built-in support around the heels.

The fancy packaging

Ozalia Australia haven’t scrimped on the details either. Each pair comes in a shiny black box, with a large black velvet bag for storing them in.

There’s even a swish black envelope which contains a social media flashcard with #OZALIABOOTS and #INSTALOVE on each side. If you post a photo of yourself in your boots with the flashcard, you’ll be entered into a competition to win another pair. Woo hoo!

An extra discount

I’ve managed to get you my lovely readers an exclusive 15% discount. Just enter “shoeconsultant15” in the discount box at the check out when you buy your boots from the Ozalia Australia website.

Now go on and get cosy. My boots and I are off on another smug (not a typo), warm adventure.

 

 

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ARCH FRIENDS NOT ARCH ENEMIES

Do you wish you could find more supportive high heels?

When I’m not writing or taking women shoe shopping, I help designers to make comfortable, beautiful high heels. I often encourage them to include arch support in their designs. This helps to reduce pressure on the balls of the wearer’s feet.

Finding high heeled footwear with built in arch support is extremely difficult, but luckily there is a solution.

I heard about Instant Arches® a while ago, but only recently had a chance to try them out. They were created by Dr. Rosenberg, who is a podiatrist in the USA. The idea is that they provide support, without affecting the fit or look of your lovely high heels when they’re on your feet.

They’re made from a firm foam (try saying that when you’ve had a drink), and have a self-adhesive backing.

Instant Arches® are easy to insert. I’ve made this quick video so you can see how to do it.

 

I found my high heels much more comfortable and supportive with the Instant Arches® , and would certainly recommend giving them a go if you feel you need a little more support.

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HOW TO COVER SCUFFS ON YOUR SHOES

As I’m a footwear obsessive you might imagine that I have so many pairs of shoes, I don’t wear any of them long enough for them to need a polish. In actual fact, like most people, I wear some pairs more frequently than others. All of my shoes need a little TLC from time to time.

My parents instilled a fortnightly shoe polishing ritual into myself and my three siblings when we were growing up. As much as this felt like a chore, I quite liked the smell of the polish, and gained satisfaction from achieving a good shine. As I grew older, the cool kids at school had scuffed shoes, whereas the geeks like me had shiny shoes.

Whilst working in shoe shops, my performance would be judged on how many pairs I sold (naturally), and how many shoe care items I could persuade customers to purchase. I even got a higher commission rate on shoe trees and polishes. The Holy Grail for the staff was to sell a shoe care kit which came in a fancy wooden box. That meant a nice extra chunk of money in our pay packets. I still have some polishes and brushes from those days that I bought with my staff discount.

When I was at university studying footwear design, I experimented with different coloured polishes on an assortment of leathers, further adding to my collection.

This is how it looks today:

My shoe care collection has almost outgrown its cardboard shoe box. Perhaps it’s time for me to look for something fancy and wooden.

I’m not an expert in the fine art of shoe shining and patina work like this guy, but I have learnt enough on my shoe journey to impart some useful knowledge. So begins my shoe care series.

Scuff cover

People often ask me what they can do to repair scuffed shoes. Another common question is how to fix marks caused by salt used on pavements in winter time. The great news is that these shoes are not beyond repair.

Footwear can take some time to wear in and form to your feet, so it’s always worth trying to repair your favourite shoes. You’ll save money, and get to hold on to that much-loved pair.

A favourite pair of leather trainers had gone from pristine, to relaxed and artfully shabby, and were now just looking tired. I discovered a product which claimed to be able to spruce up the uppers, bringing them back to their gleaming white selves. It was even going to cover the dark crease marks and hide the scuffs. With rain coming down outside, I had time to give it a go.

Famaco Dye Cream comes in cute 15ml pots, which you would expect to find posh face cream in. The consistency is something between a shoe cream and a paint. I decided to apply the product with kitchen roll, as I do with all shoe creams and waxes. You could also use a lint-free cloth or a brush.

How to apply it

Step 1. 

Remove the laces, put them in a delicates bag, and on a cool machine wash (or buy new ones).

Step 2. 

Wipe the shoes with diluted washing up liquid to remove grease and general dirt. Let them dry completely.

 

Step 3. (optional)

If you want to keep the soles completely free of the Dye Cream, I would recommend applying masking tape around the soles where they meet the uppers.

Step 4.

Apply one coat of the Famaco Dye Cream quite liberally, working it into the creases and scuffs. Wipe off any excess to create a smooth finish and avoid lumps.

If your shoes or boots have a tongue, it might be easier to apply the product to this section separately, and leave it to dry before coating the rest of the upper. This would help to avoid getting the Dye Cream on the linings.

Step 5. 

Leave to dry for an hour or more

First coat

Step 6.

If you’re happy with the finish, then stop there. Otherwise, apply a further one or two coats, allowing time to dry in between.

Second coat

Second coat

Third coat

Third coat

After three coats, the trainers were now back to their bright white selves, so once they had dried, I put the washed laces back in, and off I went.

I still have a little of the dye left, that I can use if I scuff them again.

Footwear treated with Famaco Dye Cream can remain slightly tacky in texture, similar to the feel of patent leather.

 

Next time, I’ll show you how to completely recolour a pair of shoes.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS

May your shoes be comfy and bright, and may all your Christmases be white!

I’m taking a short break from the blog, to relax over the festive period.

I hope Father Christmas brings you comfortable, beautiful shoes.

See you soon!

Susannah x

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