Posts Categorized: shoes

Reader Request: How to Shop for Boots

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Reader Krysta e-mailed me this question:

I would love to hear some input on the process of finding a good pair of boots! Growing up, boots were always worn with a specific functional purpose in mind, either for dirty messy work or getting in/out of the ski lodge while on vacation. In the past couple of years, as I’ve grown into putting effort into my style, I’ve also started looking for a nice pair of boots. However, everywhere I turn, it feels like I can’t find anything that hits the perfect trifecta of fitting my style, fitting my pinched-penny budget, and fitting me. Looking online at sites like 6pm gets me closer, but I have no idea how to even guess if the boot will fit in the height and calf (valid concerns when you fall well outside the norm in leg-length!). I’d love to be able to pull out a pair of trusty boots as the weather turns cold and wet, but I just can’t seem to make the jump!

I sent Krysta links to my numerous posts about selecting and buying boots, but also realized it might be valuable to compile that information here. Especially since many styles of boots are on MAJOR sale right now (in the northern hemi anyway) and it’s a great time to nab a bargain. For specifics of boot shopping, buying, and wearing, scroll to the end for a list of related posts. But for an overview of boot shopping and selection, read on!

Pre-shopping quiz

Before you head out to ANY stores, sit down and have a think. There are hundreds upon hundreds of boot styles out there, and if you dive in without a plan, you will become overwhelmed and cranky and possibly buy a pair that you’ll regret. So, pour yourself a cuppa and take this pre-boot-shopping quiz:

What are my measurements?
Grab a tape measure and get cozy with your calves. How long are they from arch to mid-knee? How big around are they at their widest point? And although this doesn’t fall under “measurement,” consider where you’d like your boots to hit. For tall boots, an inch or so below the kneecap is ideal. Mid-calf and ankle styles have far more leeway.

Which neutral will I wear most?
Very few women would describe fire engine red or emerald green boots as their ideal. Neutral shades are the most versatile, which makes them your best bet for wise investment. So ask yourself which neutral will get the most wear. For most women, it’s black. But cognac brown goes with EVERYTHING and generally looks more expensive. Also gray is fabulously flexible, and is becoming easier to find in all styles of boot.

Is a heel practical?
If you are on your feet all day then super-tall heels are right out, but can you deal with 1″ or 2″? Are you better off with a flat/riding boot style? Or will these be boots that never walk more than five blocks at a time? Be honest about heel height. Boots with a heel that hurts will not get worn.

Are my feet fussy?
High or fallen arches? Bunions or corns? Need loads of support or flexible soles? Read customer reviews online, check construction, ask questions, do everything you can to make sure that your potential new boots will caress and love your fussy feet. (Check Barking Dog Shoes’ boot recommendations for some ideas.)

Do I have fitting concerns?
If you have wide or narrow calves, small or large feet, or any other traits that make boots tough to fit, you may prefer to shop in person. But if not, I highly recommend going online. I’d try scouring Zappos, Nordstrom, and 6pm for starters to get as much info as you can about brands that will fit your needs. Try Barefoot Tess for larger sizes and DUO for wide and narrow calves. (More resources below.)

What’s my budget?
Multi-purpose boots can be bought cheap, but real leather and quality construction will last longer and be kinder to your feet. Still, never, ever spend more than you can truly afford.

The next and final question on the quiz deserves a little more focus, so let’s tease it out a bit.

What’s my preferred style?

There are hundreds of boot styles available, and with the world of Internet commerce at our fingertips it’s easier than ever to find your dream pair. Do you want riding boots? Heeled tall boots? Short moto boots? Mid-calf slouchy boots?

In my opinion the five most versatile styles of boot are as follows:

  1. Sleek, tall flat boots – riding boots and tall moto boots qualify
  2. Classic tall heeled boots – just below the knee with a 2″ or higher heel
  3. Ankle boots – new to the classics category, but ubiquitous and fun
  4. Tough boots – combat and engineer styles, but also anything with loads of buckles and hardware
  5. Cowgirl boots – even if you aren’t a Western dresser, these can be remarkably useful especially in summer

The first two are the most basic and classic, of course, but if you’re not into tall boots the other three offer great alternatives. Naturally, your perfect boots might not be on this list, but if you’re not sure where to start, these styles have proven themselves over the years as reliably versatile. (Rain/snow boots are essential in many climates, too, but I’m focusing on fashion boots here.)

Once you’ve narrowed down your style choices, start refining by making some decisions about shape. I am most likely to wear classic tall heeled boots and to me, the shape of the boots shown above represent the tall-boot baseline. Those beauties are Frye Marissa Back Zip boots and they’re fantastically spendy, but you can find similarly-shaped boots just about everywhere: Tall shaft, medium heel, solid color including the heel and sole, absolutely no detailing. Even if those boots look far too dull for your taste, it’s often best to begin with a very plain, sleek, pared-down design and THEN start adding embellishments like buckles, slouching, exposed zippers, etc.

So what are your ideal boot’s essential features? A block heel? Below-the-knee shaft height? Full zip? Suede, leather, or vegan? Build your perfect boot in your mind, then see if you can find something similar in the shops or online.

Searching and shopping

You’ve thought, compared, researched, and considered. Now it’s time to shop! If you’re shopping online and can afford to do so, I highly recommend ordering your top three pairs from a free shipping/returns place like Zappos so you can compare them in person, take notes, and send back the duds. If you’re shopping in person, try to visit three or more stores before making a purchase … or have enough budget flexibility to buy more than one pair, compare at home, and make returns. It will likely take some time to find your ideal pair, even if you’ve done your homework. But the payoff will be a pair that lasts for years and suits your style perfectly!

Related posts:

Online boot-buying resources:

  • DUO: Expensive, but beloved for creating hard-to-find narrow and wide calf styles
  • Widewidths: Wide calf options in classic neutrals
  • Zappos and 6pm: These companies have amazing selection and make searching easy. Watch product videos to get a sense of how boots look in action and fit.
  • Nordstrom: Loads of options from budget to designer
  • Barefoot Tess: A great resource for sizes 10 -15

Image courtesy Zappos

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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This Week I Love …

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Clarks.

So here’s the story: I’ve owned Clarks in the past, and knew that the brand reliably designed comfortable, high quality shoes. But I hadn’t owned a pair in a while, so much of my enthusiasm was secondhand: Clients LOVED the brand, readers LOVED the brand, bloggers who talk about fussy feet LOVED the brand. Enough folks loved the brand that I knew it was a good one.

But now that I’ve worked some pairs into my own shoe collection? I’m a little obsessed. Just to get this out there, no one is paying me to write this. There will be affiliate links in here, but I am honestly just so jazzed about this brand and so excited to see them churning out gorgeous, chic, wearable styles each season that I’ve chosen to gush entirely on my own. I am stalking Clarks now the way I stalked Fryes back in the day. I am recommending this brand to my girlfriends and they are quickly becoming as obsessed as I. Let me show you why:

clarks majorca isle

Majorca Isle – $174.17 – $259.95

Rich burgundy color + moto styling = total love. This is a mid-calf boot, so may be a little trickier to style for anyone worried about bisecting and visually widening the calf. But it also comes in black and dark brown, which may be easier to match to tights, leggings, and pants.

clarks decade rana

Decade Rana – $46.99

I absolutely adore my slightly higher Wessex Wyvern pumps, but have been eyeing these Ranas for months. Simple, graceful, and one of the most appealing 2″ heels I’ve seen in ages. And with Clarks design and construction, they’re guaranteed to be wonderful walkers. Also comes in a darker, chocolate brown and basic black. A great option for someone who loves the look of a heel, but needs a sturdy, short one for comfort reasons.

clarks valley lounge

Valley Lounge – $100

I am yet to get on board with this high vamp, slipper-esque flat style, but it is trendy as trendy can be. Proof that the Clarks folks are keeping current and busily churning out well-made, comfortable versions of hot shoe styles. This pair gets high marks for comfort and style, and will be a great option for warmer winter days and wear beautifully through spring and summer.

Indigo by Clarks Heath Harrier

Indigo by Clarks Heath Harrier – $89.90

And speaking of trendy, get a load of these fantastic booties. Same shape and features as more expensive options from highfalutin’ brands, but with all the quality and walkability of Clarks. YES. (The Indigo by Clarks sub-line churns out many of my favorite styles. My own booties shown above are Indigo from the Mission family, similar to these guys.)

clarks mission brynn

Mission Brynn – $167.99

In the market for a clean, classic, versatile cognac leather boot? Here you go. I have tried on this style in the store and it is marvelously comfy. Too wide in the calf for me (I’m a 14-incher), but oh so tempting. Especially at that sale price.

clarks valley moon

Valley Moon - $44.99 – $85

Such a lovely, subtle captoe flat. Trendy enough for a teen, but classic enough for a working woman. If the low-contrast, black-on-black doesn’t work for you (and there’s a patent cap/black suede version, too), you can pick from four other combos including tan/black, pink/bronze, and caramel/gold. This style also comes in C widths!

Speaking of which, I do wish Clarks did a bit more in terms of size diversity. The Clarks site offers narrow, medium, wide, and extra wide options for a few styles, but wide calves aren’t yet in their inventory. Hear that, Clarks? How about it? I know a whole bunch of women who’d love to buy your boots if you made them wide enough in the calf!

Who else out there is a Clarks fan? I know this brand has some heritage in the UK … any of you Brits Clarks lovers? Any of these styles tempting you?

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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Styling Sensitive Feet

By Audi, Already Pretty Contributor

When it comes to shoes, comfort and style seem to exist on inverse sliding scales. I’ve found plenty of comfortable shoes that look perfectly fine, but very few that I love equally for the look as I do for the feel. Because I love shoes but also have very sensitive feet, I put a lot of effort into selecting, styling, and strategizing my footwear.

The Elusive Cute + Comfy

The big wins will obviously be scored when comfort and style are present in equal measure. Here are a few styles I’ve tracked down that I consider to be superior in comfort while also looking great. You won’t see anything red carpet-worthy here, but for most of us they’ll fit the bill for a day at work or running errands. There are a few more suggestions at the bottom of the post.

1303218-p-MULTIVIEWThe Dansko Veda is a clog cleverly disguised as a sneaker. They have all the support of the classic clog but are adjustable across the top of the foot thanks to the laces. They come in several colors (including plaid!), have an insole that’s easy to remove and replace, and they’re even vegan. This is a true all-day-on-your-feet shoe.

2301821-p-MULTIVIEWI sung the praises of the Clarks Valley Lounge in my last post, and I’ll sing them again. Smoking flats are very on-trend, and this style has plenty of cushioning inside to provide support and keep the shoes from slipping and rubbing. When you can’t wear heels, an eye-catching flat is a great alternative.

2352601-p-MULTIVIEWWedge sneakers have been a revelation for me; they have a cool streetwear vibe, offer great support and adjustability, and generally have a moderate heel height. I love these classy beauties by Geox.

2478396-p-MULTIVIEWHow fun are these? I own the Cole Haan Gramercy Oxford in navy, and they always bring the compliments. This rose gold pair is another style that offers that rare pairing of chic and comfortable. They run narrow, but sizing up half a size solves the problem.

2380716-p-MULTIVIEWAdmittedly, the Softspots Marsha style is on the plain side. But they feel fabulous, come in several different colors and in wide widths, and would be great candidates for my next tip…

Try Some DIY

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Boring shoes got you down? Good thing there are approximately 2.5 million ways to embellish them. Pinterest alone has page after page after page filled with ideas and instructions for adding bows, chains, studs, flowers, glitter, jewels, and even leather panels (see above) to that comfy-but-slightly-dull pair. Image courtesy of SwellMayde.

Making Adjustments

For those pairs that have all the style you want but are aren’t quite there comfort-wise, there are plenty of options for making adjustments. Try pulling out the existing insoles and putting in more supportive ones, adding heel liners or ball-of-foot pads, or using shoe stretchers (or having them stretched by a cobbler) to fine tune the fit.

Developing a Shoe Strategy

Even if you’re not dealing with chronic foot pain, it’s often helpful to strategize when it comes to selecting the day’s footwear. Here are some elements to a good shoe strategy:

Consider what the day has in store. The higher the activity level and more challenging the weather, the more you should design your outfit around the shoes.

Avoid wearing the same shoes day after day. Alternating shoes allows you to use different muscles in your feet and calves, and also gives the shoes time to air out. If you wear heels one day, make sure you switch to a flat the next.

Have a backup pair. Heels in particular really shouldn’t be worn all day and all night. After-work drinks or a parent-teacher meeting can keep you in the same pair of shoes for many hours, so for extra-long days bring along a pair of flats to change into. It’s also a great idea to keep an extra pair at work in case of emergencies.

Give them a trial run. I find that the same shoes will feel different from day to day, so I always put on my shoes at least 20 minutes before leaving the house. That way if there’s any discomfort, I find out while there’s still time to change.

Bringing Home the New Babies

Whenever I buy a new pair of shoes I have to resist the urge to wear them immediately, because I’ve learned the hard way that this can lead to a shelf full of pairs that never get worn. Whether you shop online or in a store, make sure you understand the return policy, and then play with your new shoes at home for a few days before you commit. We all know that comfy shoes can often be awkward to style, so try putting together a few outfits and making sure those mary janes can actually be worn with dresses, not just in theory. Shoes that have been worn outside generally aren’t returnable, so make sure you do a lot of walking indoors, especially on hard surfaces, to get a true idea of the comfort.

It’s Not Always About the Shoes

If you deal with foot pain, you’re sometimes going to be stuck with shoes that just don’t have the wow factor you’d like. Having limited options for shoes has inspired me to become a bag gal, because a great way to counteract plain shoes is with a killer bag. An oversized tote, structured satchel, or vibrant clutch can be the star of the show, taking the emphasis off the shoes. Bags offer all the possibilities for personal style that shoes do, without having to meet the exacting comfort demands of feet. If you want to keep the emphasis on the bag, look for eye-catching details such as patterns or colorblocking, shiny hardware or studs, interesting textures such as embossing or calf hair, or contrast topstitching. If lots of details aren’t your thing, look for bags with unique shapes or bright colors.

Over to you: how do you style those less-than-thrilling comfort shoes? Any styles to recommend that are as stylish as they are comfy?

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Shown above, left to right: Wolky Dazzle, Cobb Hill Lola, and Sofft Whitney

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Audi is a biotech professional in San Francisco, California. Her blog, Fashion for Nerds, was born out of the frustration of feeling as if science and fashion were doomed to be forever divided. Through her blog she discovered she wasn’t the only one who believes that style has its place even in a scientific workplace; over the years she has met countless other women who struggle to prevent their love of fashion from hindering their credibility as technical leaders. Now in her mid-forties, Audi particularly enjoys testing the boundaries of “age-appropriate” dressing and thinks most style rules were made to be broken. Another important influence on her style is the problem of chronic foot pain, an issue which is exacerbated by San Francisco’s hilly streets and one that she is resolved not to let defeat her obsession with great looking shoes.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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