Investments in Footwear

Whenever my husband refers to me as “Imelda,” (he who cannot comprehend why anyone would need more than 3-4 pairs of shoes) I remind him that a) I have about 3000 fewer shoes than Mrs. Marcos, and b) it’s not a closet full of shoes, it’s a portfolio!

Seriously, though, a carefully chosen shoe can be a great style investment that when amortized will yield a very low cost-per-wear. Take for example, a pair of Stuart Weitzman ankle boots, quite similar to these that I purchased two years ago. I’ve worn them almost daily during the cooler months for two winters now, heading into a third. They show very little wear with periodic polishing, and still look current and fabulous. They were not inexpensive, yet I feel now that they were a great value, and I’ve never had a moment of buyer’s regret.

While I do feel in general that when it comes to shoes, you get what you pay for more often than not, (or don’t get what you don’t pay for), I have had a few pairs of very inexpensive shoes that served me quite well. Back in my 20’s, there was that pair of leopard print Aerolsoles loafers (barely worn!) that I found at a thrift store and wore almost nonstop for about three years until they finally disintegrated. More recently, a pair of beige Ann Taylor suede loafers, on January sale for around $25 have been my go-to shoes to walking dogs and puttering around the house for a few years now. These days they look like something the cat dragged in, but still are comfortable and structurally sound.

One factor that prevents me from becoming a serious shoe-holic is that I have a very high comfort threshhold. I have a high arch/instep, and thanks to going through a pregnancy at 40, a much wider foot than previously. Plus, arthritis in my hip means that I need to keep the heels low (2″ or under most days). Many gorgeous shoes that I admire from afar I either cannot squeeze my duck feet into, or feel like Hell’s own torment once I stand up and try to walk. I refuse to wear shoes that hurt. Period. There is only so far this femme will go in service of style.

So how do you spot a Blue Chip shoe investment opportunity, and avoid the Junk Bonds? At time it feels more like an art than a science, but what it boils down to is this: hit four out of five and you’re in AAA territory. Three out of five and you’re at least not pouring money down the drain.

  • Comfort – they fit, you can walk in them, you don’t get blisters, they don’t pinch, or rub or cause loss of circulation if you have to stand for more than 15 minutes, soles are flexible. Bonus points if they’re comfortable without hosiery of any kind.
  • Workmanship – high quality materials, even stitching, rubber heel tips, evenly dyed leather or fabric, buckles/hardware/ornamentation are all firmly attached and without glue overflow, an overall appearance that is not shoddy.
  • Trancendance – classic timeless design. This usually means a simple, more unadorned style. You don’t have to ignore the trends altogether, but be careful of “It” shoes. Skip the Tory Burch ballet flats and go for Ferragamo Audrey’s. (If you must bow to trend, get these in Chili Patent…TDF and when those Reva’s are so last year, these will still look cool.)
  • Versatility – Do they dress up or down? Can you wear them with at least five ensembles in your closet? Une femme is a fan of neutrals, but a red, green or a leopard print is also quite adaptable.
  • Love – did these shoes haunt your dreams until you went back to the store and plunked down the plastic? Do you still love them now that they are sitting in your closet waiting for their debut? Do they bring forth your most confident self?

I didn’t mention price. What I may consider a pricey pair of shoes may be “mid-range” for someone else, and visa-versa. I do agree in principle with The Manolo’s assertion that one should save up for a few pairs of Superfantastic shoes, but I know that sometimes you need to leave the house, and don’t yet have enough in the piggy bank for the Zanotti’s or Louboutins.

Brands that I’ve found have a good selection of Investment-worthy Shoes: Stuart Weitzman (also feature lots of styles in Wide widths), Salvatore Ferragamo (though they don’t offer Wide widths on their website, their boutiques carry most of the popular styles in wide; you can call and order), Franco Sarto (more moderately priced but well made, comfortable and I’ve found they wear like iron).

Not every shoe purchase has to be based on Investment. Sometimes that open-toed purple suede number with the bows is just what the doctor ordered. And you may be surprised; a pair of shoes that you LOVE although they don’t seem practical may end up getting more wear than you’d think.

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5 Comments

  1. November 3, 2007 / 6:39 pm

    Ohh! Gorgeous vintage black shoes! Where do you find these images?!

    Having twins at 37 made me even more shoe conscious in the comfort/support category. I gained 80 pounds, topping 200 for the first (and hopefully last) time in my life. I realized pretty quickly I was going to need extra support/orthopedics. I started with simple flat Steve Madden platforms (Darlenne cork; it was summer), which I think are great for comfort and support, then moved on to Danskos. Unstylish, I know, but there are some that are tolerable, and when you put them on, they are so heavenly you won’t care.

    Danskos, Borns, Pearl Izumi runners, and a fabulous new pair of Naot short boots is about where I’m at now. Also: Kork-Ease. An old style that was supposed to be about comfort, they were made famous by Janis Joplin and other 70s rockers. You know them as big chunky platform sandals. I don’t wear the canted kind, just the flat thick ones. Marvelous.

    I’ve been captivated by the looks of some Camper shoes (not the Twins), but have ultimately been unhappy with the comfort level.

    So yes, Pseu, I’m always trying to hit a home run and get all your points in, and sometimes sadly I have to leave out love. But heels are just out in my life now, and I’ve given all my old ones, especially the relics from my dating years, to the babysitters. I now have more room for those lower numbers of quality shoes. I can’t say enough good stuff about those shelves you can buy with those little cubbies in them for different pairs of shoes!

  2. Anonymous
    November 3, 2007 / 6:46 pm

    Looooooooove Stuart Weitzman! Looooooooove Ferragamo! I have a very narrow foot, especially the heel, and, therefore, experience great difficulty in locating lifestyle-accomodating, SuperFantasic shoes. These guys never disappoint. If I can snag them from EBay or an outlet, they may be slightly last season, but ever-better for my wallet. Solid investments.

  3. November 4, 2007 / 6:10 pm

    This is a fantastic post! If only everyone could read it, understand it (and subsequently, stop balking at the price I pay for some of my shoes).

  4. November 6, 2007 / 11:07 pm

    bonnie-ann, I’m assuming those are the ones without the cleats.
    🙂

    It makes sense, though; they’re made for walking. Where do you find them online?

  5. bonnie-ann black
    November 6, 2007 / 10:39 pm

    i’ve always had problems finding comfortable shoes… i once actually walked out of a pair of high heels and left them on the street, rather than have them return to my closet where i might wear them again.

    in my middle years, i have found the perfect shoes for me — golf shoes! now, before you scoff, let me say that you can get marvelous styles of golf shoes, especially if you go for european brands. they are usually all leather, two-tone in many colours (my favorite kind of shoe) and fairly inexpensive if you shop in DSW or online… i now have — for the very first time in my life — *more* than three pairs of shoes. i have 25 pairs of golf shoes (some are backups in case the ones i have in that style wear out) and some are fanciful and one pair, i even painted myself… i am happy to be called “imelda of golf shoes” (but then, i’m single, so i don’t have to pay attention to what anyone else says).

    i always get compliments on them and since i wear slacks almost all the time, they always look appropriate with my attire.

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