Save big on designer styles and find sexy pairs that really fit
s any stylist or shoe lover knows, nothing can transform the clothes you own like a new pair of fabulous shoes. Here’s the ultimate guide to buying them. You’ll find out where to get great deals on designer styles, how to find a pair that really fits, and how to take care of all the sandals, boots, and pumps in your closet so they look great every day you wear them. And on page 35, our survey reveals women’s real shoe-buying habits.
Fall is the perfect time to take stock of your shoes. Here are all the looks you’ll need for the season.
1 PEEP-TOES They’re not just for summer; they’re also a good pump replacement for the fall. Look for shoes with subtle, rounded peep-toes or more dramatic squared-off open toes. Go for leathers in dark brown or suede in olive, mustard yellow, black, and brown. Wear them with shift dresses, skirt suits, full-leg trousers. (Shown: peep-toe Liatris, $89, by Nine West)
2 RUBBER BOOTS A medium-height rubber boot is practical for early spring showers and can be worn with heavy wool socks throughout the winter, too. Look for a pair that has a deep-cut tread made of soft rubber. Wear them with Anything! (Shown: Hunter rain boots, $98.95 at www.zappos.com)
SHOES: DAVID LEWIS TAYLOR; ILLUSTRATIONS BY KIRSTEN ULVE
The 5 styles to buy now
3 STRAPPY SANDALS You’ll get the most mileage out of a classic style like these, but that doesn’t mean you have to play it safe. Strappy styles in bronze, silver, or gold will be fashionable now— and five years from now. Wear them with evening dresses in black or jewel tones, light-colored wool trousers, or dark-wash denim. (Shown: Astrid heel by Jill Stuart, $371, at www.frankeys.com)
4 ANKLE BOOTS They look the same under pants as full-length boots, and this season pants aren’t tucked in, so no one will know the difference. Also, ankle boots are more stylish paired with skirts. Look for details like lace-ups, buckles, or faux-fur trim. Wear them with knee-length or long skirts, slim-cut pants and jeans. (Shown: Biviel ankle boot, $189.95, at Nordstrom)
5 FLATS Try for a less structured look—like a driving moccasin/ballet flat hybrid. Many have nice, feminine touches, too, like ruffles, crystal studs, or metallic finishes. Wear them with casual corduroy pants, jeans, or wide or skinny trousers. (Shown: Kiltie Pleasure flats, $98, at Kenneth Cole)
Note: These shoes were chosen to illustrate styles and may not be available in stores now.
CONSUMER REPORTS SHOPSMART
Shoe-shopping heaven The Web is where you’ll ﬁnd the widest range of styles and sizes. You’ll also ﬁnd lots of bargains. (Don’t miss the sale and clearance shoes!) And some sites’ return policies make it supereasy to shop online. You’ll love features that let you change colors or zoom in on details. Here are seven top shoe sites to check out.
Jildorshoes.com With sizes starting at 4, this site has shoes that will fit just about anyone. It carries name brands and current styles as well as classics. Many are on the pricey side (up to $100), but you can still find plenty of options in the under-$100 range. SHIPPING FEE Standard shipping is $8. RETURN POLICY One year. You must pay out of pocket to ship the shoes back, and you won’t get credit for the original shipping costs.
Rating the sites
FOR BEST -TOHARD IZES S FIND
Ninewest.com You can search by heel size, price, or editorial coverage in various fashion ESTOR magazines. Of course, the site carries only BEST D SITE BASE one brand, so the selection is limited. But since Nine West has so many stores, it’s easy to visit one to determine your size. And sizing is pretty consistent across styles. SHIPPING FEE Standard shipping is $7, which is comparable to fees at other store-based sites like Aldo ($9) and Aerosoles ($6.99). RETURN POLICY 30 days. You can return your purchase at a local store or pay to ship shoes back. Exchanges are free.
Onlineshoes.com You can find shoes for everyone at this Web site. It’s easy to navigate and the search T MOS Y L I categories are helpful. For example, you M FA DLY FRIEN can search by occasion in the kids’ section, which breaks shoes into categories like playground, school, and celebrations. You’ll even find an eco-friendly shoe category with footwear made from renewable resources like hemp. The site guarantees its prices are the lowest, and promises 110 percent of your money back if you find the same shoe for less within 10 days of purchase. SHIPPING FEE None. RETURN POLICY 90 days. You must pay to ship returned shoes back. But if you want to do a simple exchange, you can call customer service and you won’t have to pay any shipping fees.
DECENT = SELECTION VERY GOOD = SELECTION
TONS OF = CHOICES! FREE SHIPPING = FOR PURCHASES AND RETURNS
Whether you need fancy shoes for a wedding—there is even a good selection of FOR BEST SY dyeable shoes—or pumps for your new suit, S E DR S SHOE this is the place to go. There’s a wide range of sizes, from 5 to 12. And if your size isn’t available, you can enter your e-mail address and the site will notify you when it’s in stock. The selection is well edited, so you won’t have to spend a lot of time searching for the good stuff. SHIPPING FEE None. RETURN POLICY One year. Free shipping of returns.
Zappos.com Piperlime.com This site has a good selection of over 100 of the most fashionable shoe brands, including JLo, Hype, Kenneth Cole, BCBG, and Tracy Reese. The price range is very wide, and in a small price comparison we did recently on a few specific shoes, Piperlime came out on top. (See Save! box on next page.) Another bonus: The selection is nicely edited to just the styles most relevant now, such as skimmers, peep-toes, and wedges. Smart search options save you time. For example, you can search by “fantastic finds under $100,” “at the office,” “hot trends,” “designer favorites,” and “what shoe to wear with dresses.” SHIPPING FEE None. RETURN POLICY 60 days. Free shipping of returns.
FOR BEST DY TREN AT S SHOE D GOO S E PRIC
Smartbargains.com Plenty of sites sell “designer” shoes at discount prices, but this one is a standout BEST S because it carries the brands you’d actually N AI BARG want to buy, like Kate Spade and Michael Kors. The stock may not include all of the absolutely latest styles, but unless you’re really into fashion you probably won’t notice because everything looks current. On a recent visit, we found a pair of Kors Michael Kors sandals for $59.99 that our reporter purchased last year at a boutique for about $135! The site didn’t have the same color and sizes were limited, but the 50 percent savings made up for the slim pickings. Just be warned: Shipping isn’t cheap. SHIPPING FEE Standard shipping is $9.95. RETURN POLICY 30 days. And don’t be tricked into thinking that the prepaid return label means returns are free; a discounted shipping rate of $8.95 will be deducted from your credit.
A recent search in size 7 turned up almost 5,000 pairs of shoes at this well-stocked BEST N site. In addition to the hundreds of brands, CTIO SELE like Nine West, that it offers, Zappos has a separate Couture collection with designer labels like Marc by Marc Jacobs and Kate Spade. The free-shipping offer includes overnight delivery of most styles. The site allows you to search by brand, size, style, or sales. There’s also a cool feature that shows the shoe from every angle. The one downside: It can be overwhelming. There’s really no editing done for you, so you can spend a lot of time rummaging through styles and brands you don’t like to find the right shoes. SHIPPING FEE None. RETURN POLICY One year. Free shipping of returns.
SAD SITE Shoemall.com By the name, you’d think that you’d find all the same shoes for the whole family as you would at the local mall. But brand selection was limited and the shoes seemed out of date. When we visited, there were no kids’ shoes, and most of the women’s shoes were casual. Shipping is free for purchases but costs $6.95 for returns.
We shopped for the same style of shoe from SAVE! four brands—BCBG, Bronx, Kenneth Cole, and Steve Madden—at four sites—Onlineshoes, Piperlime, Solestruck, and Zappos—to see which had the lowest prices. In three out of four searches, Piperlime beat out the rest. In the other case, Solestruck came out on top. The lesson: Shop around for the best bargains! No single site always has the best deal.
5 ONLINE BUYING TIPS ■ New to shoe shopping online? Stick with brands you know and love so you can raise your odds of getting a pair that fits. Or shop only at sites with free returns, like Zappos and Piperlime, which send you easy-to-use, prepaid UPS return labels. ■ When you get your shoes in the mail, try them on a carpeted surface so the bottoms won’t get scuffed. Many sites won’t accept returns if the shoes have visible wear, like rough bottoms, creases in the leather, or any dirt. If you don’t have carpet, try walking on an old towel or newspapers. ■ Keep all original packaging, including the little packet of silica gel. That way, if you need to send the shoes back, they’ll look new. ■ If the shoe doesn’t fit, send it back fast. Some sites, like Zappos, will accept returns for up to a year, but most require returns to be made within 30 to 60 days of purchase. ■ To catch the big bargains, you can sign up for e-mail updates on the latest sales at some sites. Or regularly surf sites with huge sale selections like Onlineshoes, Solestruck, and Zappos.
Note: Shoe sites are in alphabetical order.
CONSUMER REPORTS SHOPSMART
9 tips for finding a great fit If you’re shopping at shoe stores, follow these steps so you can treat your feet to a pair that will still feel supercomfortable after a full day of work or play
Shop at the end of the day. Your feet swell as
Wear your most comfortable shoes when shopping. Use this pair for comparison. Of course
It’s easy to keep your shoes looking like new—if you know what to do.
Are you normal when it comes to your shoe-buying habits—or are you out of control? See what women told us in a new poll.
■ Have taps put on new shoes. They’ll slow down wear and tear.
Put shoes to the test. Walking around is just one way to make sure shoes fit. You should also wiggle your toes, stand on tiptoe, and try standing up and sitting back down a few times so you’ll get an idea what the shoes will feel like during a typical day.
■ Spray new shoes, especially suede, which can spot in the rain, with a protector. Use a moisturizing lotion a few times a year, and after cleaning, to keep the leather soft.
new shoes won’t be as cozy as old broken-in ones, but they’ll help remind you to avoid the killers.
imagine what they’ll feel like after a full workday. Just be careful not to scuff up the soles so you won’t have any trouble returning them.
■ Dab a soft, damp cloth on a bar of Ivory soap and use it to rub off grime. Rinse lightly and polish.
along the type of hoisery that you’ll be wearing with the shoes, whether it’s pantyhose, trouser socks, or gym socks.
Experiment with sizes. It’s easier to tell whether something fits if you compare it with the next size up and the next size down.
Take a walk. But don’t just stroll over to the mirror
and back. Really take your time to pad around the store on different surfaces, including uncarpeted areas.
When you find a pair you like, buy another pair in the same color. Yes, we’re advising you
to buy more shoes! Having two or even three pairs of the same shoes you love saves you money in the long run because you can rotate them every day. This gives the shoes a chance to dry between wearings—perspiration breaks down leather and can ruin shoes if you wear them every day—so shoes last a lot longer. Also, you won’t waste money on shoes you’ll never wear. Two-thirds of the women we surveyed recently said that they had at least one pair in their closet that they’ve worn only once.
KILLER SHOES? We’ve all bought them at one time or another and regretted it big time. Here’s how to spot a sexy pair that will feel as good as it looks. ■ AVOID SLIDES. They’re notoriously uncomfortable because they’re not secure. Stick to strappy styles, pumps, and slingbacks instead. If you must wear slides, use special shoe inserts in the toe box. Look for inserts with adhesive strips so they won’t move around and will keep feet from sliding forward.
CONSUMER REPORTS SHOPSMART
P O L A R O I D S : G E T T Y I M AG E S
Shop with the right socks. Don’t forget to bring
■ TAKE A LOOK AT THE HEELS. Anything over 2 inches or so will probably make the balls of your feet hurt. No surprise there! Kitten heels are a great alternative because they’re shorter and have a chic, curvy shape. But if you’re lusting after 3-inchers, keep in mind that the wider the heel, the more comfortable the shoe will be because you’ll have a little more stability. ■ AVOID STIFF MATERIALS. Check out the label on the shoes to make sure they’re made of a material that has some give. Leather, suede, and some fabrics will give you the most comfortable fit.
Always try on both shoes. No two feet are exactly the same size. So just because one shoe feels good, that doesn’t mean the other will.
Take the shoes home and wear them around the house for a half hour. If they start to hurt,
the day goes on, so it’s best to go shoe shopping when they’re at their biggest.
The average number of pairs women have in their closets
■ Store shoes in the box they came in or in a plastic shoe box. It keeps them from getting crushed and misshapen in your closet. Stuff the tissue paper that came with the shoes into the toe bed. Also, take a snapshot of the shoes and tape it to the outside of the box so you’ll know what’s inside without having to open the box.
The number of pairs women wear on a regular basis
The percentage of shoes in women’s closets that have been worn just once
The average number of pairs women buy per year
■ Rotate shoes. Letting shoes rest a day will keep perspiration from ruining them.
■ HAVE A FEEL INSIDE. Make sure there aren’t any rough spots inside the shoe that could rub against your feet. Pay special attention to the backs of buckles that can bulge and hurt your feet. TIP: You can try a little moleskin over the buckle to keep it from irritating your skin.
What if you already own killer shoes?
■ WATCH THE WIDTH. A recent study found that 90 percent of women wear shoes that are too narrow for their feet. Women tend to overlook the width and if the shoe is long enough, they assume it fits. All your toes should be able to spread out, without overlapping.
■ ADD AN INSERT. They can make the shoe cushier. Or ask a shoe-repair shop to slide a thin pad under the insole to make it more comfortable.
If they’re leather, you might be able to stretch them a quarter size or so. In addition to increasing the length, you can also make the shoe box bigger. Straps can be stretched so they don’t pinch. You can even have shoes altered to accommodate bunions. Other ideas:
■ PUT SOME SPRING IN YOUR STEP. Feel like you’re really pounding the pavement? Add a thin rubber sole.
The percentage of women who admit they hide shoe purchases from a significant other
The percentage of women who have trouble finding the room to store all their shoes
The percentage of women who say they’ve been injured by their shoes