The age-old (and modified) adage “Shoes are girl’s best friend” may well be one of the most provocative statements in the fashion and entertainment industries. The shoes that sheathe the front of a woman’s feet is more than a superimposed ornament. It is, as revered artisan Italian shoemaker Sergio Rossi said, “a continuation of the body.”
For many shoemakers, the goal, it seems, is to provide the modern working women with shoes that are sturdy, ornamental, and breathable. In the ranks of shoes that adorn the legs of many women in a professional setting, the heels and flats are common picks.
Speaking to two Singapore-based merchants, Clara Han from Oleah and Joshua Leong from Palola Flats, we unravel the secrets to picking the right pair of heels or flats and shed light on the characteristics to pay heed to.
Wear and Strut
It is common knowledge to always try on a pair that picks your fancy. But what many often miss out on is how your feet feel while strutting on different surfaces. If the store has both hard and soft surfaces for you to strut on, do that. Pay heed to the balance, support and tightness of your heels or flats while walking on these surfaces, be it carpet or hard tiles, in the store. After all, the discomfort you feel while trying often exacerbates over prolong wears.
Keep in mind to always leave some toe space to wriggle about as well. You don’t want to develop arthritis or bunions, right? Shoes with deeper toe box or rounder and wider tips are often good places to begin with.
The Right Fit
As for choosing the right fit, many often make the mistake of wearing a shoe that is a size bigger. “You should look for shoes fit snugly and that do not pinch the toes. There should not be a gap between the heel of the foot and the back of the shoe,” Clara reveals.
For Clara, her expertise in shoe constructs is one of the many reasons that continues to attract customers over. Cushioning within a shoe is key to ensuring comfort while donning on a pair of heels and it definitely helps to distribute the weight even. “All of Oleah’s shoes are fitted with a 6mm-thick memory foam footbed that absorbs shock and minimises impact when you walk,” she reveals.
For Joshua, his years of bespoke shoemaking experience make him a reliable educator in the industry too. “It is important to understand your own feet, and then to understand what to look for based on your feet. A lot of women size themselves wrongly. In fact, both men and women make this mistake,” he tells me.
Last is Best
The shoes you wear also need to withstand the test of time. And I mean it in two ways:
first, they need to be comfortable enough to be worn on a daily basis, especially so if your occupation requires you to move about over frequently;
second, they need to remain a timeless classic, and take the form of an aesthetic that remains chic and sensual forever.
How can you overcome the first obstacle? Shopping at the end of the day. Chances are, your feet are often a little sore after a long day of shopping. Ironically, these swollen feet make good benchmark to assess how your legs would fare after a full day of activity. Give this a try, you’d never know how this could be life-changing.
Of course, if you are heading to get your shoes personalised and made bespoke, it is wise to choose a shoe last — three-dimensional wooden or plastic mould — that caters to the structure of your feet. “A good shoe brand will always have varying lasts on their shoes. They will affect the fit and the shape of the toe,” Joshua adds. “All these are variables that you will not get from brands that do not produce high-quality shoes.”
And moving on to the second? Leather.
Leather has long been a revered material many craftsmen (and craftswomen) use in many products. Sensual, timeless, and classy, high-quality leather is known to become more beautiful overtime. For the uninitiated, full-grain and top-grain leather make the best kind of shoes. Furthermore, they are breathable and will not stink up your feet amid tropical Singapore.
Explaining to me why Oleah uses fine-grade leather, Clara says, “Leather is breathable, absorbs sweat, minimizes odour and moulds to the shape of your feet. This means that your heels get more comfortable over time as you wear them.”
Going Green and Keeping Clean
Sharing the insights on how leather is a sustainable (and enduring) approach, Joshua reveals, “Today, we live in a buy-and-throw-away society. But I think a big trend these days in retail is sustainability. People are talking about upcycling, trying to use your products longer. I’ve always wanted to go into a product that is built to last. [Palola] don’t offer something that can just break down just 50 times.”
That said, keeping them away from the sun and moisture while cleaning them regularly would be wise to do too.
Alternate Your Heels & Flats
Like all physical objects, heels and flats are will undergo some form of wear and tear with time. The best way to avoid those creases is to, ironically, wear them less frequently. Consider investing in a pair of flats and a pair of heels, and alternate wearing them on the different days of the week. Otherwise, you could reserve wearing your heels on formal occasions, such as when you meet your clients, attend meetings, or at networking sessions, and keep you flats for office use.
The modern woman’s inclination to seek out comfort amid hectic times is a reasonable one. For both men and women, paying more for a pair of high-quality shoes is quite a worthy investment. An evergreen style of sorts, heels and flats will always be ideal for women who want to focus on their professional pursuits or leisure escapades.
And it all makes sense, because a good pair of shoes will take you to many places.