9 Tips From a Shoe Expert on Finding Comfortable Shoes

By Nelli Kim

Have you ever wondered what makes a shoe comfortable? Or not, for that matter?  After working in fashion and footwear for over 20 years, I’ve probably evaluated at least 30,000 shoe styles. I've picked up a lot of tips and tricks about what to look for when buying shoes.

When I became the VP of shoes at Bergdorf Goodman, everyone I knew was coming to me for advice on how to find stylish AND comfortable shoes. They were also sharing all of their foot ailments with me. It made me realize how many were suffering in silence for the sake of fashion. Years later after I went through chemotherapy and experienced my own foot sensitivities, my shoe options narrowed and I realized how few stylish shoes incorporated all (or any) of these comfort features. I basically had to create my own shoes to fill the void! I believe knowledge is power, and want to share what I've learned over the years with these 9 tips.

FOOT PAIN IS AN EPIDEMIC!

According to an American Podiatric Medical Association survey:

3 out of 4 people are suffering from foot issues, and

2 out of 3 people wish their shoes were more comfortable!

 

Here's what to look for:

TIP #1: UPPER MATERIAL SELECTION

Is the upper material supple and soft? Will it be malleable as you’re walking? Look for: soft leathers, suede, stretch, knit. Avoid: stiff leathers, patent leather, vinyl, PVC

TIP #2: ADJUSTABILITY

Does the shoe have any adjustability features? Everyone’s foot is a different shape and size with volume in different areas of the foot. Additionally, as your foot moves it needs to have the ability to move freely within the shoe. So features like strategic slits / vents (as in our Purpose Loafer), laces, buckles, elastic and velcro will be your friends.

TIP #3: INTERIOR OF SHOE

Is the interior of the shoe smooth and without prominent seams that will cause blisters? Pro tip: Run your fingers throughout the interior of the shoe and feel for prominent seams or rough areas. If you can feel it on your fingers, your feet will feel it too!

TIP #4: TOE BOX

Is the toe box / shape wide enough to accommodate your toes? A narrow toe box will squeeze your toes and constrict movement. A narrow toe box is also more likely to cause dreaded toe blisters and exacerbate bunions.

TIP #5: INSOLE CUSHION

Does the insole have any cushioning? Use your fingers to press into the insole of the shoe to feel for cushion. Cushioning will help to offset the impact of hard concrete as you walk.

TIP #6: INSOLE SUPPORT

Does the insole have any arch support? A shoe with cushion but no support is like a too-soft mattress. Your foot will sink into the shoe but won’t be supported in the key areas it needs. Support helps to offset foot fatigue.

TIP #7: OUTSOLE SHOCK ABSORPTION

Does the outsole have enough cushion to help your body with shock absorption? Rubber / EVA will have better shock absorption than leather.

TIP #8: HEEL HEIGHT

This probably goes without saying, but higher heel heights will be less comfortable than lower heel heights since your foot and body are not pitched forward at unnatural angles with pressure concentrated to the balls of your foot. Flat - 1" heel heights will be most comfortable.

TIP #9: OUTSOLE WEIGHT

An often overlooked part of the shoe, heavier shoes can cause foot fatigue. Usually most of the weight of a shoe comes from the outsole (ex: wooden clogs, heavy combat boots, wedges). Don’t forget to lift the shoe and “weigh it” with your hand. Lighter weight shoes are just one less thing your body has to carry!

 

Check out my YouTube video below for a more in-depth explanation: 

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