Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Men's Guide To Buying Shoes

Buying men's shoes is like buying a car. You should have a good idea of what you want when you walk into the store (or onto the lot), and you need to walk away with something you'll be comfortable wearing (and being seen in) for at least a few years.

So while it may not be your idea of weekend fun, you should at least know a little something about how to shop for shoes.

general shoe shopping tips

  • For the best fit and selection, go to specialty sneaker and dress shoe stores.
  • For the best deals, visit department stores, wholesalers and outlet malls. Don't shy away from buying shoes or sneakers on clearance, either. The only thing these shoes are usually guilty of is being a season or two "out of style." Trust me, when you get out on the street, nobody can honestly tell the difference between a 2003 Kenneth Cole Oxford and a 2005 Kenneth Cole Oxford, so long as they're clean and worn with the right pants.
  • If you are going to buy shoes online, a good trick is to try on the same pair in a store to ensure a comfortable fit, and then go online for the best deal. But if you have previous experience with a particular brand, then there's no need to worry about purchasing shoes online without trying them on first. In any case, most online retailers offer full refunds.
  • Visit shoe stores on Sunday mornings, or late on weeknights. Chances are you will be the only customer in the store, and the salesperson will be able to give you his full attention. The result? Knowledgeable, one-on-one service.
  • Check out whether there are any good cobblers in your area. Sure, they're not going to churn out a Nike Zoom LeBron II, but they can produce business and dress shoes that are perfectly sized, and designed to match your feet and style.


There's no such thing as "breaking in a shoe" -- that goes for all types, from sneakers to boots. It's therefore a good idea to measure your foot each time you buy a pair of shoes or sneakers. Different brands have different sizes; just because you're a 12 when it comes to your sneakers, you're not necessarily a 12 in your loafers.

Furthermore, your feet tend to slightly swell up over the course of the day, due to the hours of walking and standing that they endure. As a result, you should try on shoes at the end of the day in order to ensure that they will be comfortable throughout.

The socks you wear when trying on a pair of shoes should be the type you would regularly wear with them. This is particularly true when trying on athletic sneakers.

Get a salesperson's advice, but don't let them talk you into buying uncomfortable shoes
Don't depend on your wife, girlfriend or buddy to measure your feet correctly -- get help from a salesperson. And, although it sounds basic, be sure to stand up when the salesperson measures your feet. This will ensure that your feet are at their longest, and that you get the most accurate measurement.

Don't just try on one shoe. Put both on your feet and walk around the store -- individual feet tend to be different sizes. Remember the car analogy: Nobody ever gets in the driver's seat, adjusts the mirrors and says, "I'll take it!". They go for a test-drive.

Shoe Width
Everyone knows a 10 is bigger than a 9. But how many guys know that 2E is wider than D? Here's a quick guide to the sometimes confusing terminology used to denote shoe width.

6E: Extra, Extra-Wide
4E: Extra-Wide
2E : Wide
D: Standard Width
B: Narrow
2A: Extra-Narrow

Heels & Toes

A key factor in getting the right shoe size is making sure your heels and toes fit snugly, without causing discomfort.

To know if your shoes are fitting correctly around your heel, use your index finger to fit behind the shoe's heel and your heel. It should slide between them with relatively little force. If your finger cannot fit, the shoes are too tight. If your finger has too much room, the shoes are too large
At the other end, your toes should be able to wiggle comfortably. You should be able to fit the width of your thumb in between the tips of your toes and the end of the shoe. Your mother probably used this "rule of thumb" test on you when you were a kid. And guess what? It still works.

Arch Support

The curve of your foot's arch is hereditary, but you can do a few things to make it a non-issue.

As I already mentioned, know that your feet are not always identical in size. Buy with your bigger foot in mind, and buy an insole to even out the two if the discrepancy is noticeable.

If you have high arches (and therefore, inflexible feet), seek out well-cushioned, flexible shoes and a shoe with a curved instep.

People with no arch (a condition known as flat-footedness) may notice that their feet lean inward. This condition requires a shoe with a straight instep to keep it stable during walking or running.

People with regular foot arches are best off with a slightly curved instep. This will provide an optimum mix of stability and flexibility.

And when all else fails, head out to the local drugstore. There's an enormous range of inexpensive arch braces and orthotic supports out there that can be used to prevent discomfort.

The lowdown on socks...

information on socks

What are shoes without socks (at least in the fall and winter)? More importantly, what are feet without socks? Foot and shoe moisture tend to attract fungi, viruses and other bacteria. Clean socks are necessary not only for your own health, but also for your shoes' well-being.

Types of Socks

Socks fall into three main categories (not to mention the area between the wall and the dryer): Dress, casual and athletic.

Dress socks are usually made from silk, cashmere or fine variants of cotton and wool.

Casual socks come in cotton and wool, and are available in a wide variety of colors, patterns and thicknesses.

Athletic socks are usually cotton and available in gray or white. This type differs most obviously from casual socks by virtue of their size. Athletic socks tend to come up to the mid-calf and higher, or simply right above the heel (ankle-length), making them invisible when wearing sneakers.

Your sock size should be 1 to 1.5 sizes bigger than your shoe size. In other words, a size 12 shoe means a 13.5 size sock. Some brands divide sock size by small, medium and large.

To know your size, refer to these numbers (in inches):
Small: 5-9
Medium: 9-12
Large: 13-15

Matching Socks to Shoes

When wearing dress shoes or casual leather shoes, always match your socks to your pants.

You can wear athletic socks and casual socks with sneakers. But unless you're on a basketball court, don't wear sneakers and shorts with anything other than ankle-length casual socks.

Finally, when all else fails, remember this rule: The more formal the occasion, the darker the sock.
make sure your shoes fit 

Dealing with stores and salespeople is never fun. Moreover, remembering the fashion rules for socks and pants can be downright taxing. But ultimately, buying shoes is all about finding the best fit. So long as you leave the shoe store with a comfortable pair of shoes on your feet, you'll be walking tall for months to come.

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