Shoe Buying Guide

High-quality footwear is worth the investment. A well-made, well-fitting pair of shoes can keep you in comfort and style for many years. Here’s what to look for.

Fine Natural Materials

Choose shoes made of high-quality natural materials such as leather and suede. Leather allows your feet to breathe, which lessens the chance of blistering and minimizes odor.

Avoid synthetic materials, which trap heat and moisture
Natural materials are best not only for the uppers of your shoes, but for the linings and insoles. The lining in high-quality shoes is made of genuine calfskin or leather.
Look for shoes made of full-grain leather
Avoid shoes made from corrected grain or “polished” leather, scarred animal hides that have been sanded down to hide imperfections and then coated with a shiny chemical surface. Corrected grain leather has an unnatural plastic-like finish that ages poorly, flaking over time.
Choose shoes with real leather soles
Quality leather soles are more durable than plastic, vinyl, or other types of synthetic material soles. They are also easy to resole, which will extend the life of the shoe even longer.
Be aware of differences in materials
Leather with an oiled, natural finish is durable, while patent leather is easier to maintain. Suede requires more care as it stains easily, but protectant sprays can help.

Quality Construction

Shoes that are solidly constructed will stand up over time, maintain their shape, and give your feet the support they need.

Put the sole to the test
Cheap shoes have thin soles. Look for soles that are at least a quarter of an inch thick and made out of leather, rather than rubber. Quality soles should be stitched to the bottom of shoes, rather than glued. Also inspect the sole for flexibility. It should be stiff through the arch, while bending at the front of the shoe.
Examine the heel
Some high-quality shoes also have a layer of rubber or nylon on the back of the heel. The heels on women’s dress shoes are typically made of plastic and covered with leather. Check to make sure the heel is sturdy and securely attached.
Don’t overlook the inside
High-quality shoes are fully lined with leather. Make sure the lining completely covers the sides of the shoe, as well as the bottom. Also test the ball of the insole for cushioning. It should give a little when you press it with your finger.
It’s all in the details
Inspecting the finishing touches on a pair of shoes can tell you a lot about the quality of the construction. Make sure buckles and other decorative touches are well-made and securely fixed to the shoe. Stitching should be neat, smooth, and reinforced.

Proper Fit

Wearing shoes that fit properly makes all the difference when it comes to foot comfort and health. Don’t rely on shoe size, as they vary widely between brands and styles.

Measure your feet regularly, as the size of your feet changes as you get older
Also be sure to measure both feet, as right and left foot sizes are often slightly different. If this is the case for you, fit your larger foot.
Try on shoes later in the day
Feet swell over the course of the day, so make sure shoes fit when your feet are at their largest. Be sure to stand and walk around in the shoes. Make sure your your heels don’t slip as you walk.
Shoes should feel comfortable from the start
Don’t buy shoes that pinch any part of the foot or feel too tight, expecting to break them in. Make sure to try on shoes with socks of the same thickness you plan on wearing with them.
Focus on the toe box
Make sure the shoe is wide enough through the ball of your foot, and that your toes don’t feel cramped. Press on the top of the toe box and make sure you have a thumb’s width of room between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
Invest in a pair of custom hand-made shoes
If you want to really reward yourself, we suggest you get a pair of custom made shoes that are made to your exact feet shape and size dimensions. For more information, please visit—a highly talented shoe master who can build what you need.