My closet was a graveyard for ill-fitting shoes.
I’ve always been hard to fit. My feet were always long and skinny — shoes needed to be at least a size 10 and as narrow as you can make them. Then I broke my foot in 2010. Even though the break healed well, my right foot no longer tolerated the weight distribution from a good pair of pumps. That eliminated nearly all of my heels from the rotation. Never mind that I still keep a few (like those Italian boots with the 4″ heel) that I hope will magically fit again someday. (Narrator: They will not.)
But then I noticed something weird: even my flat shoes weren’t fitting right anymore. Shoes that I used to be able to wear all day at a conference became shoes that pinched my feet for anything longer than a walk to the mailbox. When I was pregnant a dozen years ago, my feet seemed to grow half a size or more, so I was solidly 10.5-11. (Want an adventure? Try finding 10.5N shoes.) And recently I tried on a pair of shoes that were actually too narrow. What’s up with that?
Turns out, this is normal. According to the Cleveland Clinic, feet naturally get longer and wider as we age. And as if that wasn’t enough, “The fat pads that cushion the bottom of your feet grow thinner as you grow older. So your feet absorb less shock, which can make them feel sore and painful when you walk around in thin-soled shoes on hard surfaces.” Well, I suppose that explains it.
My favorite brands
I have a few go-to brands for comfortable shoes. Not surprisingly, all are European. I find that European brands are cut a little narrower overall (somewhere between a U.S. narrow and medium), and are designed for walking comfort.
Ecco is, of course, a classic. Last week I scored a pair of Bluma slip-ons at a discount store for — brace yourself — $0.01.
Arcopedico makes granny-looking flats that are so comfortable that I don’t really care about their looks. The Alice loafer would probably appeal to the broadest age range. But it’s the L15D (now only available in odd textures) that supported me through 17 miles of walking during one day in Barcelona. And did I mention that they’re machine washable? Completely brilliant.
But for work, the best-looking professional shoes come from AGL. Now, as much as I love them, I can’t justify spending $298 on a pair of flats. Fortunately, there’s a vibrant market for AGL shoes on eBay. I picked up two display pairs with minor scuffs that couldn’t be sold as “new” for about $50 each. That’s an excellent price for Italian leather flats.
This coincides with my clothing purge and my efforts to build a sustainable wardrobe thanks to reuse and thrift shopping. With a little bit of effort, I should be able to put together an environmentally sustainable wardrobe that will be comfortable enough to sightsee on business trips in Europe.
I have wide feet so learning my feet might get WIDER is discouraging. I already hate shoe shopping. Thank goodness for Zappos. I can try the shoes on at home and then send them (all) back if they aren’t comfortable. Life is too short for sore feet!