Buy­ing shoes is good for the soul


My view ‘‘Those look fab­u­lous!’’

‘‘Is the heel too high? For a gar­den wed­ding?’’

‘‘Do you think I can wear these all day at a wed­ding in Bali – I’m wor­ried my feet might get too hot.’’

‘‘Walk around the shop for a bit and see how they feel on your foot. I re­ally hope there’s a pair of those left in my size!’’

Want to meet more peo­ple? Spend time at Tay­lors Shoe Fest, the lo­cal shoe re­tailer’s fa­mous an­nual sale. Strolling in early last Satur­day morn­ing, I bonded with three new friends as we shopped for shoes for wed­dings, shoes for ca­sual wear and shoes for a hus­band who re­mained in the car un­til the op­tions were con­sid­ered good enough for an in-per­son tryon.

I en­joy buy­ing shoes. Some­how there’s none of the angst in­volved with shop­ping for frocks (will it make me look frumpy or, worse, like mut­ton dressed as lamb?), pants (will I be able to do the zip up?) or, Lord help me, bathing suits (will I be able to look at my­self in the chang­ing room mir­ror long enough to see if it fits?)

Shop­ping for shoes is nig­gle­free re­tail plea­sure. There’s no awk­ward un­dress­ing in­volved, re­tail as­sis­tants help out in al­most ev­ery shoe shop from the cheap and cheer­ful to the most posh and ex­pen­sive and fit is ob­vi­ous the mo­ment you slide your foot in­side.

I re­mem­ber the first time a new pair of shoes made me feel com­pletely happy. I was eleven years old and my mother bought me a pair of choco­late brown Mary-Jane’s with a low Cuban heel, my first heel ever. A nar­row strap with a gold buckle crossed the in­step and the toe had a pretty pat­tern punched into the leather.

I wore the new shoes out of the shop, my child­ish and scuffed tan lace-ups wrapped in brown pa­per un­der my arm. I felt el­e­gant, fash­ion­able and con­fi­dent. And right there, in the street out­side the shoe shop, was the boy from school I had a huge, heartwrench­ing crush on. My con­fi­dent and fash­ion­able feet walked straight up to him and we had what seemed to me to be a very promis­ing con­ver­sa­tion, of a kind we’d never had be­fore. Then and there, I was hooked on the power of shoes to trans­form me from a shrink­ing vi­o­let into some­one en­tirely the op­po­site.

The next week at school I bowled him out dur­ing a soft­ball game, a de­feat he took quite badly and our bud­ding ro­mance was over. But my love of shoes has never wa­vered.

Tow­er­ing cork plat­form san­dals, per­fect-for-work block heeled, stompy tan cow­boy style boots, bright pink Nike run­ners, red and white striped can­vas es­padrilles from San Se­bas­tian, flat san­dals with fine sil­ver straps from Florence, high heeled red pa­tent pumps, peri­win­kle blue danc­ing shoes and del­i­cately heeled evening san­dals with slim, black suede straps – my per­sonal list of shoe hap­pi­ness is long. Per­haps it’s a sad in­sight into my per­son­al­ity, but I can date an old photo from the shoes I’m wear­ing and re­mem­ber ex­actly how I felt at the time.

How­ever, I am­not a wannabe Imelda Mar­cos – no mat­ter how rich and how var­ied and ad­ven­tur­ous your so­cial life, you only have two feet and there­fore can only do jus­tice to a lim­ited num­ber of pairs. Hav­ing said that, ev­ery woman should own a pair of what one of my dear friends calls ‘‘limo shoes’’ – the kind of shoes you wear to walk from the limou­sine to the bar. So far, short jour­neys of this sort are an as­pi­ra­tion rather than a re­al­ity for me, but nev­er­the­less, the prin­ci­ple holds true.

The search for the per­fect shoe is ex­act­ing. I of­ten come home empty handed. To make the grade, shoes have to be per­fectly com­fort­able the first time you try them on. Don’t lis­ten to a re­tail as­sis­tant who as­sures you ‘‘they’ll stretch.’’ They won’t and your feet will ache af­ter less than ten min­utes wear.

Shoes must be joy­ful as well as com­fort­able. This doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean brightly coloured, although I defy any­one to feel down and dis­mal when wear­ing red shoes. Every­one needs a pair to wear on grey days for a guar­an­teed mood boost.

Great shoes don’t have to be ex­pen­sive. I’m still search­ing for a pair of yel­low flats as good as the pair I bought from Num­ber One Shoes for $15 a few years ago and wore un­til they dis­in­te­grated – which took a sur­pris­ingly long time.

Last Satur­day was a good shoe buy­ing day. I emerged from the sale with three new friends and a pretty pair of high-heeled san­dals just per­fect for a gar­den wed­ding. They ticked all my shoe buy­ing boxes: com­fort­able fit, value for money and po­ten­tial to de­liver joy. I felt very cheer­ful in­deed.

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