I have a confession to make - I am a shoe addict. For those of you with a similar addiction, I want to share my story of beauty, love, and hard choices.
I have a problem, and I know it - I love shoes. There is something magical, exciting, and fascinating about a new pair of perfectly crafted leather shoes. And I am not talking about cheaper ones that arrive in millions from China. No, I am talking about real leather, unique designs, and professionally crafted shoes from Portugal, Spain or Italy.
Expertly designed and crafted with a woman in mind - European brands deliver beautiful heels, flats, and boots. These pairs are designed to be loved and worn with care for years to come. I have a pair of Italian heels that I LOVE even though they are probably eight years old. They still look stunning and feel good on my feet. Yes, I spent about $200 on them, but they worth every penny.
The downside of many European shoe brands is that they are expensive and many brands are unknown to us in the US. The more considerable upside though is that they are quality shoes that are guaranteed to be kind to your feet. Your money will be well spent because these quality shoes will last years and, if expertly selected, will work with almost any outfit you decide to wear.
I buy most of my shoes through Zappos.com. They have a fantastic selection of shoes made in Europe. They ship overnight for free. The returns are easy, and you get your refunds within a few days. This cannot get any easier or better!
How can I tell whether a pair was made in China or Europe? Easy, scroll down to a description section. You will see, most of the time, the notation for Chinese imported shoes says "imported." I find it funny and sad that they use such sneaky tactics instead of just explicitly stating: made in China.
The beautiful amazing shoes that made in Europe state so in their description. My latest acquisition was Amalfi shoes made in Italy. And under the narrative that is precisely what it said: made in Italy. I cannot explain the feeling I had when I put them on - perfection. The shoe has padded soles, arch support, comfortable heel, and impressive design.
Shoes made in China do not come close. Trust me. I owned lots of shoes, throughout my life, and experimented with many brands based on my budget. When I was in college and had no money, I bought shoes at Payless stores and clearance section at Macy's. These are the most uncomfortable cheap shoes you can buy. They bring pain, discomfort, and an immense desire to take them off as soon as one can.
And I know that not everyone has a large budget for shoes or can shop online. I get it; I've been there.
I grew up in Russia during my school years. We were not rich. My mom would get me a pair of shoes for a season, and that was it. I had to be very careful with my selection because that was my only chance to get shoes that season. I had to be smart about my choice.
I remember one painful experience. It was fall, and I needed a new pair of winter boots (as I outgrew last season's ones). I found one pair that I liked and wanted badly. The sad part was that they did not have my size. I decided to try on half a size smaller. They were a little tight. My toes were squeezed -- I needed a bigger size. Instead, I declared that the pair of boots was perfect and I wanted them. My mom, though not truly convinced, decided to believe me.
So I got what I wanted at that moment at a considerable price that I paid later. The boots were small; there was no denying it. I realized, too late, that I should have gotten a bigger size or, in my case, a different pair. I never said anything to my mom. I knew there was no budget for a new pair of shoes. I suffered through the winter wearing shoes that were uncomfortable and small. Never again I made a mistake like this.
Because of this early childhood experience, I learned to be picky about shoes. I knew what it was like to spend all day wearing uncomfortable shoes. Now, I buy beautiful shoes that are Italian or Spanish (of the proper size, of course), but I am practical about it. I do not get 4' inch heels; I go for 2'-3'. I alternate between buying neutral and bright or patterned shoes. I shop sales and past seasons - beautiful shoes have no seasons!
Why do I love shoes so much? I think it is a two-part answer — first, my mom. I remember admiring my mother wearing dresses and beautiful shoes. She is the one who taught me to appreciate quality. I adored her dresses and wanted to wear her heels. I remember pulling them out of the closet and trying them on imagining that one day I will wear something that beautiful.
The second part is the ballroom dancing. When I was in middle school, I think, I was taking ballroom classes and attended competitions. I loved everything about that experience: makeup, shoes, dresses, constant outfit changes and beautiful music. I loved to watch competitions to adore all the outfits and check out the shoes.
I will tell you a secret. I am starting to like and wear more flats. Now at 33 years of age and with two toddlers in tow, I've started to wear more flats and sneakers.
Lately, I reserve heels for work and special evening outings with girls or my second half. The rest of the time, I wear flats or sneakers. At first, I thought that any flats are comfortable. Oh, boy, was I wrong. So many cheaper pairs are uncomfortable and ugly. I learned through trial and error that flats' quality, comfort, and design have the same high bar to pass.
I do not know if you heard of Tieks' flats, but they are amazing (i am not advertising for them). Tieks' comfortable ballet flats come in so many colors and patterns that you will never be bored with them. At this point, I have bought three pairs of Tieks: neon orange, emerald green, and black. I am thinking to get another neutral color.
Does my addiction need medical attention? I do not think so. Quality not quantity is my rule. I do order six to eight pairs at a time from Zappos but return most if not all. As I try various pairs on, I notice how they feel: do I have support, do I like the design, will I wear them often? There is a lot that goes into my consideration to purchase.
-Love NOT like: You have to love a pair only then you will wear it for years to come. Like is not good enough.
-No one-time shoes: Do not buy shoes for a special occasion. You will never wear them again.
-No duplicates: It is so easy to buy something that looks very similar to what you already have. Try to venture out but not too far.
My addiction though disruptive for my wallet, at times, is under control. With my childhood experience and practical sense, I buy shoes that are comfortable, beautiful, practical and worth the money. I always stay within my budget.
Here are a few rules that I follow:
-Shop smart & buy quality
-Stay within your budget
-Save for a unique pair
-Do NOT impulse buy
-Life is short, live it wearing a fabulous pair of shoes!