Shoe Kuel Category Expert: Lisa Loyet Schmitz
Some of us know what we want to do from an early age, while others spend more time considering options. Many also do one thing for a while, then decide to take a different career path.
But I wonder how many people simply have had their area of expertise come about constantly over the years? I can say, that I’m truly blessed to have had a multi-faceted career in shoes! Here is a quick history before I share some great pointers with you on how to try, buy, and love the shoes you put on your feet!
THE EARLY YEARS
My mother can tell you that from a very early age I was obsessed with shoes. My favorite childhood book was “Clip Clop”1, a story about a horse who finds out he is getting new shoes and imagines himself wearing the shoes of the humans he sees every day. It is beautifully illustrated and a very simple little story about finding the right shoes.
According to my mom, I read and re-read this book, spending endless amounts of time looking at the spread that included all the shoes!
As I moved into my pre-teen years, I longed for the day I would be allowed to wear those amazing platforms of the 70s. My aunt had a closet full and I remember going to her house and spending hours trying on her boots, sandals, and pumps. Prancing around I felt so fancy! I even took a stab at making my own platforms in 1978 (age 11). With rough wood blocks for heels, foam placemats as the sole, fabric uppers, and ribbon ties. I made, I thought, beautiful Christmas sandals! Clearly, these sandals were barely walkable, but I was quite proud of them.
Not only obsessed with the high-heeled fashion shoes, I remember as a cheerleader in high school, pitching my plea to change the shoes from the Pep Stompers® (pictured above), which were hard leather with no padding on the insoles and thick, heavy crepe rubber bottoms, to a much more comfortable, lightweight, flexible Converse® sneaker (pictured on the right). We got the Converse sneakers!
“I have spent my entire career working in shoes – in one way or another!”
To offer a quick recap of the next few decades, I spent my entire career working in shoes – in one way or another! I am blessed with a size 6 medium foot. All shoes samples are created in a size 6 medium for testing, prior to going to production. This means that I get to wear shoes for a period of time and help product development determine any changes that need to be made for proper fit and comfort. Subsequently, I am also a graphic designer/art director. From 1990 – 2015 I was freelance, and had the opportunity to work with many brands, helping develop marketing materials. Working with the various brands, I learned much about the differences in sizing, comfort, and fit. And, I learned how this affects not only our feet, but things like our knees, hips and lower backs, as well!
In 2015, I accepted the Creative Director position with Walking Cradles. This gives me the opportunity to work directly with our shoe designer and product development team. I’m thrilled to be part of the Kuel Life panel of experts and that Walking Cradles shoes are part of the Kuel Life Shop!
I’m excited to share information about shoes with this community. I have found over the years that unless you have actually worked in shoe development or been trained by a fit specialist (either at the manufacturing or the retail level), that you may not realize how many factors go into the shoes we put on our feet. Here are a few of the basics, I hope you find them useful!
11 SHOE BUYING TIPS (in no particular order)
MEASURE YOUR FEET:
If you haven’t had your foot measured since you were a kid, go find a full-service shoe store and get it done! By far, the biggest problem with shoes not feeling as good as they can is due to wearing the wrong size. The most accurate form of foot measurement is still a Brannock device. You will need to stand up when having your foot measured and make sure to measure both feet (preferably with socks off).
WHAT? THEY’RE NOT THE SAME SIZE?
Your feet are not the same size. If I had a nickel for every time someone thought their feet were weird because they don’t measure exactly the same, I would be retired and living on a tropical island! ☺ This is why it is so important to have both feet measured, AND when purchasing shoes, to try them on both feet.
TRY THEM AS YOU’LL WEAR THEM:
If you plan to wear socks with the shoes you are trying on – try them on with socks. If you are not planning to wear sock with the shoes – then don’t try them on with socks. This really does make a difference.
AFTERNOONS ARE BETTER TO SHOE SHOP:
Speaking of trying on shoes, try to do so later in the day when you have been on your feet. Our feet do swell during the day. Also, it’s always a good idea to select the shoe size based on what feels best on your larger foot.
DARN THAT SMALLER FOOT:
What happens if your heel is slipping on your smaller foot? Try a heel insert/grip. Found in shoe stores, drug stores and big-box stores like Target, heel inserts come in several forms: cushion, felt, gel, leather. These have adhesive that applies to the heel cup of your shoe, taking up the little bit of extra space if the shoe on your smaller foot is slipping a bit. If you are needing heel inserts/grips for both shoes, the shoe is either too big or poorly made.
Some shoe brands only come in one width. This isn’t good if you wear a Narrow, Wide or Wide-Wide shoe. The most commonly made mistake we have found is women go up a size (i.e. from a 9 to a 10) because they are unaware that they should be going up a width (from Medium to a Wide). Trust me when I say that we have had countless women tell us that finding their correct size and width has been life-changing!
GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR:
Sizes across brands vary greatly. Each brand has a different way of fit testing their shoes – if they fit test them at all! The saying “You get what you pay for,” can be very relevant when it comes to shoes. The amount you pay for your shoe could be an indicator of how many sizes the brand offers and how much testing is done on the shoes to ensure proper fit and comfort. Buying a shoe that starts out ridiculously cheap will probably never be a win-win. Finding a good sale on a quality shoe brand is like Christmas every time!
FORM & FUNCTION:
“They’ll feel good once I break them in.” NOT a statement that should be made with shoes. If they don’t feel good when you first wear them, chances are they will never feel good. If a shoe is uncomfortable and it fits properly, you should consider the purpose for which you are purchasing them. Admittedly, I do have several pairs of “artwork for the feet” that I only wear when I know I will be sitting down for the majority of the time, but this should be the exception – not the norm.
WILL THESE STRETCH?
So, this is a complicated question for shoes. The simple answer is “maybe.” The more complicated answer is “it depends.” Leather stretches, but you shouldn’t expect it to stretch another shoe size to feel ok later (see the previous point). Fabric shoes also tend to give a little bit once you wear them. Patent leather and man-made leathers are not going to stretch. So, going back to the previous point – if they don’t feel pretty darn good when you try them on, you may need to just put them back and find a pair that does feel good!
CAB TO TABLE SHOES:
What about my high heels? If, like me, you love high heels you know you don’t want to give them up entirely. If you have paid attention to all the points made above and have found a well-fitting high heel that you love – by all means, buy them and wear them – in moderation. Our feet need to have some variety going on to keep the range of motion going on. Make sure to mix it up with lower heels. According to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, women should wear shoes with a height of no more than two and a quarter inches and that even shoes at these heights should be worn no more than two or three hours each day.2
CARE FOR YOUR BACK:
Same goes for flats. Some people just don’t want to wear heels, but did you know that completely flat shoes can wreak havoc on your lower back? Flaunt those sassy, classy ballet flats, but make sure to mix it up with a low heel now and then to give your lower back a break!
“The bottom line is that you do not need to sacrifice comfort for style or vice versa”
The bottom line is that you do not need to sacrifice comfort for style or vice versa. If you look great all over, but your feet are killing you – guess what, it shows in your face and your stride. My key shoe advice? Find shoes that fit properly and feel good right out of the box. The best shoes are the ones you don’t want to kick off every chance you get.
1 Clip Clop. By Nancy Houg, Illustrations by Florence Sarah Winshop. Whitman Books.
2 Medical Meanderings. American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society Study. Google Books.
About the Author:
Lisa Schmitz is the Creative Director for Walking Cradles shoes – a women’s shoe company whose mission is to hit the perfect combo of fit, comfort and style for a wide range of women’s shoe sizes. Working in this women driven company, Lisa is able to combine her years of experience with marketing, advertising, graphic design and shoe modeling. Working closely with the shoe designer, Jamie Wells, Lisa is involved in many aspects of the research, development, fit-testing and marketing of the shoes. Lisa is honored to have been selected as a shoe-expert with Kuel Life and to have Walking Cradles shoes available for purchase in the Kuel Shop.