Why are decent boots so hard to find?
When it comes to buying footwear, this is one of the times that I seriously lament living in the countryside.
Other than a couple of trips to London, it’s a good 13 years since I’ve been in a department store. There simply isn’t anything like that in this neck of the woods. Gone are my days of traipsing round Debenham’s or John Lewis. Gone are my days of tramping up and down Oxford St and Regent St, trying on boot after boot. Buying footwear in the flesh here means either stonkingly expensive small shoe shops, or a trip to the huge shoe marts that lie on the outside of town with their overwhelming stench of plastic and rubber.
Hence, I often end up buying my shoes online, and here I ran into an unexpected problem recently, as I’m looking for boots to wear this winter.
The trouble is, my taste is pretty specific. I like a clean design, with no bells and whistles. I loathe studs and tassels and fur and unnecessary straps, exaggerated length or club toes, chunky heels and high stilettos. I want a slightly pointed or almond toe, a size 5.5 in shoes and a 6 in boots, so I can wear socks, and I need a calf fitting of around 39cm, with a full-length zip so I can get my orthotics into the body of the boot.
This never used to be a problem but twice recently I’ve ordered knee-length boots (see these elegant black leather ones) and found that I can’t get them done up over my ankles, never mind my calves. Too-narrow calves I could tolerate, knowing that I have fat legs (and the French standard is 35cm, btw – nearly an inch narrower than the British standard of 37cm). But the ankle isn’t a fat part of the body, and as far as I’m aware, my bones haven’t gotten bigger over the years. All my old boots still fit me, so why all of a sudden is it becoming hard to find boots that fit?
Personally, I blame China. It’s not their fault those people have got tiny coltish limbs, but ever since shoe manufacturing moved from Italy and Portugal to the Far East, boot legs seem a lot less roomy.
The reason for wanting new boots is that my podiatrist, having diagnosed me with plantar fasciitis and heel spurs (so NOW I know why every step is agony…), has ordered me back into heels. Not high heels, you understand, just an inch or two will do. I’m trying to vary the heights each day in order to vary the places that I feel the most pain – it’s so nice to be able to choose between burning soles and screaming arches.
But where are the shoes with one-inch heels? Three inches, four inches, no problem, but I cannot wear these because they don’t provide enough lateral support to prevent my feet pronating (rolling towards the big toe). The high-heeled lace-up shoe is a thing that does not exist. Shoes that are flat as a pancake (very bad for my poorly Achilles tendons) are also easy to come across, such as the ubiquitous ballet flat. But an attractive shoe with a modest 1in or 1.5in heel seems almost impossible to find, and the prices of those that do exist make my eyes water.
I hate buying footwear online, and yet I have to. Because, having lived in trekkers all summer, I now need boots for winter. Boots I can walk about in. Boots I can wear socks in. Boots I can wear with tights and long skirts to try to look at least a tiny bit elegant and not like someone who’s lost the plot completely, given that I work from home and could quite easily spend the rest of my life in a dressing gown without anybody realising.
So, with considerable to-ing and fro-ing, and with vendors kindly measuring boots for me, I’ve plumped for these three pairs on Ebay (two used, one new in box). Just look at the yummy turquoise pair from Rockport below (with a 2.75in heel – about my height limit). The plum ones (1in heel) are from Dorothy Perkins and the brown ones at top left (2in heel) are from Monsoon. Fingers crossed that when they arrive, they all fit… I dare not risk £175 or so for new leather ones from, say, the Celtic Sheepskin Company, and Bally boots here cost – wait for it – about 895 euros, Lord love them. Even our catalogue stalwart La Redoute’s boots are around 170 euros a pop, and no calf measurement is given.
So, cheap suede kitten-heeled boots it is. Other people’s cast-offs suit me just fine.
Added to my existing – and amazingly comfortable – teal suede kitten-heeled boots and a couple of pairs of 20-year-old leather riding boots that I’ve just had reheeled and soled, these should get me through this winter. Though I might still get another riding-style pair in oxblood leather, which will go nicely with my new plum-coloured dresses from Wall and enable me to stride about the local cobbled streets with something approaching confidence.