With so many shoe brands out there, why is it still so hard to find shoes that don’t cripple your feet? When Christian Louboutin famously said “I would hate for someone to look at my shoes and say “Oh my God! That looks so comfortable!” was he echoing the sentiments of all fashionable shoe manufacturers, or are there other factors at play? Here are 5 reasons why women often find it so hard to find perfect fitting shoes:
- One size does not fit all! – It should come as no surprise to learn that women’s feet are not all of uniform width. But usually we shop for shoes based on length only as most shoe manufacturers only make one width of shoe, which is a standard D fit. As children we were marched to the shoe shop and our shoes were purchased based on length and width. Whilst our feet may stop growing lengthwise once we reach adulthood, it is very common for the width to change. Factors such as pregnancy, childbirth, bunions, arthritis and weight gain can all change the width of our feet. If shoe manufacturers don’t make shoes to cater for the varying widths, many women are left trying to squeeze their feet into shoes which are simply too narrow for them
- Most women’s shoes are imported from Europe and China – Currently one of the major consequences of the demise of British shoe manufacturing is that most shoes for women are now imported. Therefore, they are manufactured according to either European or even Chinese sizing. Not only are European sizes slightly different to UK sizing, Chinese sizing is also different to UK sizing and to European sizing. For example, the nearest size comparison to a UK 7 is a European size 40. However, in China, it would be a size 41. In reality, a UK size 7 is actually nearer to a European size 40.5, so almost halfway in between the two. Most shoe companies don’t make half sizes, often due to stock constraints.
- Most imported shoes come from countries where women’s feet are smaller – Given Europe (in particular Spain, Italy, Portugal), and China are the primary sources of imports when it comes to women’s footwear, and given the women in these countries tend to have smaller and narrower feet than UK women, it is hardly surprising that their shoes are not a good fit for many British women. According to the British Footwear Association, China now accounts for about 65% of shoes made worldwide; a country where the average shoe size is a three and a half! If this is the case, no wonder their shoes are too narrow for British women. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that when wide fit shoe company Sargasso & Grey surveyed 900 British women, over half said they needed to wear a wider fitting shoe.
- Shoe sizes differ by retailer – As with clothes, there often seems to be little consistency when it comes to shoe sizing. Most British department stores and shoe retailers used to have their shoes made by a select few UK manufacturers. Not only did this mean that sizes reflected UK women’s feet, it also meant that sizes from one shop to another were pretty consistent. Now the large shoe retailers have an abundance of choice from overseas manufacturers and many have factories making shoes exclusively for them. As a result their shoe sizes can vary quite significantly from other retailers.
- Fast fashion – There is no doubt that nowadays fashion is fast, and what was ‘on-trend’ yesterday can be totally outdated today. With the explosion of fashion bloggers and social media, the need to keep up with such rapid changes in trends means you either have to have a vast shopping budget or you need to shop smart and hunt out bargains. As a result, few women are now prepared to pay high prices for clothes or shoes, and premium purchases are often reserved for special occasions, such as weddings. Cheap imports from overseas further fuel the demand for low cost fashion. When it comes to footwear, these cheap imports have driven down the price of women’s shoes to such an extent that British shoe manufacturers can no longer compete. As a result, there are less than a handful of British shoe manufacturers making women’s shoes to fit British women’s feet.
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