We at SHOES-n-FEET believe it’s never too early to be prepared for whatever fall and winter decide to throw at us – including getting a head start on making sure your footwear fits your feet and your needs this season. While many of us would like the low temperatures, icy rain and snow to hold off for as long as possible (or at least a few more months!), considering the weather patterns these last few years (and the unusually heavy snow some areas have experienced in recent winters), we can’t say for sure when winter will be greeting us.
So exactly what should you keep in mind when buying (or re-evaluating from the depths of your closet) your fall and winter footwear? Just like there are Seven Wonders of the World, we think there are seven things to take into consideration when dealing with cold weather footwear.
Before we get started, we should probably state the obvious: how useful these tips are may depend on where you live. While some shoe characteristics (proper arch support, non-slip soles, quality materials) benefit everyone, others might only serve a purpose if you live in an area that actually gets wintery! This doesn’t always mean snow – rainy or simply colder months can do damage on your feet as well. We just want to make sure you have adequate protection, especially in terms of warmth and traction, if your area experiences the change in season.
While the sole of your shoes or boots may not be of great importance while you’re at home or your place of work, they can make a world of difference during that 5 minute walk from your car to the front door (as well as when you bring a little rain or snow inside with you). You never know how the weather will change throughout the day or what puddles you’ll face, so look for a shoe with a thicker, rubberized sole that will help you grip slippery surfaces.
You also want to keep in mind the texture of the sole – smooth is not better in this case! You want enough grooves in the rubber to create good traction with the ground so that you stay in balance.
Finally, while you might not be able to – or want to – avoid heels altogether during the winter, opt for a lower heel. A more conservative heel will help minimize falls and sprains no matter what time of year it is, but even more so during the wet winter months.
Not all shoes are created equal, especially when it comes to winter shoe material. If you live in colder climates, invest in a pair that comes with good insulation to keep your feet warm throughout the day. Make sure the padding, which doesn’t always need to be thick to be warm, covers the whole part of the foot, so that all the more sensitive areas are well-insulated. If your area receives a lot of rain, sleet or snow, make sure you have boots that are guaranteed waterproof.
Leather, as well as velvet and suede, are the best for cold weather shoes, whether flats, pumps or boots. Keep in mind that they need to be properly cleaned after use if they come into contact with snow and road salt. Natural materials, like leather, also help absorb moisture. Just because your feet are cold outside doesn’t mean they won’t heat up when you’re inside. Quality materials will keep feet dry and minimize the spread of bacteria and the resulting odor.
If it’s freezing out but you have a formal dinner party, we can’t exactly encourage you to throw on a pair of thick snow boots. Similarly, if you’re planning on participating in some winter sports, boots that you need to lace up may not be the right option. So always take into account how you spend the majority of your time. You may want shoes easy to pull on and off quickly, or those that have a sleeker look for long days at the office.
Reviewing your usual activities will also bring to mind what kind of terrain you deal with on a regular basis. The material and shape of the sole will be key factors in what shoes are good for what kinds of activities. Rugged and warm boots maybe be better for strenuous hikes in snowy forest trails. If you enjoy spending your free time walking around the town, you’ll want a non-slip sole stay upright on those sidewalks and an arch that will keep your feet comfortable on flat ground for long distances.
In our last blog post, we talked about what trends are hot for fall and winter footwear, and how style and comfort can go hand-in-hand. You need shoes that work with the season’s weather and that work with your personal style. You can use color and embellishment to liven up your warm and waterproof shoes (though a pair of boots in a neutral color as well will match with absolutely everything and never go out of style).
Textured or colored socks keep you warm and add a little something extra. Why not try a trim? Faux fur is animal-friendly and extra warm. With boots, choose between ankle-high, mid-calf, knee-high or even over-the-knee depending on your wardrobe and preferences (and how many extra layers you want on your legs!). And if you want a little lift, you’re allowed a heel – just make sure it’s a stable one.
Just as you don’t want to be slipping on the icy sidewalk, you also don’t want to be slipping around in your winter shoes. Sometimes trying on shoes during the winter is more frustrating than in the summer because, as they cover more, they may fit different parts of the foot and lower leg better than other. Make sure your shoes fit your foot, ankle and, if you’re selecting boots, calves. The size might be right, but if the fit around the calves is too roomy or too tight, it’s best to look for another pair. Each brand fits differently, so don’t give up hope for the perfect shoe!
Like always, try your shoes on in the afternoon. Keep in mind the amount of toe room, the stability of the heel and the traction when walking. If each foot fits differently, buy the larger size – you can always put in an insert to make up for the extra space on the smaller foot. And make sure they are comfortable when you try them on. There’s no reason that you should have to wear them for days or weeks before they start feeling right. If they don’t feel good as soon as you put them on, move on.
While they may be waterproof and oh-so-comfortable and warm inside, many well-known rain and winter boots come without any arch support. While there are great options that are sold with proper built-in support (for example, Bogs and Timberlands), it’s not always a given. Flat-soled boots might seem comfortable at first but you may be a greater risk for heel pain stemming from plantar fasciitis.
If you can’t live without these shoes, make sure to get your hands on some OTC insoles or orthotics. The arch support will offer greater shock absorption and reduce heel muscle inflammation. Just remember to try the shoes on with the insoles inside before you leave the store to make sure they fit and feel right.
Still have questions? Leave a comment and we’ll be happy to respond. Or, if you live close to a SHOES-n-FEET location, feel free to stop by and speak to one of our Certified Shoe Fitters. Stay warm!