If you'd have asked us before COVID-19, "is buying shoes online really a thing?", we'd have said something hopeful like, ''it's a growing market". Lockdown has of course changed all of that and buying shoes online is no longer reserved for the keen or the adventurist. Coupled with more consumer-friendly exchange policies, Australians are buying shoes online more than ever before. Written with men in mind, but equally applicable to women, this guide will help you shop for shoes online with confidence and success.
When a few millimetres can mean the difference between the perfect fit and a painful blister, you really want more accuracy in your size selection. Even when the shoemaker has diligently conformed to a universal sizing system, universal sizing systems rarely conform to people's feet. Use them as a guide, but a little more work needs to be done.
If a particular brand and style of shoe fits you well, use that shoe to compare with other shoe styles. At TGC, we provide a comparison to similar and popular shoe styles. Online there are communities that also share size comparisons, e.g. r/goodyearwelt, Styleforum and Ask Andy.
Some shoe styles will be more suitable to your feet than others. Knowing your feets' measurements and shape - with a teaspoon of shoe knowledge - will help you avoid poor purchase decisions. For instance, this author has high arches and struggles with closed-lace shoes like Oxfords .Some shoemakers offer styles in multiple widths and provide charts to plot your corresponding length and ball width.
Your Brannock size provides a more three-dimensional measurement of your feet. In higher-end shoe circles, it is the sizing system of choice to discuss and compare different shoe lasts (the shape) according to one's foot length, width, and arch length.
Without an intricate knowledge of leather and a fine eye for detail, product images aren't going to tell you the full story - and imperfections can be photoshopped. If a quality leather is used, it's hide type will be front and centre in the description, e.g. Calfskin, Shell Cordovan, Kudu etc.; however, if all you're seeing is "Leather," then there is a fair chance it's a lower-grade cowhide with or without an artificial top-grain layer.
A very skilled shoemaker will take many working hours, days, sometimes weeks, to complete a pair of handmade shoes. There is usually a long waiting period and they are very expensive. In reality, 99% of all higher-end, ready-to-wear footwear is benchmade. Here a shoemaker will use equipment, such as a sewing machine, to expedite the production process. Perfectly acceptable and not lacking in quality, a banchmade pair is not to be snorted at and is the reason why well-made footwear is now more accessible.
Quality indicators are great, but as the name suggests, they are an indication, and not a verdict. The court of public opinion will quickly validate or reject the claimed unique selling points made on the website or by the maker.
Look For Styled Visuals
Look for visuals that show the shoes being worn by models or customers. It is easier to see how they match a variation of styles, and how they look from different angles. We provide visuals like this on our product pages, but style is a very personal thing, so check out the shoemaker or website's instagram page, in particular tagged posts, to see how shoppers like you are donning them.