While comfort levels certainly differ from person to person, quality is something that is a lot less arbitrary when it comes to footwear. Thus, here are five sins that characterize poorly made pairs. Look out for them next time you go shoe shopping.
1. Bare Your Sole: You know that expression it’s what’s on the inside that counts? It applies to shoes, too. Stick your hand inside the shoe and made sure that the insole isn’t bubbling. Also check there is added cushioning under the ball of the foot and heel, a tell-tale sign of high quality. As for the outsole on the bottom of the shoe, plastic is a cheap finish.
Slick, synthetic surfaces are slippery, too. Look instead for suede, nubuck or barrel-dyed or painted leather (à la Christian Louboutin and Giuseppe Zanotti). For sturdier styles, look for recognized names such as Vibram for maximum durability.
2. Smell Test: If shoes reek of strong synthetics, drop and dash. Really good shoes smell of a pleasing combo of leather, polish and wood.
3. Listen Close: Make sure to try walking in shoes on a hard surface before you commit, not just the advantageous plush flooring of most shoe stores and departments. Those squeaky sounds or jarring click-clacks that some footwear makes on flooring are a dead giveaway of subpar shoes. Also, wedges and platform that sound hollow are never a good idea.
4. Zoom In: Look at all seams and edges in extreme close-up. Beware of wonky lines, wayward glue or any wonky surfaces that should lie flat. Stitching should be impeccable, too.
5. All in the Details: While certain luxury brands transcend these stereotypes, for the most part here are some tell-tale signs that corners were cut on shoes.
a) Back zippers instead of a side zip or lacing
b) Zippers that don’t move through tracking easily, especially on patent style
c) Stiletto caps that aren’t tightly secured to heel
d) Flimsy or nonfunctioning laces
e) Rough-edged or stick-on insole brand labels
f) Barely secured embellishments
g) Country of origin is hidden way inside the side of a shoe as opposed to on the bottom of the sole or under the tongue