The ultimate party season footwear survival guide
The run-up to Christmas is now officially known as party season and with a stack of engagements in our calendars, the term seems to have arisen with good reason. Parties call for heels, and for those without perfect balance, slender feet and poor circulation, heels can spell trouble. But here at Shoewawa we prize our feet almost above all other body parts, and looking after them is essential.
Here are a few tips we've put together from our extensive knowledge-base of foot-pampering and heel survival over many years of wearing fabulous (and sometimes fabulously uncomfortable) shoes.
Folding Shoes: It's all in the mind...not the feet.
Ever noticed how a headache hurts less when you know you've got a bulging cabinet full of painkillers at your disposal - even if you never get around to taking the pills? The same theory applies to footwear, and knowing that you can take off your killer heels and slip into a pair of comfy flats at any time tends to have the curious effect of helping you to keep your heels on all night - try it.
If you're worried that your 'emergency flats' will then end up doing nothing more than decorating your bag, let's not forget that everyone needs to get home at the end of the night. Unless you have your own chauffeur, you'll most likely want to change into them once you've left your event, and this is where you'll be most grateful for taking them out with you. There are a lot of folding flats on the market now, so which should you buy?
Best of the bunch for style and comfort are easily Redfoot, who specialise in great quality folding shoes using materials like real leather and satin. We wouldn't be without ours now, and feel pretty lost without a pair stashed in our handbags. The best thing about Redfoot shoes is their soles, which are tough like normal outdoor-going soles: this is a big bonus if you need to walk more than a short stagger or run for a bus! However they are pricey, with an average pair costing around £30 going up to £45.
If you're want a cheaper pair, be sure to shop around to avoid picking up anything too flimsy. The worst culprits tend to be made huge to fit all sizes with very tight elastic that can be as uncomfortable as the shoes you've just taken off!
One cheaper brand we like is Butterfly Twists, who make great handbag-friendly flats for just £10 in lots of attractive colours and patterns. They've also just brought out the first 'folding boot' we've seen, which is going to be great in the depths of winter. Or if all else fails, you can always stash a pair of TOMS shoes in your bag - they're lightweight and slightly bendy, so will travel well in a medium sized handbag.
Underwear for your feet!
Sheer hosiery offers little protection from the hard-edged materials our shoes are made from, so in many ways it's crazy that we don't protect our feet with something a little more robust. We think of blister plasters as a last resort, but they are actually a great preventative measure when preparing your party feet, and can keep you standing comfortably for hours.
Compeed make some of the best blister plasters out there, and are second-to-none in terms of their discreetness and ability to stay on even through intensive dancing sessions! Jess Markwood, our editorial director is such a fan of Compeed that she jokes about buying shares in the company, such is her habit of bulk-buying the healing plasters.
Gel pads are another tried and tested way of keeping your feet cushioned and comfortable: Shoewawa Editor Abi Silvester has rescued several pairs of shoes that were initially unwearable by adding a pad to prevent rubbing: this is a technique that will already be familiar to those with an irregular shoe size!
One drawback of this method of foot-pampering is the gel pads' tendency to fall off after a couple of wears, but if you're certain that a pair of shoes needs pads to be wearable, we have a handy solution: position the pads carefully in the shoe as you would normally wear them, and fix them with a spot of super-glue to make them a permanent fixture: they'll stay in place significantly longer.
Choose your shoes carefully
Far be it for us to lecture you on your choice of footwear at this time of year: the very thought of it! Hemlines are sweeping the floor this season, and you'll be wanting something slinky, sexy and above all tall to lift you and your favourite party dress well clear of the floor. But don't forget the usual advice about paying for quality, especially when shopping for higher-heeled styles: if you can afford to go for real leather and well-made soles, you're likely to have a much more comfortable night!
You don't have to spend a fortune, however: many high street brands now have ranges that are designed to be comfortable as well as stylish, with more cushioned soles and balancing technology. One of our favourites is M&S' Insolia collection; essentially killer heels that don't kill, thanks to a new approach to shoemaking. And it's worth bearing in mind which styles suit your feet: you might be able to wear awe-inspiring platforms with a tree-trunk heel but struggle in stilettos. Other brands that do great party shoes that tend to be comfortable include Moda in Pellle, whose styles are all real leather, and Chie Mihara, whose quirky and beautiful styles are all made with real feet in mind.
Treat your feet
If all else fails and your feet are looking like they belong to a runway model in late September, there are plenty of ways to restore them to full health.
Doing it yourself? Happily there is a wealth of specialist footcare products to choose from that make a costly pedicure unnecessary. A Ped Egg is a handy little gadget to keep in the bathroom cabinet, and can be yours for as little as £4. Use it to remove the dead skin before getting to work with your favourite moisturiser or foot cream. We also love these moisturising booties from Crabtree & Evelyn, which are full of foot-pampering goodies: you simply pop on your feet before climing into bed and wake up with baby soft skin.
The now-controversial fish pedicure is another option you might want to try if you're not ticklish or put off by the headlines: scare stories aside, it cannot be denied that this indulgence does leave the feet feeling softer than any traditional pedicure. Just be sure to pick a reputable salon with good ethical and hygiene credentials.
Your feet should now be feeling softer and healthier than ever! Frankly though, if you've followed our guide to the letter you'll already have the sweetest feet in town...
Potions and lotions for feet:
Barielle total footcare cream, from £15.98
Body Shop Peppermint Cooling Foot Lotion, £8
CCS Swedish Foot Cream £7.15 at Boots
The Sanctuary Moisture Rich Foot Butter, £5.10 at The Sanctuary
Footcare gadgets and tools:
Soap and glory foot buffer £8,75 at Boots
Crabtree & Evelyn Moisturising gloves and mitts, £28
Our top-rated pedicures:
At-home pedicures from Blossom & Jasmine [review]
Terrific Tootsies pedicure at Nails Inc.
Radiant foot therapy at Thai Square Spa [review]
Gel pads and Blister Plasters:
Scholl - party feet
Brands selling foot-friendly party and occasion footwear
Marks & Spencer - Insolia range [review]
Moda in Pelle - wide range of party shoes in real leather
Chie Mihara - beautifully made occasion and everyday shoes
Our favourite folding flatties