Belfast Telegraph

The shoe thing

We all know women can't resist a new pair of heels (or flats or boots) but can it really be true that we don't actually wear very many of those we splash the cash on? Or is it all cobblers? Roisin Delaney talks to five well-known women

High heels, wedges, kitten heels, stilettoes, trainers, Mary Janes, flats, sandals, gladiators, boots... there is no end to the type of shoes on sale and, apparently, no end to our desire to buy more.

Since Cinderella first wriggled her little foot into that slipper to Carrie Bradshaw's obsession with footwear ("I've spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live? I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes!"), it seems we just can't get enough sole.

Curiously, though, after we have splurged on yet another pair, it would appear they are more likely to stay safely in their box at the bottom of the wardrobe than ever get an outing.

According to a new survey, the average woman owns about 20 pairs of shoes but wears only five of them regularly.

The most popular explanation was that while those gorgeous new high heels proved irresistible in the shop, once they're home they are just too uncomfortable.

Two-thirds of us confess that we have splashed out on shoes that are too high and too tight. And more than half have had an impulse buy on a pair that simply don't match any of the clothes we own.

Meanwhile, four in 10 have bought very expensive shoes but never worn them because they didn't want to risk damaging them.

Can this really be true? Or are these findings just getting the boot in? Five well-known women confess all about their (admittedly rather large) shoe collections.

Jo-Anne: 'I have a soft spot for my wellies'

Ulster Unionist Party MLA Jo-Anne Dobson (47) lives in Waringstown with husband John, a farmer. They have two sons, Elliott (22) and Mark (20). She says:

If I'm honest I'd prefer to be in my Hunter wellies than high heels. They're practical for the farm and any agricultural events I go to and I have them in all different colours too. I'd probably be more excited about getting new wellies than a new pair of high heels!

I've about 30 pairs of shoes and around 20 pairs of wellies. I've never been a big spender, when it comes to shoes and I'm not interested in the designer brands. I'd much prefer to spend money on clothes instead of footwear although I don't know how much I actually spend per month on shoes or clothes because with a hectic work schedule and the farm it's hard to find time to do anything recreational let alone shopping.

When I do have a half day to run around the shops I prefer to visit the local stores in my constituency. I love a bargain and it's nice to source a pair of shoes that have something a little different about them. Still, the most I would ever spend on shoes would be £80. I definitely look for comfort over style but I still like to be stylish.

If anyone peered under my desk they would find three or four pairs of shoes, my flats, my heels and a pair of stylish, yet easy to walk in shoes for going up and down the stairs. I tend to change my shoes if I'm running into a meeting or leaving the office.

I recently bought a pair of nude courts from Geox. They're the most comfortable heels I've ever worn. I can even run up and down the stairs in Stormont with them on. And they're not too high, which helps. For my son's recent graduation in Cambridge I bought practical Clarks shoes because I knew there would be a lot of standing around that day.

I tend to go for the staple shoes in any woman's closet – black, navy or nude courts, which go with everything.

What am I buying for this winter? A new pair of wellies to add to my collection! And I have just bought a pair of the Dubarry lookalikes for wearing at agricultural shows ... but you can't beat the comfort of my wellies."

Sara: 'I wear flat shoes since I hurt my ankle'

Sara O'Neill (32) is a stylist from Belfast. She says:

I own roughly 40 to 60 pairs of shoes, and that's probably the same amount many women have at home. I'm actually not a massive shoe or bag person. It's always been about the clothes for me.

Still, I bought a pair of brown cowboy boots that have two-inch heels so they're easy to walk in. I'm on my second pair of them now as I walk so much that I wore out the first pair. Thank goodness they were still in the shop when I was passing for the second time.

Up until about three years ago I used to wear high heels everywhere, both for work and during down time. In the end I think the shape of my feet changed. I even started to call them Barbie feet. Then, one day I was bouncing on a trampoline when one of my feet just snapped. It turned out that I had torn ligaments near one of my ankles. It was very painful and I needed physiotherapy. Acupuncture was a big help too. Since then I'm always in flats, I just can't wear heels anymore.

I bought a lovely pair of shoes in Zara in Dublin last weekend. I saw them in Belfast and had my eye on them but they were sold out in my size. They're simple, elegant and sophisticated, black-patent courts. That nineties style with the pointed toe is making a comeback this season.

I'm also on the lookout for a nice pair of top-quality boots to get me through autumn/winter. Last year I found this amazing pair of black, knee-high, vintage boots and I'd love to find a similar pair for the winter ahead, maybe in brown.

As I walk everywhere comfort is just as important as style for me. I don't think I'd spend more than £100 on new boots because I will wear them until I can't wear them anymore so they're not really investment pieces.

Up until I stopped wearing high heels I'd have been buying a few pairs a month, but I don't spend as much now. Then again, I have amassed quite a few pairs – I think women tend to hold on to things that we don't even wear anymore as we get emotionally attached to them. So, I still have most of my old pairs of high heels and, as a stylist, I sometimes use them on models for shoots."

Karen: 'I've a walk-in wardrobe for my shoes'

SDLP MLA Karen McKevitt (42) lives in Newry with husband Patrick and their five children. She says:

I'm the proud owner of 70 pairs of shoes. Before becoming an MLA I was always keen on heels but in this job I quickly learned that I was always going to be on my feet so it was goodbye to my highest heels.

For summertime I love an open-toe sandal. I tend to wear either flats or wedges as I do a lot of walking about. I would wear an awful lot of my shoes every week. If I change my outfit I always change my shoes so that helps me to get the most out of all of my footwear. This summer I've been a fan of white trousers with red or black and white open-toe shoes, toenails painted, of course.

I don't buy shoes on a regular basis and my limit is £100 for one pair. I'm open to deals, though, so if I saw two really appealing pairs for £200 I might find it hard to say no. I like buying shoes that are on sale as there's a sense of having bagged a bargain.

I prefer to shop in Newry and I usually go for a wide-fitting shoe for maximum comfort. Comfort trumps style in my books.

Of course being a spokesperson on culture, arts and leisure brings me to various locations. I could very easily find myself in a field and wedges don't exactly work well on soggy grassland – I'm very proud to show off my red wellies, which have a yellow flower on top.

I have a newly designed walk-in wardrobe, which was designed around my shoes. I hate when my husband buys shoes because they steal from my storage space so I don't encourage him. I like to keep my shoes well-maintained in their shoe boxes – it helps them have a long lifespan; I have shoes that are 20 years old."

Katrina: 'Some of my shoes are 20 years old'

Katrina Doran (39) is editor of beauty and fashion blog Sugahfix.com and lives in Belfast with husband Peter. She says:

I'm definitely one of those women with a lot of shoes – near the 200 mark. My husband says I've too many shoes but I correct him and say it's a collection of footwear, not just any old shoes.

I have special occasion shoes that are in pretty good condition because I wouldn't wear them that often. But I also have those old reliable pairs that I've grown to love and find hard to let go. During the week I'd most likely wear five pairs of shoes to get me through work and day-to-day living and for night time I have two favourite pairs that come out more often than others.

I bought a pair of Eighties black vintage never-worn-before boots a few years ago and I loved them. I wore them with jeans, trousers, dresses and skirts and had them resoled six times but eventually the mender told me to buy a new pair. Lots of women would be familiar with a pair of shoes like that. Now, I keep buying pairs that I think will fit the bill as a replacement but nothing has replaced them so far.

Shoes can have sentimental value too – I've some that are 20 years old. A woman might have bought shoes for a special occasion, such as her wedding, and would find it difficult to get rid of them. For my wedding I wanted to buy a pair of Manolo Blahniks. I'd a budget of £400 and even went on a special shoe shopping trip to London but couldn't find anything that I wanted. Then I found a pair of metallic lilac Miu Miu sandals at Harrods and they were a great buy. Technically they were my wedding shoes, but I've worn them on various occasions. I insist on dressing myself from the shoes up – in other words, I put on clothes to suit the shoes. Women are always saying 'I don't have shoes to go with that outfit' but if you pick the shoes first, you won't have that problem.

Alas, even though I've a large footwear collection I don't have a massive wardrobe to store them all in. I keep them in the boxes they were originally bought in, and put those in larger storage boxes – for winter and summer – and store those in the attic. Pretty soon I'll be taking down the winter shoes.

Right now I am on the hunt for a new pair of black boots. I always say that the only staples a girl needs for winter are good boots and a heavy coat. They're investment pieces, although I wouldn't be prepared to spend more than £200 on boots."

Meagan: 'It's hard to say no to pretty shoes'

Meagan Greene (23) is the reigning Miss Northern Ireland and lives in Lisburn. She says:

I am a shoe lover and I reckon I have close to 60 pairs. I keep them in my bedroom but since winning Miss Northern Ireland my wardrobe has been overflowing into my sister's old room.

We all have favourites that we rely on and I think these days we're now also adding things like Converse and wellies to our collection.

I've three pairs of nude shoes, all in different shades and different heights. They go with everything and really elongate a woman's leg. It was Kate Middleton who put the nude shoe on the map when she kept wearing her favourite LK Bennett nude platforms – the so-called 'Duchess effect'.

On any typical day I'll be in a number of places in my role as Miss Northern Ireland so my car is filled with wardrobe changes and shoes for every occasion. It comes with the territory.

But on days off I like to ditch the heels and put on my comfortable Converse. I could never wear them to an event as Miss Northern Ireland, they don't exactly have the 'glam' factor.

Coming into the new season, a decent pair of well-heeled boots are a good investment for any girl. I'd be prepared to fork out up to £250 on a pair although I'd prefer to buy them for £200 or less. I've been really lucky since winning Miss Northern Ireland that a lot of my sponsors have given me dresses and shoes and that has really helped with the expense of it all.

Of course, if I could I'd love to buy shoes by Christian Louboutin. I'm a high street shopper but that is the one high-end brand that I'd love to walk in. Someday I will get my hands on a pair! Right now, I've my eye on a pair of Kurt Geiger nude courts that I'm saving up for.

I think women find it hard to say no to a pretty pair of shoes. We need to put the blinkers on when passing a shoe shop, otherwise we could spend a fortune. But when you spot something you really want then it's hard to let them go.

Plus, good investment pieces are hard to come by and you do need those staples to take you through from daytime to night-time ..."

Putting their best foot forward

Sarah Jessica Parker's name became synonymous with the highest of designer heels when she played Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. She admitted that wearing high heels for long periods while filming ruined her feet.

Kate Middleton has been a fan of comfortable and sophisticated footwear for as long as she has been in the media spotlight. From making her LK Bennett nude platforms a sell-out to causing controversy when she wore Vierzonord Le Chameau Wellington boots rather than her trusted Hunters at one of her husband's polo games, the footwear of the Duchess of Cambridge is as admired as the rest of her wardrobe.

It's no secret that Imelda Marcos has a shoe collection to die for. But as wife of a former dictator husband she had to leave an estimated 1,200 pairs of her infamous shoe collection behind when the couple were forced to leave the Philippines in a 1986 revolt.

Lady Gaga is as well-known for her fashion flair as she is for her music. Who can forget the meat wedge shoes she wore to accompany her meat outfit at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards?

Beyonce Knowles recently attracted attention on her worldwide tour for chopping off her luscious blonde locks and going for the pixie crop. However, Queen Bey is no stranger to strutting her stuff on stage and dancing effortlessly to choreography in heels.

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