Put Your Best Foot Forward To Save On Shoes

It's a mystery how the ladies on "Sex In The City" own such spacious apartments when they apparently blew most of their money on footwear. From Manolo Blahnick to Jimmy Choo, these ladies have no idea how to save on shoes.

While I don't expect every woman to shop discount stores for all their shoes, sandals, boots and athletic wear, it's not necessary to always purchase the latest and greatest styles. If you've ever hobbled through a party with blisters, you know how your shoes fit is the most important factor when buying footwear. Next up is knowing how to get the best deals. Here are nine tips to help your feet dress for less.

1. Match Shoes With Clothes
The longest journey begins with the first step, so start your odyssey by examining the rest of your wardrobe -- including accessories -- to ascertain your most frequently worn colors. After all, bright green shoes aren't a bargain at 60-percent off if you have nothing that goes with them. While celebrities may have the option of wearing unusually colored and styled shoes on the red carpet, your budget may preclude such a possibility. What use is a pair of shoes you may only wear once?

2. Quality Check
Before you splurge, examine where the sole meets the upper portion of the shoe. Discard any footwear that shows evidence of glue or loose stitching. Also look for loose threads, heels that wobble, and lousy intersections of leather or fabric. Finally, look for discoloration or unevenness of materials, whether leather or the less-durable man-made materials.

3. Spend More To Save More
That cheap pair of shoes may look adorable in the store, but footwear is no bargain when the glue melts and shoes stretch so easily they keep flopping off your feet. Money may be tight, but you'll ultimately get a better bargain when you pay for quality. That doesn't mean the best shoes must cost hundreds of dollars, however. A study published in the April Consumer Reports revealed a $69 pair of black pumps from Nine West were well constructed and actually more comfortable than a $575 pair of Manolo Blahniks.

3. Shop Out Of Season
Almost every shoe store holds a sale at the end of each season and, while the sizes and selections may be limited, you'll often find bargains of anywhere from 25-percent to 75-percent off. The bigger the price reduction, however, the less likely the item will be a classic. Still, you just might find a pair of adorable strappy sandals that'll last several seasons or a pair of pumps that will be perfect next fall. Just remember, winter doesn't last forever and you'll be wearing your new footwear before you know it. According to our "Best Time To Buy Guide," you also should buy sneakers in April and flip flops in August.

One tip: If you simply must have those slightly tight shoes that are on sale, a cobbler can stretch the width for about $10 and boots for around $20. The length is tougher to alter and more expensive.

4. Shop Online
Most online shoe merchants provide free shipping both ways, which means you won't pay if those new shoes don't quite fit or go with anything in your closet. With a little surfing, you'll find frugal prices on all kinds of footwear, including shoes, boots and athletic wear. Another advantage of shopping online is that you won't waste gas hopping from store to store.

5. Bid On Footwear
Some of the auctions on eBay offer high-end, funky and traditional footwear at what may end up being a very reasonable price. You do need to be careful, however. Comparison shop to make sure the auction price is really a good deal; check the sellers credentials; and don't go over budget in the excitement of bidding.

6. Check Outlet Stores
Many times the savings are substantial at outlet shops, although the selection might be more limited. Outlet shops will mark down their shoes anywhere from 10 percent to 75 percent, or even 90-percent off on a good day. The goal is to find an outlet center in your area so the money you save isn’t wasted on getting to the store.

7. Don't Splurge On Fluff

Those sequin-encrusted, transparent, six-inch platform heels may take your breath away, but chances are you'll wear them once to a party, fall off them five times, then toss them into the back of your closet.

If your shoe-shopping budget doesn't match that of an Oscar winning movie star, stick to buying shoes you're going to wear in the real world. That doesn't mean you have to limit yourself to granny flats and sensible sandals, but take an honest look at both your lifestyle and your wardrobe before you waste your money on an outrageous pair of shoes.

8. Take Care
Get the most out of quality shoes by caring for them properly. Leather shoes need to be buffed and polished on a regular basis. Treat suede shoes with a water-resistant spray at least once a year. Clean footwear immediately after they get dirty and cover up any scratches when you take the shoes off that night.

Store off-season shoes in containers to keep them clean and dry. You might encase them in plastic bags, if you're storing footwear in a basement or attic. The bags used by newspaper carriers are perfect for this use.

You also might want to give footwear a rest. Try not to wear the same leather shoes two days in a row, so perspiration won't damage leather and increase the odor quotient. There's more leeway with shoes made of synthetic materials, but you still might want to sprinkle some baking soda inside on occasion to absorb smells and dry them out.
9. Go Second Hand
This tip isn't for everyone, particularly the squeamish, but thrift stores can be a wonderful place to find vintage shoes. Fashion trends usually come and go, so eventually a great look will be stylish once again. Just look at how 1940s designs have come back into vogue of late.

Most thrift stores have fairly strict standards and only offer items for sale that are clean and only slightly worn. If the thought of wearing second-hand shoes really bothers you, consider purchasing a pair of inexpensive insoles to give them a brand new, hygienic lease on life.

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