Learn the rules of smart shoe shopping. They'll save you time and money

Many a time, shoes that squeeze the toes are left unbuckled, untied, and unworn, gathering dust in the closet. If you have trouble getting that Cinderella fit when you go shoe shopping, here are a few hints that might help:

Regard size as a variable determined by the manufacturer and the style of the shoe. Most people need a larger size in a closed style than in a sandal or open-toe slingback. Remember that foreign shoes often run shorter and narrower than domestically produced ones.

When trying on shoes, make sure they don't gap at any point and that your toes feel free from pressure. If you're considering a backless or slingback model, take a careful look at your heel. It should not extend beyond the back of the shoe.

It's best to shop for shoes in the middle of the day. Shoes purchased in the early morning can pinch as the day wears on, especially during hot, humid weather. A pair you bought later in the afternoon could be dangerously large in the morning.

When buying shoes with wooden soles, make sure you feel no bumps. This type of footwear often has an arch built into the wood. If this does not fall at the same place as your own arch, you'll feel as though you're standing on ridges. Shoes with this liability will not become more comfortable the more you wear them.

To avoid rubbing, look for shoes with padding on the inside. You should also rotate shoes, never wearing the same pair continuously through the week. Rotating alleviates pressure on the same parts of the foot.

Wear all different heel heights. A steady diet of anything, shoes included, becomes tedious. You'll be much more comfortable if you go from high to medium to low to flat heels.

If your work involves standing a great deal, you'll find that shoes with 1- to 11/2-inch regular or wedge heels support the feet and legs better than flats or sandals.

If your job involves working on a concrete floor, look for shoes with rubber soles and heels. These help protect feet from the drawing effects of cement.

If your feet are large, dark shoes with a matte finish and a moderate heel are more flattering than shiny, bright shoes with a flat heel. You'll also find that square, round, or gently tapered toes shorten the foot while pointed shoes make the foot look longer.

If you have a high instep, look for shoes with a V-shaped or square-cut instep for maximum comfort. The most uncomfortable styles are those with a U-cut or those cut straight across the instep such as espadrilles. Avoid slip-on shoes that rely on elastic at the instep for shape. Your type of foot will be much better in an oxford or traditional loafer.

If your feet are wide, shoes with a V or diagonal cut at the instep will have a slenderizing effect. Also flattering are T and slanted straps. Least attractive styles are those with a U cut at the instep and straps that go straight across the widest part of the foot. You might also check the Yellow Pages of your telephone book for the names of individually owned stores that specialize in wide shoes. Most shoe store chains carry only medium widths, and department stores seldom carry w ider than C width.

If your heel is narrow in proportion to the front of your foot, look for shoes with the width written as a fraction, such as B/AA. This is printed on the inside of the shoe next to the size. The denominator of the fraction denotes heel width. Another solution to this problem is to buy slingback shoes, using the back strap and buckle to make the heel narrower.

If you have narrow feet, you should have no trouble buying shoes at both sales and factory outlets. In such situations, don't bypass shoes marked medium. Many times these wind up on a reduced rack because they're too slender for the B-width foot. They may be just right for the slender foot. While you can depend on almost any sale shoe coming down again in price if it doesn't sell right away, remember that it's best to buy after the first markdown. Frequent appearances on the sale rack will

cause the right shoe to be stretched out of shape by people with medium and wide feet trying it on. The few dollars saved isn't worth the poor fit.

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