She has more than 500 pairs in her wardrobe from YSL to Chanel. But all too often she finds that the shoes she spends so much money on don’t live up to their price tags. Soles wear out, heels get ground down to the “clacky” shoe nail or she’s forced to resole them — something she hates doing because it ruins their look.
“On occasions when I have bought classic designer shoes I do not think I have got enough wear out of them relative to the price,” she says. “One was of nude Manolo Blahnik heels, where the tip of the sole has worn down significantly.
“Then there’s the Chanel ballet flats. These ones I actually did get resoled about six months after buying them but in the end the super soft leather meant they were showing their wear regardless.
“I only wore these shoes a handful of times before the wear was evident. It almost coincided with the point they started to get comfortably worn in.”
It’s a lament echoed by women everywhere — few shoes, no matter how expensive, are made to be worn straight from the box without causing significant wear and tear.
It means that women are routinely forced to fork out anywhere between $20 to $50 on repairing or adding extras to shoes before they even get them near their feet.
“It’s like we’re not buying a complete product,” says IT professional Mia Binney from Coffs Harbour, another disgruntled customer.
“If you’re only planning to wear them from your limousine to the dinner table and back again it’d be fine, but of course that isn’t really how we live.”
Most expensive shoes have leather soles which look beautiful, but wear out much quicker than cheaper rubber or synthetic soles. This means that on top of spending $300 or $400 on a pair of pricey shoes, you have to get them resoled before or shortly after use.
“Expensive shoes are definitely the worst,” says Kylee Young, marketing manager at shoe repair chain Mister Minit. “A lot of expensive shoes have leather soles.”
She says that traditional leather soles and modern concrete footpaths simply weren’t designed to go together. As for wearing them in the rain? Forget about it. “If you mix wet weather with leather it wears them down quickly,” she says.
She says expensive shoemakers choose leather because it’s “traditional” and they look better, “until they wear and then they look terrible”.
But she adds that if you’re willing to spend the money on looking after them — regular resoling, feeding and cleaning the leather and keeping them away from water — an expensive pair of shoes should go the distance.
Government worker Emma Nicholson, from Sydney, is another shoe enthusiast who has largely given up on wearing expensive shoes because of the money and effort she has to spend to make them wearable.
“I went though a phase where I bought a lot of fabulous shoes,” she says, “But the first thing I’d do was put a new heel on them and rubber soles so I could wear them.”
The ‘extras’ would cost anywhere from $20 to $50 on top of the sale price.
On occasions when she hasn’t had time to give her shoes a trip to the shoe repairer before wear, she says her shoes start to look tatty right away.
“One pair of Italian shoes I bought from Myer started wearing through in about three weeks,” she says. “I only walked a few blocks in them.”
And it’s not just women’s shoes that suffer. A blog post from up-market mens’ shoe brand Aquila advises that men get a “topy toe” added to their shoes to protect the tips, as well as a half-sole to protect leather soles from water damage.
All at an additional cost.
Cheaper shoes have their own set of problems, particularly high heels. While the soles on less expensive shoes might be made of rubber or synthetics which wear much better than leather, they usually come fitted with cheaper, flimsier heel tips — often made from plastic — that wear down to that dreaded ‘clacky pin’, sometimes within days.
Accounts manager and mum-of-four Nichol de Saxe from Perth bought a pair of black, sparkly closed-toe shoes from ZU for $100. Within three months, the heel was worn down to the bare nail. She says she can’t understand why shoe manufacturers cut corners and upset their customers.
“If they can make [the upper part of] a quality shoe last why can’t they put a better quality sole and heel on them?” she says.
One woman thinks she has an answer — of sorts. Brisbane businesswoman Stacey Davis was fed up with wasting time taking her shoes to be repaired constantly so she took matters into her own hands. She started her own company, Stacey Rose, which sells at-home repair kits for heel tips. Kits come with 36 different heels plus all the tools you need to do it at home.
“You don’t need to be a handyman or have any fancy tools,” she says. “It just takes a bit of elbow grease and you can save hundreds of dollars and a lot of time.”
But the question remains why shoe manufacturers can’t commit to using products on their soles that last for a decent amount of time in the first place.
“We know the materials exist, it really shouldn’t be that hard,” Mia Binney says. “From a practicality point of view, a decent pair of shoes should be functional and look good.”