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Shoes buying guide

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Shoes Guide - An Introduction

Shoes were first designed to protect our feet, and while this is still one of their most important functions, shoes also serve a decorative purpose. Shoe design has varied greatly throughout time and across culture. For example, fashion trends will dictate whether or not fashionable shoes have high heels.

The earliest shoes date back to about 8000 BC; however, archaeologists believe shoes were used long before this period. There is evidence that shoes were actually used as much as 40,000 years ago. Early shoes were simple, often merely a bag of leather to protect against rocks and cold. In the Middle Ages, shoes were developed that had drawstrings or flaps that could tighten the leather for a better fit. Decorative shoes became a status symbol, with artisans creating unique shoes for their rich patrons. Around 1800, shoes began to differentiate between the right and left foot.

Modern shoes vary in style and cost, ranging from inexpensive flip-flops to high fashion shoes which can cost thousands of dollars. There are athletic shoes designed for specific sports, including highly engineered boots for hiking, skiing, or mountaineering. Traditional shoe materials include leather, wood, and canvas. More modern materials include rubber or plastics.

If you are shopping for shoes, Price Inspector will help. Our buying guide will give you tips to choose the right shoe for your needs, and then we help you find the best price. Our Inspectors compare prices at all the UK shops to make sure you always get the cheapest prices.

Athletic Shoes

Athletic shoes usually emphasise function over style, although looks certainly play a part in these shoes. Trainers may be designed for a specific sport, or you can buy a cross trainer that will work for multiple training sports. Running shoes emphasise cushioning and foot support, while walking shoes have more flexible soles are and lighter weight. Skate shoes used for skateboarding have a flat sole to provide a better grip. Golf shoes have spikes to provide traction on wet grass, while cleats have either moulded or removable studs for playing sports like football.

  • Adidas is one of the top names in trainers, making several different shoes for different sports. The Adidas Samba is a classic football shoe, one of the most popular models for indoor football. The shoe has a leather upper, EVA mid-soles, and non-marking soles.
  • The Converse All-Star shoes date back to 1917, and they are still a popular, classic shoe. They come in either high-top or low-top, in leather or canvas, and in a wide variety of colours.
  • Puma makes high-end athletic shoes for a variety of sport, including football, track, and basketball.
  • K Swiss is known for their tennis shoes, endorsed by several top tennis stars. 
  •  Nike Air Max The 2009 Air Max shoe has been designed to provide cushioned comfort for runners. The shoe is ideal for runners with either a neutral or an underpronated gait. The sole is designed to provide both flexibility and traction.
  •  Nike football boots are made for any condition, whether turf, grass, muddy or snowy fields, or indoor football. One of their most famous is the Nike Ronaldinho, which is part of their Nike Air Legend line. The shoe features a soft kangaroo leather upper, low-to-ground feeling, and increased arch support. 
  •  Asics makes a popular line of shoes for football, cricket, volleyball, triathlons, and more. The Asics 2130 is a running shoe designed to enhance your natural gait, with improved cushioning.


Boots may be designed for fashion, protection from weather, or sport. Hiking boots have a stiff upper for ankle support and extra traction on the soles. Boots for weather protection may be waterproof or lined for warmth.

  • Doc Martens: This line of footwear is distinctive for its air-cushioned sole. The work boots have been adopted for fashion purposes by youth cultures such as punks and grungers. Due to the cushioned sole, they have been popular with workers like postmen, police officers, or factory workers, anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet.
  • Timberland boots, available in both men’s and women’s styles, are designed for hiking and mountaineering. They have become just as popular, however, as a fashion statement. The boots are known for the rugged, waterproof or water-resistant designs.
  • Hunter Wellington, also known as Wellies or Wellingtons, are rubber boots based on leather Hessian boots. They were made fashionable in the 19th century by the 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. They are usually made of rubber or PVC plastic, and they are waterproof for use on wet or muddy ground or in rain showers. They are also used in industrial settings, such as in industry, mines, chemical plants, and food processing. Some are made with reinforced toes for industrial settings.
  • Ugg boots, also known as Uggs, are unisex boots made from sheepskin and lined with wool. Some have a synthetic sole. The boots range from ankle height to above the knee. Ugg boots come in a variety of colours, and you can find either slip-on or lace-up styles. The boots are designed to let the air circulate, keeping your feet at body temperature.

Other popular shoe styles and brands include:

  • Crocs: These plastic clogs were originally designed as a spa shoe, but when they were introduced at a boat show in 2002, they gained fashion popularity. The foam of the shoe conforms to the wearer’s foot for comfort and support. They come in a variety of colours, and Crocs also sells decorative accessories to fill the little holes, such as sports teams or Disney characters.
  • Hush Puppies are a classic brushed-suede shoe that has a lightweight crepe sole. Although the shoes were nearly phased out in the mid-1990s, they have again become popular among young, trendy wearers.
  • Vans is a popular brand of skate shoe, primarily targeted toward young skate boarders, snow boarders, and surfers.
  • Slippers are lightweight, slip-on shoes for indoor wear. They protect your feet against chilly floors or from stubbing your toe. Two primary styles are ones where you insert your foot through the top or ones with no heel, where you slip your foot in from the back.
  •  FLY London: These shoes have become the footwear that epitomizes youth fashion, style, and comfort, creating a fusion of street and music fashion.
  • Lelli Kelly shoes are designed to keep little boys and girls comfortable and fashionable, whether at school or sport. They wick moisture away to keep the child’s foot dry and comfortable. All their shoes follow high quality standards, with inner soles made of real perforated leather. The outer sole is lightweight and anti-skid. The sides of the shoe have a unique breathing system to allow a healthy change of air, keeping the feet cool and comfortable. 
  •  Merrell shoes are a line of outdoor shoes, including sandals, hiking boots, lace-up styles, and slip-on styles. They are designed for comfort wherever you wear them, in nature or in the city, regardless of climate. Their patented cushion mid-sole is designed to absorb shock impact and increase stability. It can absorb shock as much as four times your body’s weight. The heel cup stabilizes your foot by keeping your heel centred.
  • Like the famous Ugg boots, Ugg slippers are made from sheepskin and wool to keep your feet warm and comfortable. Slippers are a lower style and designed for indoor wear. They are available as scuffs that don’t have enclosed heels, ankle high boots, or low moccasins.

Tips to consider before buying new Shoes

  • Define whether you are buying shoes for sport, work, fashion, or a combination. This will help decide what your most important criteria is, whether it’s a rugged sole, trendy looks, or athletic performance, just to name a few.
  • If you are buying for outdoor wear, check to see whether they are water proof or water resistant. Boots are more commonly water resistant rather than water proof. This means that it will withstand a certain amount of moisture, but it will not keep you completely dry through extended water exposure.
  • Try the shoes on to make sure they are comfortable and fit you correctly. Even if you want to buy them online to get the best price, try them on first. Check for spots that rub, pinches toes, or slipping. Check that the shoes won’t crowd your toes, either squeezing the sides or jamming against the ends. Walk around, shift your weight, and squat down on your toes.
  • Make sure the shoes provide an appropriate amount of cushioning. This protects the delicate bones of your feet, and it’s especially important if you will be doing high-impact activities like jogging or if you will be spending a lot of time on your feet. You can add cushioned inserts to some shoes for added comfort.
  • If you have narrow feet or high arches, make sure the shoes are designed for your needs. If necessary, you can buy an insert to provide extra arch support.

Jargon Explained

SoleThe bottom of the shoe. This is important because the sole determines the use based on the style and amount of traction. A fashion boot may have a polished leather sole, while a hiking boot needs heavy, rugged traction.
Insole The interior bottom of the shoe, what your foot directly rests on. Shoes may have removable, replaceable insoles, and you can add extra insoles for comfort. A comfortable insole helps provide the appropriate amount of cushioning and arch support.
HeelThe bottom rear of the shoe. It is meant to support your heel. The heel can be flat for practical uses or high for either fashion or to make you look taller. 
Underpronated This is where the arch of the foot is high and does not make a normal contact with the ground. It is the opposite to flat feet (overpronated).

Buying Guide to Shoes
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