Finding shoes on the sale rack is a thrill, but stop to think about whether, even at that dazzlingly low price, they're truly worth it. A seemingly great deal will cost you more money long-term if the shoes wind up sitting unused in your closet. "Investing in boots that you'll wear many times a week isn't that expensive when you price them out over time," says LaRonda Denkler, owner and buyer for Vince Canning Shoes, a 61-year-old shop in Delray Beach, FL. But if you spend that cash on a pair you only wear twice—even if they were half off—"now that is a pricey shoe," she says.
2. SHOES SHOULD BE COMFY FROM THE BEGINNING
Don't assume they'll break in unless they're hiking or cowboy boots. Most shoes should feel good the minute you put them on, says Jill Schmitt-Adler, manager for The Shoe Box in Black Earth, WI, one of the country's largest shoe stores.
3. REASSESS YOUR SIZE
Like the rest of your body, the size of your feet changes with age—and not for the smaller, Schmitt-Adler says. There are 26 bones in each foot and they shift over time: Going barefoot, being pregnant or wearing flats with no support can all lengthen feet. So ask to be remeasured whenever you buy new ones (or every couple of years, at the very least). Also, to get the best fit possible, experts advise going shoe shopping in the afternoon, when your feet are a bit swollen.
4. CLEAR OUT YOUR CLOSET TO SAVE
Already have an ill-fitting pair taking up space? If they're still in good condition, try selling them on , a shoe resale auction site. Or donate them—Denkler says some shops, including hers, run charity drives where shoppers can trade in old pairs for a discount on new ones. And once your closet is cleaned out, you can see exactly what you have.
5. INSERTS ARE WORTH IT!
A cheap way to get near-custom shoes: Use inserts. They're a small expense (around $3 to $12) that make shoes much more wearable. Most people have different-sized feet, so buy shoes to fit the larger foot and use inserts to adjust for the smaller one. Tailoring is important, Denkler says. "Would you buy pants that are too long and not have them altered?"
6. STOCK YOUR CLOSET WITH KITTEN HEELS
Everyone has a stash of "special occasion" shoes under the bed that are too high (or too sparkly) to wear on a regular basis. The best dressy bet—for your feet, your wardrobe and your wallet—is a 1-to-1½-inch heel because you'll get far more wear out of them. This heel height is comfortable (even pointy-toe shoes can feel good if properly made and fitted) but still gives you a little lift.
7. LEATHER SAVES YOU MONEY
Leather shoes can be pricier, but when taken care of, they'll last longer than most synthetics. Leather is also kind to your feet because it breathes and molds to your body, Denkler says. Use shoe trees, clean away the grime, moisturize, then polish and waterproof. For a less expensive alternative to leather, look for for polyurethane or PU, a manmade material that still stretches relatively well.