What to look for when buying a pair of leather shoes:

A pair of shoes may look elegant on display but can you be sure whether, when you get them home, they will prove to: keep their shape, last, be comfortable, hard wearing and above all enable your foot to breathe.  Needless to say we, at Bradshaw and Lloyd, only offer footwear which we believe ticks all these criteria.  However when you are considering purchasing a pair of Sanders, Trickers, Loake shoes or any other brand which you come across there are some tell-tale clues which you should look for:
If you don’t want to clear a room after wearing your shoes for a day, especially in hot weather, then it is crucial that your foot is able to breathe.  Because a shoe should be fairly snug fitting air is, by definition, unable to circulate around the foot.  Therefore a crucial component in a shoe is the foot-bed or insole.  In my experience there is no substitute for a full length leather insole and the thicker this insole is then the better.  No man-made alternative offers the same breathability as leather, and at the same time able to mould to the shape of your foot.  Cheaper shoes often have a ‘leatherboard’ insole which isn’t leather at all.  Leatherboard is actually a mixture of cellulose and paper, has poor breathability and doesn’t mould well.  Unfortunately unless the insole is stamped with a leather symbol it can be hard to differentiate between leatherboard and actual leather.  However leatherboard is very absorbant, so a simple test is to lick your finger and then press it onto the insole inside the shoe.  If a damp mark remains on the insole then it is leather, but if the moisture is immediately absorbed into the insole then it is leatherboard.  I remember from my misspent school days that blotting paper inside a pair of shoes could bring on a fainting fit, why would you want that?
You certainly want your shoes to last and so the quality of the leather used in the components is obviously crucial.  If a shoe smells good then you can be pretty sure that the leather used is of high quality.  Tap the soles, if the leather sounds as hard as nails then it probably is very hard, has a tight grain, has been well tanned, and will wear well.  If you can see the natural grain in the upper leather then in all likelihood it is a full grain calf leather and will crease gently and not develop rigid creases which will prove a weak point and eventually split.
Is the shoe lined with leather at the sides and under the tongue and if so does the lining go the full length of the shoe.  As with the insole you need a leather lining for your foot to be able to breathe.  Many cheaper shoes will have a canvas ‘vamp’ lining above the toes.  This is breathable but can wear through quite quickly and then the perspiration from your feet will start to act on the outer leather of the shoe which can eventually degrade it and lead to splitting.
Does the shoe hold its shape well or does it have a tendency to collapse?  If the latter then it is made from inadequate components and will soon lose its appearance after little wear.
The rest is down to common sense.  If the shoe looks, feels and smells good then it probably is a good shoe and will serve you well.  If it is branded with one of the better English brand names then you can be pretty confident that you are buying a good product.  But be careful there are some brands who will produce shoes especially for their sales and to a price to match.  However the famous family owned firms of Loake shoes, Sanders and Sanders shoes and Trickers shoes take their good name very seriously and you can be confident that if you buy a pair of shoes with their branding then you can be sure of the very high quality of your purchase.

Cross section of a Loake shoe When buying a new pair of shoes it is important to Inspect all the components.
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