Choose your shoes

Baseball’s Ken Griffey Jr., football’s Emmitt Smith and basketball’s Penny Hardaway and Grant Hill all have two things in common. They’re great professional athletes and great shoe sellers.

Problem is, Junior’s shoe might not be right for Emmitt. And Emmitt‘s might not be right for you.

If you need new shoes–for playing sports, not making a fashion statement–there’s only one way to buy them.

Watch the pros’ polished television ads all you want. But when it comes time to pay out cold cash, be foot-smart.

Get Fit

Your first step toward foot-smarts is to shop at stores specializing in athletic shoes. Their employees are trained to help you find the right shoe with the right fit.

When you go to the store, be prepared to:

* Tell the fitter if you play one sport or many.

* Bring your old sport shoes. Worn areas on the shoes let the fitter see how you use shoes.

* Show the fitter your bare feet. Fitters learn a lot just by looking at your foot shape, plus they can check your arch, instep and Achilles tendon region above the heel.

* Have your feet measured, even if you just bought new shoes a few months ago. Your feet change constantly.

Pick a Shoe

It is up to you to decide which type of shoe you want. Most athletic shoes are specially made for one sport.

* Tennis shoe: Experts call a quality tennis shoe best for all-around wear. A tennis player makes quick starts and stops. Built-in support straps and loot frames hold up to side-to-side moves. Low-cut tops are most common.

* Running shoe. A runner moves in a straight line, so a running shoe must raise and comfort the heel to protect the Achilles tendon. There is little side-to-side support. Many runners prefer a light shoe and pick one with EVA, a featherweight cushioning, instead of heavier but longer-lasting (and usually cheaper) polyurethane. Some have trim that reflects light for running more safely at night.

* Basketball (or court) shoe: A basketball player makes explosive starts and stops, soaring jumps and great slam landings. Strong court shoes are built with stability straps, sturdy foot frames, heel counter to cradle the heel and padded mid-cut or high-top to protect against ankle injury.

Still can’t decide? Try a cross-trainer. That’s a cross between a running shoe and court shoe, designed to be worn for many activities.

Tom Brunick, director of the Athlete’s Foot WearTest Center, has tried out tons of shoes. For all-around use, he suggests a tennis shoe or a cross-trainer.

Pick out a mid-height tennis shoe [three-quarter top], even if you don’t play tennis,” Brunick says. “It gives durability and traction on outdoor surfaces. It also gives good cushioning and support.

Pick a Price

Athletic shoes can cost $100 and up. Yet quality shoes are available for under $50–far less if you can live with last season’s style.

Ask the shoe fitter to suggest a mid-priced shoe that can perform nearly as well as the top dogs. Canvas shoes are cheaper, but leather supports growing feet better.

Be prepared to pay more for shoes the big-name athletes endorse. Those big bucks not only go into high-tech features, but extra advertising too. Think about how much that Penny Hardaway signature really means to you before paying for it.

All’s Well That Fits Well

Never leave a store with new shoes that don’t fit perfectly. Your heel should be snug, with about a thumbnail-width space between the tip of your big toe and the tip of the shoe.

Don’t buy a shoe to grow into. If a shoe is too big, your foot will rub, forming a blister. And don’t squeeze into a small size. If a shoe is too small, your big toe could cramp and bruise. Wiggle your toes to check.

Not even Emmitt Smith can do that for you.

Get to Know Your Feet

The more you know about your feet, the better you’ll be able to choose your shoes.

Try this trick:

Step into an empty cardboard shoe box with a wet, bare foot. Take a look at the footprint you leave. The less footprint you see, the higher your arch is. That’s valuable info for a shoe fitter.

Here are some words to know:

* Achilles tendon: The tendon that connects the back of the heel to the muscle of the leg.

* Arch: The upward curve between the ball of the foot and the heel. Measured as high, low or normal.

* Instep: The upward curve between the ball of the foot and the heel. Measured as high, low or normal.

* Instep: The upper part of the arch.

* Last: The shape of a shoe. Either straight (for low arches), curved (for high arches) or semi-curved (also called semi-straight, for normal arches).

The Clarks Originals Desert Boot continues to be a perennial favorite

The British shoe label Clarks from the small village of Street in the English county of Somerset is nearly 200 years old. Compared to that, a 65-year-old shoe is really just a spring chicken. Nathan Clark designed the classic model in 1949 and based it on a British Army shoe for the desert he discovered at a Cairo bazaar. The Desert Boot, with its clean, simple design and unmistakable crepe sole, truly became cult footwear among musicians and artists in the scene. It has been an iconic style of shoe ever since.

But the label is not about to rest on its laurels. After all, there are two things to celebrate: the 65th birthday of the Originals and 65 years of partnership with the English leather manufacturer Charles F. Stead. Starting in spring/summer 2015, the classic shoe model will be highlighted as a Made in England limited edition model. “There will only be 1,950 pairs of shoes produced for this edition internationally,” explains Rolf Huigen, director of Central and Eastern Europe at Clarks. Nathan Clark’s “Original” is featured in the special edition in a new style: Charles F. Stead’s signature sand colored Bronto suede with the unmistakable orange thread seam and leather soles.

The special edition is modeled after the original bazaar pair which also had leather soles. Only later was the trademark crepe sole added. As Huigen explains, “The shoe costs 220 Euro and will be supplied one season long to select large-city stores around the world.” In addition, starting in spring/summer 2015, all Clarks Originals Desert Boots in Stead suede or smooth leather will sport the Stead leather tannery logo on the insole to commemorate the shared legacy of both firms.

There is no lack of creativity at the British company when it comes to staging the Desert Boot well. In July, Clarks worked with the Canadian backpack manufacturer Herschel Supply Co. and gave the Originals a new outdoor twist: For this collaboration, the Desert Boot features blue premium quality leather, denim patches on the heels, red- and white-striped inner lining and leather laces.

The timeless Clarks silhouette and the Canadian specialist for backpacks, bags and accessories are a perfect match,” said Auke van Alberda, head of marketing, Europe, at the presentation in the Walls Gallery in Amsterdam. The limited edition of 600 pairs was shipped to select retailers and quickly sold out. Another partner is also getting involved for the introduction of a new Clarks Originals sport collection for the spring/summer campaign.

The Desert Boot will continue to be at the heart of the Clarks shoe family, which has over 1,000 models and launches two collections a year for women, men and kids. Many types of shoes from the collection are modeled after the purist jubilee shoe. There is the classic version, but also spin-offs with snake prints, a metallic look, the heels open, with a heel, a pointed toe, with eye catching flats or a Japanese motif. The special thing about Clarks shoes is the distinctive handcrafted precision. And nobody wants to change this, either-since its inception, Clarks has successfully combined style, excellent craftsmanship, quality and design. “Comfort is, however, the most important technical quality we are known for,” says Huigen.

ABOUT CLARKS

  • Founded in 1825 by the brothers Cyrus and James Clark in Street, Somerset County, England
  • 1950 Nathan Clark designs the first Clarks Originals Desert Boot
  • Headquarters: C&J Clarks International Ltd, 40 High Street, Street, Somerset, with branch offices in all key countries
  • Sales in over 150 countries
  • 800 of its own retail shops around the world with store openings planned in Benelux, France, Spain and Germany
  • With around 52 million pairs of shoes sold, Clarks is one of the world’s largest brown shoe manufacturers
  • It has two collections a year of more than 1,000 models for women, men and children
  • Stock availability: 5 million pairs of shoes
  • A total of 15,000 full-time employees at all Locations