A conversation about high-end leather shoes with bespoke shoemaker Saskia Wittmer.
Saskia Wittmer is not only regarded as one of the world’s top bespoke shoemakers, she has also managed to assert herself for fifteen years in Florence, the hub of the craft – as the only woman in a field dominated by men. While her workshop specialises in men’s shoes, Wittmer also knows the characteristics of quality women’s shoes. Saskia Wittmer gives She’s Mercedes her insider tips for choosing luxury shoes.
1. Examine the sole!
“The shoe’s sole should consist of either leather or rubber,” the expert explains. “I can only discourage people from choosing a leather sole with rubber inserts.” Leather soles with rubber knobs tend to become permeable to water. Furthermore, they shouldn’t be too thin, as they wear off quicker and not offer the foot enough grip and stability – this can become quite painful. For ballerina flats, high heels or similar shoes, she recommends a sole of at least three millimetres. Also: Don’t forget to check the insole. Often, leather is only used in the heel area while the front part of the inner sole is being disregarded. “Paper and cardboard as part of the insole are a clear sign for poor quality. Once exposed to rain, you can forget about your shoes.”
2. Know quality leather when you see it!
For her bespoke shoes, Saskia Wittmer tries to use natural leather: It is more breathable. She advises against leather that has been chemically treated, as well as patent leather since “leather waste or low quality materials are being used for this.” With matt leather, you can generally assume that it has only been minimally processed. Still, it is not easy to judge the leather quality of finished shoes. Many judge on the quality based on the smell of the leather, however, this can be misleading. Wittmer’s advice: “Watch how the shaft moves when you walk.” A single crease is totally normal. If you notice several lighter creases, don’t make the purchase.
3. Timing is everything!
“Don’t try on shoes after having been out and about all day,” Saskia Wittmer points out. The reason: After walking or standing for several hours, your feet can swell up – resulting in a size difference of up to two millimetres. The same goes for quickly popping into the store between two appointments. You should wear a pair of shoes around the store for at least ten minutes prior to making up your mind – plan your time accordingly.
4. Go for the right fit!
It’s fine for a shoe to have a snug fit at first – leather stretches over time. “You should feel the shoe, it should have a good fit.“ If you feel a pinch, it might not be the shoe for you. Wittmer’s advice: “Don’t base your decision purely on fashion. Try to find the shoe that fits you best.“
5. Prolong the life of your shoes!
“Treat your shoes to shoe polish before wearing them for the first time,” the shoemaker recommends. Aim for regular shoe care rather than applying too much polish at once. A cared-for pair of shoes can be worn in the rain. If you happen to live in an especially rainy region, you would be well-advised to choose half-rubber soles. “Suede shoes are best protected from moisture and dirt using a water proofing spray.” Also: Using a shoe tree will maintain the shape of your shoes.