Travel guides have many different indexes categorising the highlights of various travel destinations, such as beaches, restaurants and nightlife. But for reasons we cannot understand, they always fail to highlight what — to us at least — is of primary concern: the shoe-shopping situation.
So, for those of you have been longing for the answer as much as we have, here is our definitive roundup of the best cities for fruitful footwear pursuits, in no particular order.
With the cluster of both local and international luxury brands that line the Golden Triangle area of Via Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga and adjacent streets (Via San’t Andrea, Via Gesù, Via Borgospesso), Italy’s fashion capital is still the world’s best place to go shopping for women’s shoes. It helps that the service is particularly fond at stores such as Gucci, Gianvito Rossi, Casadei, Rene Caovilla and Santoni.
Although Harrods made quite the splash in 2015, opening its Shoe Heaven —which is widely considered the biggest shoe floor of any department store — it is the smaller boutiques that make shopping in the British capital such a delight. Matches has a number of locations known for their unique edit, while Browns London is known to peg the next big name before anyone else. Also check out English labels and personal favourites of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, such as Penelope Chilvers (who makes her country riding boots) and L.K. Bennett (her favourite pumps). For the gents, it’s a dapper shoe-fest with labels such as John Lobb, Grenson and Olivier Sweeney, Gieves & Hawkes, all producing smart and timeless brogues, wingtips and ankle boots.
No visit to Spain is complete without stocking up on espadrilles, and this is where they were conceived. Many local purveyors fill the city’s marketplaces, but the giant above the rest is Castañer. While they manufacture the jute-soled summer shoes for the likes of Paul Andrew, Hermes, Valentino and others, they also have their own line of incredible styles. The store is located on Rambla Cataluña and Paseo de Gracia.
The city and state are major footwear centres populated by masses of smaller, local brands. Eureka is definitely worth checking out for its in-house label of Portuguese-made shoes that are both street savvy and very wallet friendly. Think suede flatform women’s sneakers for less than $60 – win. If vintage is more your thing there is Sapataria do Carmo, a delightful handmade shoe shop that makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time.
- Sao Paulo
While Havaianas is still the country’s biggest shoe brand, which you no doubt already have multiple pairs of, footwear enthusiasts flock to Shopping Iguatemi, a luxury mall selling Arezzo’s classic women’s pumps, Rio surfer bran Osklen’s raffia slingback and lots more. And make sure you don’t leave town without a pair of Alexandre Birman’s signature Clarita stilettos.
Yes, to many it is considered the shopping capital of the world, but more importantly, it’s home to Level Shoes, basically a footwear fantasyland – reason enough to pay the city a visit. The department-store concept is entirely devoted to shoes at every price, from thongs, custom loafers and everything in between. The brand assortment is what gives it the wonderland effect — from staple brands such as Chanel and Celine to a daring mix of new designers and limited-edition pieces.
The retail experience here is like a theme park for your credit card. For the most excitement, visit the topsy-turvy Comme des Garcon-run Dover Street Market, Opening Ceremony and Japanese department store Isetan. The display and merchandising alone will blow your mind.
- Hong Kong
Lane Crawford and its sister store Joyce have built a sterling reputation as the hot spot for delightfully exquisite luxury shoes in the city. Added bonus: Unlike many other department stores, there is a useful emphasis on both Asian and international brands, so you’re able to get a true sense of cultural tastes.
- Dallas/Fort Worth
It’s hard to not be smitten by all the western regalia in Texas and to leave town without your own boot-scooting cowboy boots would be a crime. For the most immersive experience, swing by Cavender’s, which has a number of family-run stores in the region. In Fort Worth, Finchers is another worth visiting with both snip-toes and saddle-ready styles.
- New York City
If Carrie Bradshaw has taught us anything over the years it’s that New York has the only the very best on offer when it comes to luxury for your feet. The city of labels and love has you covered from high-end designer pieces, high-street fashion and of course meticulously curated vintage. For a shoe brand, making it in New York is major. Madison Avenue is a top designer mecca and just close by is Louis Leeman, Jimmy Choo and Roger Vivier. And of course, the three B’s (Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York and Bloomingdale’s) continue to dole out an endless supply of dream shoes. Want to see the stilettos fly? Go right now, seriously don’t wait.