When it comes to shoes for costumes, you will almost definitely have to pick from the following: completely accurate, comfortable, or cheap. Most of the time, you’ll only get two-out-of-three. Getting all of them happens rarely and should be treated as a Christmas miracle any time it does. As always, it is up to you which route you prefer to take and as always, I have my personal preference. (It’s comfort. I always go for comfort.)
But first… Hey you! Yes, you reading this. Do you have new shoes for a costume for an upcoming convention? Go put them on right now. I’ll wait. Look: I even have mine on! The most important thing to do for any pair of shoes you intend to wear for a costume is to make sure that they are broken in well in advance. The absolute last thing you want to do is get to the con with a pair of brand spanking new shoes and get blisters because they rub you the wrong way or find out that you can’t actually walk in them. Put those babies on now and wear them around the house or while running errands. Your feet will thank you in the long run.
Let’s get back to the process of picking those shoes…
Accuracy: Are you planning on submitting this costume to a group like the 501st or the Rebel Legion where there are specific standards? If so, you definitely want to pay attention to accuracy or you may be asked to use different boots or shoes before it is accepted. Accuracy is never a bad thing to strive for but if you’re not looking to join a group with very specific costume standards or you’re not personally driven to be 100% accurate, this is somewhere where it’s okay to hand wave a little unless the shoes are a super integral part of how the costume looks. Sailor Moon is a character that comes to mind as a good example of where accuracy is probably more important. If you’re looking for a pair of character specific shoes, check out Etsy and Ebay as there are vendors who specialize in that sort of thing especially for anime characters.
Comfort: When it comes to wearing a costume at a convention, comfort is frequently forgotten until you’re there at the con and it’s been five hours and suddenly you realize that you can’t feel your toes anymore. After a few too many years of wearing stilettos around conventions for a few hours, I now do whatever I can to wear flat shoes or else ones with a low enough heel that I know I’ll be okay wearing them for a while but I will make an exception for costumes that require heels to be more accurate and for costumes that need the extra height so a skirt doesn’t drag on the ground but I do try and limit the amount of time that I wear said shoes. For female superhero costumes, buying a pair of correctly colored boots that also come with a tall heel may seem like an easier option (and yep, it will make your legs look great,) but you should also consider making your own boot/shoe covers that can either be made with cheap flats and spandex or that can go over another pair of shoes you already own and wear. I bought a pair of stiletto red boots at the last minute for my Scarlet Witch costume years ago and regretted it after I had only minimal feeling in my toes the next day after wearing them all night at Dragon Con.
You can also consider adding inserts into your shoes. I had a pair of boots that were comfortable for daily use but wrecked havoc on my feet when I wore them on the concrete convention floor for 8+ hours. A pair of Dr. Scholl’s inserts did wonders and now I’m considering adding inserts into more of my shoes. Of course, if you’re only intending to wear a costume for a photoshoot or for a very short period of time, comfort might not be nearly as important to you.
Cost: Shoes tend to not be cheap if you want to get something that will last more than a wear or two. It’s unfortunate but true. One of the ways I suggest mitigating the cost is by buying shoes for a costume that you can either also wear in real life or that you can wear for multiple costumes or both. The majority of the boots I wear for costumes were bought so I can wear them on a regular basis too. This alone made paying a few extra bucks worth it. If you’re buying shoes for a costume that you intend to wear a lot, paying more can also be worth it simply because pricier shoes are less likely to fall apart and need to be replaced. If you’re getting shoes to wear for a costume you’re probably only going to wear once or twice, then $15 or $20 shoes could suit your needs just fine.
You should also consider sale stalking and making sure you’re looking at retailers during their end-of-season times. Late winter is the perfect time to buy boots as stores are trying to clear out their stock. It’s possible to get some excellent deals. Case in point: I purchased a pair of flat, black BCBGeneration boots from Amazon in late February 2015 for $43. They have since been used for at least 8 different costumes. Ebay is another good place to hunt for shoes (or any costume piece really) as you can often find a good deal. Another example: I was able to find a pair of good black riding boots for my Imperial Officer uniform for only $50 when they usually run more towards $200. They’re a little big but the price was absolutely worth it.
(Psst: Did you ignore me when I told you to put on those new costume shoes before? Go put them on now then. I’m completely serious. In fact, I’m writing this at my day job and I have on the new boots I’m using for my Seventh Sister costume. Get your feet used to the shoes and vice versa.)
To sum it all up: Decide whether accuracy, comfort, or cost is more important to you when looking for costume shoes and then make sure you break your shoes in before the con. And here endeth the lesson. Don’t forget you can always leave a comment or tweet me with whatever you’d like to see the Costume Counselor cover next time!