Hotter Shoes – can footwear really be comfy AND cute?

When I was a little girl, shoes were something of an obsession for me. I loved shoes. Looking at shoes, trying on shoes, playing with shoes. I loved everything about them. Except having school shoes fitted. Not because of the experience itself (which obsessive wouldn’t love going to a shop wholly dedicated to their passion?) but because of the shoes that I was invariably made to have. And not because my parents were hell bent on me having strong, supportive shoes (I mean they were, but…) No, I hated the inevitable tears and heartbreak when I couldn’t have a pair I liked because a) my feet were too wide (seriously I was an H fit child) and b) they weren’t supportive enough for my pretty bad pronation. I would have given anything to leave with a pair of  Clark’s delicate, single strap Magic Steps. Remember Magic Steps? With the hidden key in the heel? But no. I would come away every time with a face full of tears and a pair of T-Bar, if not double buckle, T-bar shoes. Double Buckle? Oh the shame!

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Double buckle Tbar shoes – oh the shame! Image courtesy of Pinterest

Now I’m a parent I feel for my poor mum, having to dash her little girl’s dreams every shoe shopping trip. And I also feel for her, because as soon as I was old enough to chose my own shoes, all thoughts of supportive footwear, that fit properly, flew out of the window! Most children grow out of their pronation, but not me. Likewise most children’s wide feet slim down as they grow. And once again, not me. It doesn’t mean my love of beautiful shoes has changed. I still struggle to find shoes I like that fit. I usually have to get my boots and shoes either from plus size retailers such as Evans or I buy cheap shoes that I don’t mind painfully stretching, often beyond recognition. It’s been that way for such a long time that I never really considered that there was an alternative.

Hotter Shoes

When I was invited to Hotter Shoes in Guildford to take a look at their AW16 range I was skeptical. I had heard of Hotter. I was pretty sure I knew the kinds of shoes they stocked and was also sure I wouldn’t be interested in the styles they sold. Turns out I was wrong.

Firstly I didn’t realise they were a British company who make all their shoes here in the UK and have been for over 50 years! The family run company began in the slipper game back in 1959 and gradually moved into the comfortable shoe market, selling via mail order and in garden centres, over the next 50 years.

Hotter Shoes started in 1959 selling Slippers, which still form part of their core stock

Hotter Shoes started selling Slippers in 1959, which still forms part of their core business

It wasn’t until 2010 when they opened their first shop, that they really started to expand into fashionable styles, without compromising their unique construction and quality. Hotter shoes all have air bubble filled soles and use super soft leathers. They also use a special process to create flexible soles that are molded to the upper, meaning there is no sole unit to come away from the upper. Genius! Waterproof and flexible they also have “special grooves that yield and support your feet as you walk and pillows of cushioning create a slipper like feeling underfoot”. Fancy!

The look

OK, so that sounded lovely and all, but what’s the point of having lovely comfy shoes if they look like the very devil? So the lovely ladies at the Guildford store gave us a chance to explore the shoes for ourselves and I can’t tell you how shocked I was.

Yes Hotter have a core stock of exactly the kind of shoes I was expecting to see.

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But they also had a range of the most beautiful boots and dress shoes. I was gob smacked. But the biggest shock for me was the fit. I mentioned to the store manager that I have (and always have had) wide feet and she sympathised. She explained that much of their stock came in three width fittings, but suggested I try on the standard fit, as I might be surprised.

The fit

I chose several pairs of boots and honestly expected to have to also ask for the wider fit in all of them. However, turns out Hotter’s standard fit is wider than most high street stores, and is in fact closer to Clark’s Wide Fit. Every single pair that came out, bar one, fitted first time. Shocked Face!

Surrounded by boots that fit!

Surrounded by boots that fit! I cant tell you how rare an occurrence this was for me!

And even better was that I liked every pair. I loved the high leg “Mystery” boots (although I found they fitted my huge man calves better in the wide fit) and was seriously tempted by the gorgeous “Lotty” boots that I’m wearing above. I couldn’t believe how comfy they were, and yet how good they looked. They actually made my feet look narrower, despite not pinching anywhere. It was a revelation in boot shopping. I tried on so many pairs and except for the beautiful brogue Chelsea Boot “County” (which was just a shade too narrow and doesn’t come in the wider fit) they all fitted so nicely.

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“Mystery” Boots by Hotter Shoes

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“County” boots by Hotter Shoes

But when it came down to choosing a pair, I decided to go with the ones that made me happy. The ones I just adored on sight. The cute ones I would never have bought myself. The impractical suede ones, that make me feel a hundred foot tall. The ones that made me smile the most. I chose my grown up version of my Magic Steps, but without compromising on fit. I chose a black pair of “Vanity“.

"Vanity" Boots by Hotter Shoes

“Vanity” Boots by Hotter Shoes

Thoughts

I love my Vanity boots. They go beautifully with leggings or tights, and just as well with skinny jeans. The heel is probably as high as I can take these days, but it’s chunky and sturdy. That coupled with the cushioned insole, make these some of the most comfortable heeled boots I’ve ever worn. And what with the Christmas season coming up, wear them I will. I tell you now, I’ll be the last one on the dance floor, that’s for sure!

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My grown up version of Magic Steps. I got the ones I wanted!

They completely typify the kind of footwear I had no idea Hotter made. They’re comfortable, but they’re also beautiful. Who knew that could even be a combination? Not me.

I’ve had my eyes opened and I’ll definitely be back. Or maybe I could ask someone else to go back for me?

Now listen Santa, I’ve been very very good this year…. 😉

 

EDIT:

Hotter have very kindly sent me a code for £10 off a pair of shoes or boots, plus FREE delivery. So if you are tempted to try them out then now’s the time to do it!

Code: PQBTPD

T&C’s – £10 off plus FREE delivery is for first orders only. You are entitled to £10 off the total order value of any full priced items in the Hotter range (excluding shoe care products) plus FREE delivery.  This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotional offer or on Sale or Factory Clearance items and gift vouchers. Expires 29/1/17

 

 

 

 

Thank you to Hotter Shoes and the lovely ladies at the Guildford branch for a super evening. I was given a pair of boots for the purpose of this review, but was not paid for this post.

As always all opinions are honest and my own. 

 

Top Tips from a former Shoe Fitter

I moved to London in 1997 to go to University. It was my dream to move to the big smoke, and I was so happy to be leaving Devon. But no one explained how expensive a city to live in London really was. It became apparent pretty early on that my grant (yes that’s how long ago this was) was not going to cut it and I knew I had to look for a part time job. I applied for various positions, did a week in catering (HATED it) then found a position as a shoe fitter in an independent children’s shoe retailer in Fulham.

Shop front

I wish I had a better photo of this beautiful shop. Gillingham’s of Fulham.

We stocked many different brands of shoes and I was trained to fit by Start-rite. The shop I worked for was in the second generation of the same family and was run by some very knowledgeable and committed people. I came to know the different makes of shoes, the anatomy of the shoe (toepuff anyone?), how they were made and the history of the shoe industry! I was there for three years, first part time and then, when I left university, full time. Ben even got a job with them too. Yes, for a time, children’s shoes became our lives!

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Shoe fitting was our life!

So when I hear people talking about shoe fitting, I can’t help but interject. And as the season for thinking about new school shoes fast approaches you may be interested in my top tips for children’s shoe fitting and the dreaded back to school:

Be prepared.

Never just ‘pop in’ unprepared to have your children’s feet fitted. If you pop in with your kids feet filthy, covered in sand and without socks it’s going to make it both difficult to fit and gross.

There is a reason good shoes cost money.

Yes, leather shoes are expensive. That’s because of the materials and technology that go into making them. We’re talking real leather, with stiffeners and toe puffs and things to support your children’s feet as they grow. They’re also built to last. By skilled craftsmen and women. Cheap shoes, I’m sorry to tell you, are not.

Fitters are trained. You are not.

You think you can fit shoes yourself? That’s fantastic. Don’t bother going into the shop then. Seriously. Asking Clark’s to measure your child’s feet and then taking them to Matalan to buy shoes is like having your eyes tested at Specsavers and then buying off the shelf reading glasses from the chemist. The fitter takes all sorts of things into account when finding the right shoes for your child. The size is just one tiny aspect of it. Also, how one place measure’s and another brand fits is an entirely different thing. Just saying.

Choice can be overwhelming

Asking your (often too young to give a toss) child which pair they like in a shop filled with hundreds of styles is a recipe for disaster. It’s overwhelming and if they are able to chose a pair, and it is appropriate for what you’re looking for, it might not fit, or even come in their size. It’s much better to have a shop find pairs that are appropriate and fit. Then you and your child can decide if they like them.

Trust your fitter

All reputable shoe shops have trained their staff. It’s not in their interest for them to sell you shoes that do not fit. So trust them and listen to their recommendations. Any good fitter will take you through their thinking for the pairs they’ve suggested if you ask them to. You don’t have to buy what a shop has to offer, but have the grace to listen to their opinion. It is after all what you’re there for!

But most of all

Back to School sucks.

It does, for everyone involved. The shops ramp up for their absolute busiest time of the year and fitters will work non stop, with very little break, every day for weeks. But parents are also stressed, because, like every other local parent, they’ve waited until the very last minute to get their children’s new school shoes. I understand why parents do it. They don’t want to buy shoes too early and then have their children’s feet grow. I get it. But if you are going to wait, you can’t whinge that the shop is heaving and “a nightmare”, when the reason it’s heaving and a nightmare is because everyone has had the same idea as you. Be aware that everyone is in the same boat.

Be patient, be nice to one another and be especially nice to your over worked fitter.

Happy Shoe Shopping!

 

School Update

So yeah I guess I should update about Oscar’s school situation! It’s been a while. But for the longest time it was so up in the air. To be honest it’s not exactly ‘firmly on the ground’ now, but it’s got one foot on the floor and that’s good enough for me at the moment!

So if you remember it was agreed a while ago that Oscar should have an EHCP (an Educational Health Care Plan, the document that replaced the old Statement of Education) due to his diagnosis of Autism. We were thrilled by this decision, as this (legally binding) document sets out the support that he will need, to get the best from his education. Super! It also gives us as parents some heft when it comes to deciding which school he should go to. Fabulous, but this is a huge responsibility. And stressful. I mean what if we get it wrong?

Anyway, that aside, to enable us to try and make the right decision we looked at some specialist schools and some mainstream schools. We knew the ones we liked, the ones we loved and the ones we couldn’t stand. And we passed that info onto the local authority. Some of which was ignored. I think that was the hardest thing. Having to rely on people who weren’t doing what we expected them to do. Several times I was given details of organisations to go to for ‘advice’, when all I really needed was for someone to just do their job properly.

Eventually we were offered the specialist school we (for a myriad of reasons) couldn’t stand. And despite some efforts on their part, the LA just couldn’t get him a place at the specialist school we really liked. And do you know what? That actually helped clarify our minds, more than they had been for a while. Our Plan A had always been to send him to our first choice of mainstream school, one just out of our catchment, but one we felt could give him everything we wanted. And when we got offered a place there, I cried. Being able to put the specialist school question to bed (for now, everything is always ‘for now’ with children!) actually felt so good. I took that as a sign that, for now, this is the right thing to do.

So now we know where he’s going! Woohoo! We have discussed his EHCP with the school and they are totally on board with it all. There is one issue we are jointly going back to the LA to try and amend, and as this involves money it won’t be the easiest argument (because it will be an argument), but I feel like someone’s got my back now, like I’m no longer shouting into the ether. And that’s fantastic.

And when people ask where he’s going I can finally reply, straight up and positively. And that feels the best. I think because we’ve had to faff around for so long over getting his place confirmed that actually I don’t feel as upset about him starting big school as maybe I would have done had it been straightforward.

Now, if I could just get over how sad the thought of buying him black shoes makes me 😭

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