Even though recently I’ve been having a lot of fun styling cute, Spring outfits – like this one – the reality is that I live in Scotland; the land of wind and horizontal rain. My Instagram feed is full of folks rocking dreamy floral dresses and while I don’t want to sound like a complete downer because yes, of course, sometimes I CAN dress like that in Scotland, but the truth is that for every day I get to leave the house with my pale, bare legs on display to the world, there are many more like today where it was very windy, intermittently heavily raining and oh, yeah, I had to walk more than six miles around the city. Some days I like to “style” outfits, but other days I pretty much just have to dress for the weather and the walking, which is why I wanted to include photos I took today in this post – because this is “real life” for me a lot of the time.
Footwear has always been a bit of a (first-world) struggle for me; because you see, I don’t have adult sized feet. In the UK women’s shoes typically start in a UK size 3. My feet are a UK size 2 – and I don’t mean “oh they’re a bit smaller than a 3, like a 2 and a half”, I mean, they are barely a 2. This makes buying shoes difficult, but it makes trying to obtain ethical or sustainable shoes MUCH harder. Basically, I get by with old shoes I have left from my fast fashion days, thrifted kids’ Converse, and with size 3 boots sometimes I can thrift them and just use insoles, and wear extra socks and make it work, but obviously, that’s not great for when I’m going to be walking miles in a day.
I’ve wanted a pair of Dr. Martens for literally, years. They’re very much my aesthetic, plus their reputation for quality and durability is outstanding. I wanted them to be my walking-around-the-city shoes; shoes that I could put on rain or shine, with a whole bunch of outfits for days when I just need to basically not worry about my feet. After I learned that Dr Martens don’t have the best ethics, I figured I would buy a pair second hand instead (plus, bonus – CHEAPER), but after trying on several pairs of size 3’s (the smallest adult size) second hand, it became clear that they were just too big and that they would rub and slide and not be the comfortable, reliable shoe option I needed them to be. So, I combed the charity shop childrens’ shoe sections for months, and I stalked eBay as often as I remembered to, but ultimately, every listing I saw was just too imperfect. If I managed to find a pair on eBay that was my size (and a style I liked) then inevitably they were very, very scuffed – I think with being kids’ shoes they probably had a harder life than a lot of adult shoes! Had I found them in a charity shop for not-very-much-money and been able to look them over myself it might have been different, but the ones on eBay weren’t going super cheap and frankly a lot of the photos were vague/blurred, so I wasn’t happy to gamble the money on something I really wanted to last me a long, long time and risk them being in a bad way when they arrived.
On a whim one day I checked the Dr Martens website and saw they had a sale on (which, because I hadn’t planned to buy new from them, I hadn’t been checking for), and on closer inspection I found a pair, in my size (in the kids’ range) for £35. They’re canvas, but the canvas is really thick and “waterproofy” feeling, not like the canvas of Converse hi-tops. The floral print on them wasn’t something I originally thought I’d go for, until I started to consider the fact that most days if I’m out walking loads I’m wearing my rain jacket (because it’s Scotland, it is going to rain at some point) which is black, and usually I wear it with black.. so maybe some cheery shoes wouldn’t be such a bad idea? Money wise, it wasn’t a great time to be buying shoes (even if they were a bargain) but Kenny and I reasoned that having sturdy, comfy shoes would encourage me to walk more and use the subway less, so in time, they would help save money as well as keep me healthier.
I think this purchase has also helped teach me a valuable lesson about shopping ethically: you can only do the best you can do in a certain situation, and that’s ok. Ultimately, I wish I could have found a pair second hand, but after months of looking (and quite a lot of blisters on my feet in the meantime), I couldn’t hold out any longer. I wish I had been able to buy shoes from a truly ethical and sustainable brand – but so few make shoes down to my size, and of the ones that do many of the designs are childish (I mean, they ARE kids’ shoes to be fair), or priced way above my means at the moment, and so I did the best I could. I bought a pair of shoes in a style and pattern that I love and feel safe that I will love for years to come, I bought them in a non-leather material, and I bought them from a company that is known for making long-wearing shoes, so while this might not have been the most ethical purchase of walking shoes, it should at least be my only purchase of walking shoes for a LONG time, and that’s something too.
Do you have a go-to pair of shoes that you always know you can walk miles in? Do you have any suggestions for ethical, small-sized shoes for me to look at in the future? Have you owned a pair of Dr Martens? How well did they last?