At the risk of sounding like a typical girl, or worse, Carrie from Sex and the City, I love shoes. I would go so far as to say I’m a shoe fiend. I think I love shoes so much because I don’t have to take off anything, apart from the shoes I’m wearing, to try them on (I also think that’s why I only have 2 pairs of jeans). When I arrived in Argentina a year and half ago, I had 3 pairs of shoes. Now I have 9. There are black sacks full of shoes in my parents’ house. A guy recently told me that I always wear cool shoes. My best friend used to schedule time to go shoe shopping with me because she didn’t trust her own judgement, and will still send me photos whenever she is thinking about buying a prospective pair. There are whole swathes of the fashion spectrum I don’t understand, like how to wear a maxi dress or the best way to roll your cuffs. But shoes… shoes I know.
So, being the shoe junkie that I am, I have scoured the city looking for the best places to score a fix. At first, the outlook was bleak. Every girl I saw had what looked to me like clubfoot, brought on by wearing monstrous platforms that had been cast off with the dawn of the new millenium in the rest of the shoe-wearing world. Sadly, this phenomenon persists, but who am I to question the cultural nuances of fashion. Also, the quality of the merchandise I was finding was not quite what I was used to. Industria Argentina can wreak havoc on a perfectly good shoe given half the chance. Durability, craftsmanship and comfort become faint memories with much of the footwear in Buenos Aires. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are lots of stores offering just the right hit, if you know where to go.
Cows don’t just make a delicious dinner in Argentina, they also make pretty amazing shoes. Argentine leather is a sound investment and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the price tag compared with leather goods abroad.
Centrico sells beautiful, handcrafted leather shoes, boots and sandals. Situated on a corner in one of the nicer parts of Palermo on the Viejo side of Scalabrini Ortiz, the shop itself is a bright, whitewashed space that also has an art gallery downstairs. Each shoe is manufactured by hand, imbuing the footwear with a human touch, and as such each piece is unique. The store caters for both men and women, and the elegance of the shoes befits a more formal wardrobe or dresses up a casual outfit, making them a definite wardrobe staple.
Centrico – Francisco Acuña de Figueroa 1800, Palermo
Centrico’s shoes; photo by Sorcha O’Higgins.
Strictly one for the well dressed man, Teran is the go-to joint for formal mens shoes. These shoes and boots will feel just as at home in the office or taking your foxy lady out for some killer cocktails. Go for the classic Chelsea boot style and make your feet happy.
Teran – Thames 1855, Palermo or San Martin 1088, Centro
Chelsea Boot by Teran; photo courtesy of Teran.
Briganti offers a more classic range of footwear for both guys and gals. Priding themselves on being a long-standing, Argentine family business, the company has grown over the years and now has a number of branches throughout the city. Avoid the white, rubber soled shoes if you want to keep it classy, the exception being the loafers, which keep it boat-classy.
Briganti – Branches citywide
Ahhh, tango shoes. So pretty, so damn useless for anything else but tango. The thinness of the sole and the angle of the arch make tango shoes perfect for their purpose but very uncomfortable for use as a dressy shoe for hitting the boliche. However, Buenos Aires being the tango mecca that it is, no shoe list would be complete without the best places to purchase some dancing foot candy.
“No woman needs more than one pair of shoes. But when it comes to shoes and women, the word need doesn’t make any sense.” This is the shoe gospel according to Alicia Muñiz, founder of Comme Il Faut, the one-stop-shop for all your tango needs. Located in an upscale shopping gallery in Recoleta, Comme Il Faut provides a very personal service, with helpful assistants bringing you scores of glamorous, handmade tango shoes, ensuring that your foot leaves adorned with its perfect tango shoe mate.
Comme Il Faut – Arenales 1239 door 3 apt. M
Neo Tango have more than 10 years experience in the tango shoe business and this is the place to go for the biggest selection of tango shoes, from tango trainers and practice shoes to the real deal in varying heel heights. A great all-rounder for both men and women.
Neo Tango – Sarmiento 1938
Greta Flora has a different take on tango shoes. The products you will find here are gilded treasures, most featuring some sort of floral pattern or detail. Head here for lower heel heights and more retro styles, often in brighter colours and with adventurous materials.
Greta Flora – Acuña de Figueroa 1612, Palermo or Uruguay 1295, Recoleta
If you hadn’t noticed, Argentines like to look after their bodies. Crossfit, running, gym-ing and circuit training must mean the average Argentine goes through millions of sports shoes every year. Ok, that may be an exaggeration, but the market is definitely catered for, in spades.
For the best cross section of fitness footwear, head over the Avenida Cordoba around Scalabrini Ortiz. This is Villa Crespo, one of Buenos Aires’ best shopping districts, not least for sports shoes. Villa Crespo is the home of the outlet, and located in the immediate vicinity of the intersection mentioned above you will find lots of sports stores selling a wide range of reliable brands. Do not go to Once, where you may be fooled into buying a pair of slick Nike trainers, only to realise once you start pounding the pavement that they are a knock-off and you have been conned. The best outlets in this area are Just For Sport on the corner of Cordoba and Scalabrini (there is also another branch on Gurruchaga and Castillo) and Stock Centre, located on Cordoba 4619.
If you wanna skip the outlets, head to Palermo, where you can find licensed retailers of Nike (Gurruchaga 1615), Adidas Originals (Malabia 1720) and New Balance (Armenia 1564) selling imported footwear, so you know it’s the real deal. There is also a Converse retailer on Humboldt 1665, but beware, this sells stock made in Argentina, so the quality is not as good, although they still have a decent range.
Nike Store Palermo; photo by Sorcha O’Higgins.
Jessica Kessel makes wonderfully quirky shoes from a variety of materials, mainly leather. Go armed with cash on a visit to her showroom set in her amazing, jealousy-inducing home, because you will be unable to resist buying just one pair of her bespoke, one-of-a-kind shoes.
Jessica Kessel shoes; photo courtesy of Jessica Kessel.
Plastic shoe heaven can be found at Melissa. These super hip sandals, wedges and platforms are made from a breathable, eco-friendly plastic called Melflex, which originated in Brazil. Durable, flexible and awesome, Melissa’s shoes will make you stand out from the crowd, if you’re brave enough to give them a home on your feet.
Melissa’s plastic shoes; photo by Sorcha O’Higgins.
Before there was Paez, there was the alpargata, the famous shoe of the Argentine gaucho. Originally made from canvas and a rope sole, Paez has modernised the alpargata like its American equivalent Toms, and is the shoe of choice for making it with your feet intact through the sweaty Argentine summer. Paez are sold all over the city so you can’t miss them.
If you have been sucked in by the porteño platform, then two must-visit stores are Febo and Mishka. Both have numerous branches all over the city, and you can be guaranteed a more comfortable and better quality shoe than buying your porteño platform from a random shop like a boluda.
If the above information hasn’t quenched your shoe thirst, Shop Hop BA, Buenos Aires’ premier personal shopping saviour, can arrange individual or group tours around Buenos Aires’ best shoe showrooms and stores. Seriously, your feet will thank you.
Latest posts by Sorcha O'Higgins (see all)
- THE BEST CORNERS IN BUENOS AIRES FOR ANY SOCIAL OCASSION - April 3, 2017
- 6 TOP PICKS FOR OPEN HOUSE BSAS - December 2, 2016
- CLORINDO TESTA: OFTEN A NATION’S HISTORY IS REFLECTED IN ITS BUILDINGS - November 22, 2016