Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Getting The Fit

As bespoke shoemakers, we spend much of our time finessing a customer’s lasts to ensure a good fit. The lasts do not replicate the foot exactly, but instead are an approximation of its shape and volume to accommodate this flexible limb that keeps us upright and active.
We take a series of drawings and measurements to create the lasts - the distance around the instep and the heel (this holds the foot in a shoe or boot); the measurement around the instep and arch; the width of the joint at its widest point; and the space around the toes themselves.
We also take foam impressions of the feet so that we can understand where the weight is distributed and where arch support is needed. All of this information helps to inform us as designers and shoemakers.
But what of the high street? With the big January sales well under way, how do you avoid being swept up in the moment and buying shoes that don’t fit? What should you look for? How do you know if the shoe fits?
There are so many things to consider when buying shoes, but these are our top tips to help you to get a good fit.
  • Never buy a pair of shoes ‘in your size’ without trying them on. Standard sizes vary from brand to brand so you do need to try them.
  • Some styles will suit your feet better than others. For instance if your feet swell during the day, a Derby will be more comfortable than an Oxford. This is because the front laced section of a Derby can be opened up/loosened more than an Oxford which is closed at the front. This also applies when you fly or in warm weather.
  • Brands from northern Europe tend to have a wider joint as standard and southern European/Mediterranean brands tend to have a narrower, slimmer fit at the joint.
  • Remember that one foot is usually bigger than the other so always try on both shoes.
The check list when you try on a pair of shoes:
o Is there enough space for your toes when you are standing upright and walking?
o Does the back of the shoe feel comfortable and cup your heel?
o Does the heel slip at all when you walk?
o Is there enough room on your instep (the top part of your foot)?
o Is there enough room for your foot across the widest part of the shoe, at the joint?
o Do your toes clench up when you walk? (This suggests your foot may be slipping in the shoe).
o Does the shoe support the arch of your foot?
And ultimately the main question is “Does it hurt”? I can assure you, after years of wearing ill-fitting shoes and super high heels that if it hurts when you try the shoes on, it will still hurt many, many months later!
So gentlemen beware! Please don’t use your feet to stretch a shoe to fit, enjoy the sales but choose carefully. (Words of advice from one who has been there, seen it, done it and is now paying the price with painful sesamoids not what you think – actually two small bones under the big toe joint).
We always prefer our bespoke customers to come to us through desire rather than necessity ;).
Until midnight tonight, when we wish everyone a very happy New Year and 2012!