Friday, 28 September 2012

A Bespoke Fit


It’s been a busy week at the studio with the Added Value? exhibition, a talk by iconic fashion commentator Colin McDowell, lots of fittings, new lasts being delivered and eagerly-awaited shoes being despatched to overseas customers…the pink and cream Battenbergs are on their way! (Boy, have I had sleepless nights about them, nightmares about things being spilt on them, water seeping under their covers etc.). But they left us spotless and now we hope that they do the trick – make a certain customer very, very happy and give his colleagues something to talk about!!  

Anyway, the fittings are always an exciting time because it is when we see how well our measurements have been interpreted by the last makers and it is when the customer gets a first look at their uppers. So whilst they are admiring the successful interpretation (we hope) of their dream shoe we are concentrating on the fit – are there areas that could fit better, how do they feel and is extra comfort or support needed?

Blogs and shoe forums usually talk about bespoke shoes in terms of style, but the comfort and fit is as important if not more important than the look. This is particularly true of customers who live with painful foot problems...as it’s our job to try to help to reduce or alleviate their discomfort where we can. The most common complaints we see are:

Hammer toes – where the toe is curled at the first joint raising it above the horizontal plane of the foot. This is usually caused by shoes that are too tight at the front or heels that are too high.

Morton’s Neuroma – where the nerves between the toes are inflamed (as the wearer of far too high and too tight shoes in my youth I know all too well about this myself and have had cortisone injections to try to manage the pain) and cause pain and numbness. Bespoke shoes are very effective in helping to relieve the pain by reducing the pressure on the metatarsals.

Bunions – caused predominantly by not wearing good fitting shoes, arthritis and inherited structural defects. It is an unsightly, painful bony mass that forms on the big toe joint and points outwards forcing the other toes to crowd against each other. Again, we can create space for the bunion and compressed toes within a bespoke shoe to help to alleviate the symptoms.

Flat feet – where the arch inside the foot is flat. This is very common and usually not problematic although it can cause the foot to pronate (rotate inwards). Orthotics or a bespoke insole-up-in-waist can help to correct the pronation.

Plantar fasciitis – this is a very common cause of heel pain where inflammation at the bottom of the heel bone causes excruciating pain.  It is treated with a combination of pain control, steroid injections, proper foot wear and rest. Its nickname is “policeman’s heel” and cushioning built into the shoe can help as part of an overall pain management plan.

All in all, helping to alleviate the above problems is perhaps one of the most rewarding parts of our bespoke work. Not only do we deliver a pair of shoes to suit the customer’s personal taste and style but we help them to feel more comfortable and confident by helping to reduce or alleviate some of their symptoms. One of our customers literally claimed that we had transformed his life! It doesn’t get better than that for us!

For now, we’re looking forward to our evening course starting on Monday and completing more customer shoes next week. Until then happy shoemaking!