As a logical follow up to my mention the other day of a piece I wrote for Business Insider on shoe brands under $350 I would like to talk about how to tell if your shoes fit you properly. Which, to be honest, is not much different for men than it is for women. Additioanlly, keep in mind these bits of advice are equally applicable for shoes costing less than $350 as they are for those well over $350.
As I am sure we all know, wearing shoes that don’t fit well or that are uncomfortable can ruin a day. Many days, in fact. I remember in the days before I gained a proper appreciation for well fitting footwear I would develop blisters on parts of my feet meanwhile other parts would be sore or tender after a long day of wear. It would distract me from my work and have an adverse effect on my mood. It was no way to go about things. But a few years of trial & error and research into the subject has taught me a few important things which I would like to share:
1. Although the last is the physical form for which a shoe is constructed around (literally) it is also used to refer to the shape of the shoe. In short, the last used in making a shoe determines the toe shape, heel shape, toe box volume, instep height etc. The first time you put on a shoe, it is either comfortable or not comfortable. It should be snug, not tight and not spacious. Yes the leather plays a role in this. But it is largely due to the shape of the last and how well it fits your foot. And some lasts just won’t fit you. There is only so much you change on the feel of a shoe while breaking it in; some shoes will just never be comfortable (take for instance the photo above, all of the shoes are a US10 or UK9, which are equivalent sizes, note the differences in length, width and toe shapes; these are due to the lasts being different shapes). If women realized this, we would see far fewer of them carrying their shoes down the sidewalk while walking barefoot at the end of the night.
2. The last of a shoe has little to do with the quality of the shoe. You can find a shoe made on a last that fits your foot very well for $150 and then a last for a $500 shoe that doesn’t fit well at all. If you find a last(s) that fit you well, ask the brand(s) what other styles they make on that last and look to those for other options.
3. A shoe’s leather will often expand and widen with wear, albeit only a little bit. However, the shoe will not get longer. If your toes are crunched at their tips, don’t expect that to get much better with wear; you want a little bit of space between the ends of your toes and the end of the shoe. Either go up a half size or admit that the last doesn’t fit your foot and find another shoe no matter how much you like the styling of that shoe.
4. Wear the type of socks when trying on the shoes that you will normally wear when wearing the shoes. In other words, don’t wear ski socks when trying on dress shoes.
5. Know your shoe size, which is usually obtained by using a Brannock Device (pictured above). But keep in mind that this is not an absolute. In one brand you may be a 9 and in another a 9.5. Don’t be afraid to try other sizes.
6. Know that US, UK and European sizings are different. And that the conversion scales that brands use may vary. I have found the best luck in following each brands conversion scale.
7. Make sure the ball of your foot sits well in the widest part of the shoes, as the ball is the widest part of your foot.
8. Take note of how your heel sits in the shoes. If it slips out when trying the shoes on chances are this will not get much better, especially with a loafer. The sole becoming more flexible with wear will slightly alleviate this problem but the real root of the problem is that many shoes have too wide of a heel to begin with which goes back to my first point about lasts.
9. Walk around in the shoes before buying them, obviously. But take it a step further and once you have the shoes home, walk around in and wear them for a few hours on carpet or surfaces that wont scuff the sole of the shoes. This should give you a better feel for the shoes than putting them on briefly in a store; or if you purchased them online then this is a must do step. Often shoes are not returnable once the soles are marked or scuffed.
10. Nearly every person’s left and right feet are different sizes, often the difference is less than a half size so there is rarely an issue. Regardless, fit the shoes to your larger foot. For those with over a half size difference, some brands and stores may let you mix and match sizes or custom order two different sized shoes.
11. Shop in the afternoon, or at least a few hours after your feet have had a chance to warm up and expand, as your feet will become slightly bigger as the day goes on. This fact explains why sometimes when you put shoes on in the morning they seem fine and by day’s end they are tight on your feet.
If you have any questions or tips of your own feel free to sound off in the comments.