So I recently took my “go-to” boots to Toseland the cobbler to be resoled, and it turns out that as they have moulded soles, they can’t be done. Nor can I have them reheeled. And when the soles go, so do the shoes. It’s a shame – I’m wearing them in almost every picture of me on this website.
I can’t complain about that because he said good quality leather uppers have a lifespan of around 20 years, and I have worn these constantly for more than 15. As Aunty M used to say, they don’t owe me anything. And to be honest, I am a little tired of looking at them. But it does mean I need to go shoe shopping and for someone who takes a lot of care with their wardrobe, I find shopping quite tiresome.
I was chatting with Toseland about shoes and shoe fit myths (we should have gone to the pub for a couple of beers) and I learned some interesting things, some of which I didn’t know before. I’m just going to smush it all up here for you so that I look smart. And you can read a little bit more about shoe care in my book).
Myth #1: Your Feet Are Mirror Images of Each Other
Your feet are not the same. One will be longer than the other, and one will be wider than the other; not necessarily the same one either. For some people, the difference can be as much as a shoe size! Additionally, you may have a congenital physical abnormality in one or both feet. And because you wear the same size shoes, one foot may have acquired more significant bunions or claw toes, (etc.) than the other. You should always fit the bigger foot, and if necessary use insoles to make up the difference in the other.
Myth #2: Shoes Come in Standard Sizes
If you have the sneaking suspicion that there is no such thing as a standard shoe size, you are correct. Different brands label their sizes differently so you can have shoes that are all more or less the same length and width, but different sizes. And while there are five accepted international widths ranging from A to E (narrow to extra-extra wide), most manufacturers only make one – often B, sometimes C (because it’s cheaper). Having said that, your feet do change in size and shape over your lifetime, your menstrual cycle, and sometimes even a single day. Not to mention that some shoe manufacturers are now mimicking their clothing cousins and introducing smaller vanity size variants. So shop at a shoe store and have both feet measured every time.
Myth #3: Shoes Will Stretch
When you complain that new shoes seem a little tight, many sales assistants will tell you that they will stretch in time. The truth is that most shoes do NOT stretch because their primary function is to protect your feet. Your shoes act as a mould that shapes your feet, and your feet serve as a support that helps your shoes keep their shape. If they feel a little tight, you need a size that is either a little wider or longer (or both). Just like clothes. You may need to pad them with an insole to minimise movement.
Myth #4: You Can’t Just Buy Shoes That Fit
Feet are three-dimensional. It is entirely possible for two people to have the same length and width of feet, but not fit the same shoe. There are differences in the depth or volume of feet caused by the arch height, and you can measure this around the instep. Most shoe manufacturers use a proportional range of three-dimensional foot moulds (lasts) when they make shoes. In general, if one shoe from a manufacturer doesn’t fit, none of their others will either (and vice versa). All you need to do to get a comfortable fit is to stop buying the brand that doesn’t fit and find one that fits better. Easy! But not easy given the time and effort it takes to find shoes you like. Look for shoes made in a country where the citizens are about the same size and shape as you. Or have them custom-made, which is not cheap but will fit beautifully.
Myth #5: You have to Break In Your Shoes
You probably believe that you need to break your shoes in, but you probably also know that it doesn’t seem to make any difference to their comfort in the long-term. That’s because the need to break shoes in dates from before the invention of petrochemicals when all shoes had leather soles. The leather was treated and hardened so that it was a bit like walking on a plank of wood, and you wore the shoes around the house for a couple of hours a day until you felt there was sufficient give in them, and you could probably stand to wear them for a day.
The Next Step
So with that knowledge in hand, shoe shopping might be a little easier, but I doubt it will be less tedious. I’m not looking forward to it. If the worst comes to the worst, I can pack my boots with cardboard insoles like they did during the Depression to make them last longer. Fingers crossed we make it through the winter!
I’ve just been told (by a reader) that Nordstrom will sell you the correct size for each foot. This service was available up to a two size difference, but if this applies to you, you might like to check before buying.