13 Checkpoints for a Men’s Comfort Shoes and Proper Fit from Jim Edwards, Master Shoe Fitter

John said: “My feet are always hurting me. I always get my shoes at a discount store, but what do you have on sale in a 10-1/2?”

I asked “Would you mind if I measured your feet?”

He replied: “You don’t need to, ‘cause I’ve always worn a 10-1/2. But if it makes you happy, go ahead.”

I had John step onto the “Brannock Device.” Then I found a pair of sale shoes I thought he would like and slipped them on his feet.

“Ohhhhhh, these feel gooooood” he exclaimed! “They feel great!”

“Are you sure you’re comfortable? I asked.”

“Oh, yes” he replied. ”These are excellent! What size are they?”

Your feet measured only an 8-1/2, so that’s what I got you. Do you like them?

“Oh yeah! And my feet feel wonderful for I also have perfect socks like these Grippiest Socks in The World!”

Case #1 – John’s feet had been hurting him for 15 years. (Somehow he had gotten the idea 10-1/2 was his size.) To save money he always bought shoes at self-service shoe stores that didn’t correct the misnomer – after all they’re just a box store. By simply measuring his feet, his whole outlook on life changed. Now, his feet are pain free! (Surprise, John was an employee at the store where I work.)

As a Master Shoe Fitter, I daily encounter feet that had been forced into ill-fitting footwear. You’d be amazed how common foot problems are: “hammer toes,” bunions, ingrown toenails, corns, etc. Sadly, those with damaged feet often try to hide them, never wearing open-toed shoes or sandals. When measuring feet, I get to see their problems, so can suggest shoes that best accommodate the client’s feet! It saves them time while allowing a better selection shoes that are comfortable.

It’s becoming extremely difficult to find experienced shoe salesmen who care more about foot comfort than making a sale. I constantly here other shoe salesmen say, “that’s a very, very nice shoe;” “that shoe is very, very comfortable;” “oh yes, that’s a great orange shoe and will go great with everything.” I can’t stand the lies, so walk away shaking my head.

1)   Overall Length. Using a Brannock device, measure foot length to the longest toe while standing with weight on the foot. (20% of all people have the 2nd toe that’s the longest, while in 5%, the 3rd toe.) Proper shoe length should allow about the width of a thumb between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. This is NOT room to grow, but space to allow the toes to spread out, before the shoe narrows.

Often, wrinkles directly under the inside arch will shoe if the shoe is too short. Tip: To assure proper fit put on socks similar to those you usually wear.

What’s the length difference between any size and a half size larger? Only 1/6th of an inch. Full size? 1/3rd”. As the size gets bigger, so does the width – 1/8”. Tip: Occasionally, one can select a half size larger to accommodate a wider foot.

2)   Measure the Heel to (inner) Ball Length. The Brannock device also measures feet 2 more ways. The second identifies the Heel-to-Ball length using a separate grid. The longer of the 2 measurements (overall vs. heel-to-ball length) identifies the proper size. In most cases if the overall length is 8, but the Ball to Heel measurement is 9, the larger size (9) will be most comfortable. (If a size 8 shoe doesn’t feel right, try a 9 or 8-1/2.)

Case #2 – Toby, his wife and 3 kids stopped in for a pair of athletic shoes, quickly asking for a size 12. I measured his foot. It was a 12, BUT the “Ball to Heel” length was a 13! After I told him about the 13s, he stated, “No, I’m a 12.” (I brought out both sizes anyway.) As soon as he tried on the 12s, he said, “they don’t feel right under my arch. Thanks anyway,” as he prepared to leave. ”His wife said, “why not try on the 13s?” Reluctantly, he agreed. As quickly as they were on his feet, his attitude changed. “These are great. I’ll take ‘em!” What an amazing 30-second turnaround!

3)   Measure the Width. It’s just as important as length! The Brannock device also measures width. Some feet are noticeably wide – others deceptively massive even though they don’t measure wide. But if  you suspect the foot is wide, try on a wide shoe. You may be pleasantly surprised! However, if it slips sideways on the foot, go back to the regular width shoe. (Nothing ventured; nothing gained – or lost.)

Don’t make a decision on a shoe without standing. The width across the foot can expand over ½ “. Some think a snug fit is necessary, because the shoe will stretch with wear. THIS IS A MYTH! Shoes don’t stretch unless pressure is put on them by the foot. Wearing tight shoes is the cause of hammer toes, corns, in-grown toenails and other maladies. Shoes should be comfortable from the moment you put them on! Yes, a shoe will stretch if it’s too tight, but not only will it hurt, now, but cause foot problems later!

4)   Find the Little Toe – You should be able to feel it on the outside of the shoe. If you can’t, it’s overlapping the 4th toe. Therefore, the shoe is too narrow and a bad fit. This is especially important on children’s feet.

5)   Feel the 1st Metatarsal Bone (over the Ball of the Foot) – Unless it is just in front of the point where the sole begins to narrow (just in front of the “Arch Support”), the shoe won’t fit right. The “ball” should fit into the shoe’s deepest part (socket).

6)   Feel the 5th Metatarsal (over the Outer Ball) – This is at the widest part of the foot. Unless this outer ball fits into its “pocket,” the shoe won’t flex properly.

7)   Check the Vamp – This is the top of the shoe over your toes. Do excessive wrinkles or folds form here after a few steps are taken? If so, the shoe is too long or too narrow. Another test is to push down on the vamp to make certain there’s a little extra room. No “give?” The shoes are too narrow or short.

Occasionally, customers decide to tryout the shoe with wild unnatural bending. This actually ruins the shoe, making it impossible to sell to anyone else. This is unnecessary and inconsiderate. Walk in the shoe as you would normally. If you feel a pinch, it’s the wrong shoe or size. Don’t ruin a $150 pair of shoes with strange antics.

8)   Be Certain the Throat Line Clears the Anklebone on Both Sides – The entrance that your foot makes into a shoe is called the throat line. After the foot is settled into the shoe, neither side should bite into the ankle bone. (A remedy can be to put a heel pad or foot pad into the shoe. This can raise the ankle bone above the irritating “throat line”.)

Case #3 – I bought a shoe that at 1st blush was comfortable, looked great and priced right. Later I found out it “bit” into my ankle. The shoe is almost 10-years-old now and still looks great. But I’ve only worn it 10 times. It’s just too painful. I learned a costly and painful lesson!

9)   Check the Topline – Look again at the “throat line” as the person is walking. It should hug the foot. If it gapes open or is excessively loose, it’s usually due to the person’s extra-wide heel, a too-narrow fit or flat feet.

10)  Look at the Back of the Heel – If the shoe is too big, a gap will be evident and the shoe will slide on the heel. Also, make certain it doesn’t bite into the heel’s tendon. This will cause a blister and later a callous.

11) Check the “Cuboid” – This is the knob protruding on the foot’s outer side, halfway between the heel and the little toe. On some people the “cuboid” protrudes more and can be a source of irritation by a shoe that’s too narrow.

12) Arch Support – The arch is midway between heel and toes. It needs to be supported by a raised portion of the shoe. Question: Does the shoe even have one? It’s important to have a support under the arch, if you are expecting to be comfortable for long periods of time. The lack of an arch support is why “Tuxedo Shoes” and flip-flops are sooooo uncomfortable. This allows the arch to flatten out putting stress on ankles, knees, back and feet. (Pay for a good shoe now or pay a Chiropractor, Osteopath and/or Podiatrist later since you will be enduring lots of pain.)

13) Check the Lace Rows on Oxfords (shoes with laces). When laced both sides should be parallel between the eye holes on “Blucher” designs and form a slim “V” on a “Bal” (Balmoral) design.

Because there are so many variations to an individual’s feet, it’s almost impossible to purchase Men’s Comfort Shoes on line. I recommend seasoned shoe professionals. Fitting feet properly in shoes is not an exact science, but more of an art.

For more foot and shoe advice see these following articles:

Like to get Best Deal on Men’s Shoes?  click here

Like Advice to Buying Men’s Shoes?  click here

Like Remedies to Foot Odor (Stinky Feet)?  click here

Like a Shoe Size Guide for European Sizes?   click here

Responsible for Buying Kids Shoes?   click here

Photo by Barbara L. Hanson