I was planning on taking up Paul's wonderful MTO offer on a brownish (walnut or Capp) shell Kenilworths. I normally wear 12E in the 5-Last but I have seen many a mention to size down on the Kenilworth so I first ordered some black Keniworth seconds in 11 1/2E to check these out first. When they arrived they were too tight, and as a side not--they bowed out at the ankles. I attributed the gaping to the incorrect fitment, as I have never experienced this before. So, I sent those back for for replacement with 12E and also confirmed my order for the Cappuccino Shell Kenilworth in 12E.
My replacement black Kenilworth arrived and while the fit and feel was great, these also bowed out, though not nearly as much as the 11 1/2's. I was now worried about my shells that I had just ordered and contacted Allison at AE. While I've never had any bowing in any of my other AE's, they are almost all balmorals or boots. Here's what Allison said: "If you have a low arch the 3 eyelet blucher style may not come high enough up on your foot and therefore doesn’t wrap as tightly around your foot/ankle area." I believe that this it exactly the cause. First off, when I was a child I had really flat feet, but as I got older and by curling my toes in while walking I eventually did develop arches, but they're definitely not high, or probably even normal arching. Also with the 12E Kenilworths now, if I curl my toes in and back, thereby raising my arch and the top center of my foot just a little bit higher, the gaping goes away!
While this doesn't exactly explain the bowing for those who get it with the PA's with more eyelets, it does confirm that it is related to the individual person's foot shape and therefore is a fitment issue and not a quality issue. It also explains why only some have a problem with it, while most do not.
As far as my shells go, Allison made the suggestion to try out the Black Hills, also a PTB, but with two more eyelets to hopefully make up for the deficit in my arches/foot shape. As an example of AE's exemplary customer service, she's sending me out a new pair of those, just to try on and see if i like them; and we'll go from there. While I'm disappointed not to be getting the Kenilworths and to have to wait longer, this is more than made up by the way the fine folks at AE go far above and above and beyond to make sure there customers are exceedingly happy!
Great to know! Hope the Black Hills work out for you.