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Shoe help requested

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I could use some footwear help... My shoe collection lags well behind the rest of my wardrobe. I'm wondering if there's something peculiar about my feet. Very few shoes I try on feel comfortable, and I refuse to buy a pair of shoes unless they feel good WHEN I TRY THEM ON. I don't buy the "they'll feel great after you break them in" line. I bought a pair of Ferragamos a year ago to test that hypothesis. They're OK for the first 4 hours or so, then start to hurt, particularly when I walk in them a lot. I'm a 10.5-11 D/E, a relatively normal size. Bengal-stripe or some of our other shoe experts care to weigh in here with some advice? Do I just need to bite the bullet and head north of $500 per pair at retail? I'm reluctant to buy Lobbs, Mantellassis or similar shoes from E-Bay because of my fitting peculiarities...
post #2 of 10
I hope you don't mind me riding your post, but I'll second the need for footwear help. I have low arches and a flexible foot, plus my left foot is a quarter inch bigger than my right (a 9.5 is usually OK for me though), which necessitates a compromise in fit (good left, OK right.) I almost always wear high cut shoes or boots because with regular low cut shoes, I get lots of heel slip (or my achilles is irritated if laced too tight.) A local men's shop recommended Allen Edmonds as an entry level (lots of choices with respect to lasts, shape, etc.) Anyone have any insights or details?
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
I really like Allen Edmonds' styles, even thought about buying the Hillcrest (a current style), but they hurt my feet. Have 3 pairs, bought them for looks and price (2 pairs purchased at their tent sale in WI summer of '99)... I wear them intermittently to justify my investment, but they hurt.
post #4 of 10
If every pair of shoes you try hurts your feet, you may want to consider talking to a podiatrist.  Your foot may be shaped somewhat differently than the "normal" foot that shoemakers design for or (more likely) the pain is caused by the way you walk. A podiatrist can create custom orthotic inserts to put into all of your shoes - this should get rid of the pain.
post #5 of 10
Any ready-to-wear pair of shoes will be a compromise. In an ideal world, and if money was no object, your shoes would be made to measure. A last, an exact replica of your feet (both feet, as nobody's left and right foot are absolutely identical) would be carved out of wood and your shoes would be made on this last. Even then, a last is no plaster cast. Your measurements will be interpreted to the fashion and custom of the time and the place. A shoemaker in Havana would have a different understanding of what makes a smart shoe, from one in London. Not only different workshops but also different customers have their own concept of "well fitting". Allegedly Hungarian shoemakers aim for the tightest possible fit. Only once you have all those different ideas brought together, you might arrive at a "perfect" fit. In addition your feet vary. They are lager at the end of the day, in high temperatures and after being having been on you feet for a long time. It is best to try on shoes (or have measurements taken) in the afternoon. Do you have problems at always the same spot? To a certain extend shoes can be stretched where needed. You must have shoes that fit you well. Stick not only to this particular make, but also to that particular last. To go to really expensive makes will not improve the fit, it might be, if Lobb or Edward Green or Lattanzi happen to fit you right. But if their last(s) and your feet sing from a different hymn sheet, no way will you be better off. Go to a good shoe shop and have your feet measured. If you think 10½ D is right, maybe 11 C or 10 E is better.  I would only get shoes from eBay if I knew the make very well. And I would certainly avoid any high-fashion shoes, as their lasts will change according to fashion. Currently all YSL, D&G and Gucci shoes are ludicrously narrow and pointed. Next season, who knows, they might be back to squared toes again. If you get a new pair of shoes, don't wear them all day long, particular if you cannot change them (leaving home at 8 a.m. and not returning until 8 p.m.). Start them indoors, then wear them to shop locally, when you know you will be back home two hours later and can take them off if need be. Leather shoes will adjust to your foot to a degree, but that also depends where you expect them to ease. (Not in the length and not in the toe box where the inside toe cap might provide heavy stiffening). This applies particular to loafers, which can easily become too loose fitting, as usually they are also less rigidly constructed than proper lace-ups.
post #6 of 10
As always, I'm going to echo Bengal Stripe on this one. The solution is not necessarily to buy more expensive shoes. As I am frequently reminded, very expensive shoes are worthless to me personally if they don't fit. Else I would now be sporting the incredible pair of bespoke John Lobb cap-toes I have sitting on my desk. To help you guys we are going to need more info. Where exactly do your feet hurt? Are the shoes pinching your big toe, little toe, or too tight in the instep etc. For example: I have a similar problem and I only recently figured out what is going on. Nearest I can determine, my foot has a short forepart (long arch.) Going off the overall length of my foot I should be wearing a size 11 1/2 wide (ee or eee.) Problem is that the wide part of my foot is farther forward and doesn't correspond with the wide part of a ready-made shoe. So an 11 1/2 wide hurts. I usually wear a 13 to compensate but that is not the perfect solution either. My foot tends to slip forward a bit and wedge itself into the narrow part of the shoe - causing pain. It seems that if I were forced to stick with ready-to-wear shoes the best solution is to wear a 13 E and add a custom arch-support so that my foot can't slip forward. But even that isn't a perfect solution. As Bengal-Stripe pointed out, finding a ready-to-wear last that is close to your foot is a hit and miss proposition - usually more miss than hit. I've tried on just about every make known to man so this has become painfully apparent to me. You will need to pay a few visits to makers who sell shoes made on a variety of lasts. Unfortunately most of the Italian shoes carried in the US are only stocked in medium widths. Plus they tend to change the silhouette all the time which greatly impacts fit. It would probably be better off to check into the American makes - Alden & Allen Edmonds, and if they are a no-go then maybe Johnston & Murphy. Alden and Allen Edmonds make very good shoes. They aren't dirt-cheap but can a price be put on the elimination of foot-pain? If you can't find a solution there I would suggest you pay a visit to J.M. Weston in New York City. I've never been but I've spoken with them on the phone and they seem very knowledgeable. They can do a semi-custom shoe for you. They have a huge range of lengths and widths and can even order you a right and left shoe in different sizes if needed, or build up a shoe to compensate for a short leg, etc.       I am flying out tomorrow to Budapest Hungary to visit the showroom and workshop of Laszlo Vass. He literally wrote the book on custom shoes - it's called Handmade Shoes For Men and is available from Amazon. I recommend that you read it - it will give you thorough insight into the science and art of handmade shoes. Vass makes bespoke shoes for about $400 a pair.. Problem is that you have to fly to Budapest to get measured. I will be getting measured when I'm there so hopefully the days of imperfect fit will soon be over.     I represent Vass on the West-Coast and I hope to set up a Vass semi-custom program with a store in San Francisco in the next few months. So I will be quizzing them back at the workshop and taking lots of pictures. I'm certain I'll have lots more to say about fitting shoes when I get back. So until then (next Friday) have fun at the Style Forum..
post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
Where I experience discomfort most often is the inside "knuckle" of the big toe on both feet, or the outside on the little toe, which would tend to indicate width problems. Also occasionally on the back tendon that connects with the Achilles. Not sure what that's called. I have a pair of Terra Planas and Johnston & Murphys  that aren't very stylish but are very comfortable. I also have my eye on a pair of Danald J. Pliners that are the same, and Michael Toschis feel great on my feet as well. I'm just looking for something dressier that's comfortable. Andrew- I live in the Bay Area, so if you set up shop, that may be a great solution. I'll also be happy to promote your business in any way I can. As I'm sure you've been able to tell from my posts I'm a big proponent of independent specialty stores. Thanks, everyone, for all the help.
post #8 of 10
Allegedly Hungarian shoemakers aim for the tightest possible fit.
Shoes built in the Hungarian tradition (which also includes most Viennese cobblers) do tend to be very tight-fitting, except in the toebox, which is rather higher than British or Italian shoes. That's the main reason I don't own more than two pair of Ludwig Reiters. The only ones in which the high toebox makes aesthetic sense to me are the blunt, rounded Gustav Mahler model and the Reiter Sport trainers. Peace, JG
post #9 of 10
In [/u]Handmade Shoes FOr Men[u] it says that to many shoemakers the outline and measurements of the foot at rest (the foot expands when weight is put on it) is the most important. The reason provided for this is that the shoe will stretch, so if it is made to the dimensions of the expanded (standing) foot it will end up being too loose. Perhaps that philosophy is responsible for the tight fit Bengal Stripe mentions?
Shoes built in the Hungarian tradition (which also includes most Viennese cobblers) do tend to be very tight-fitting, except in the toebox, which is rather higher than British or Italian shoes.
That is an accurate description of the traditional "Budapest" last that Vass uses - not very wide and with a high toe-box. Fortunately Vass has a range of six different lasts that the ready-to-wear shoes can be built on. So if the traditional last doesn't work it's likely that one of the others will.
post #10 of 10
The more I think about it, the more bespoke is making sense to me. I remember having the same problem finding running shoes that fit well and worked for my running style. One model would work well for me, but then the manufacturer would discontinue it and I'd be on the hunt again. So unless I wanted to buy six or seven pairs at a time (I use 2-3 pairs per year) I was always looking for a good shoe. In any case, I finally bit the bullet price-wise and had a pair custom made and have been set ever since (the shoes can be resoled so I don't have to worry about discontinued models.) The dress shoes that have worked for me in the past (Mephisto & Cole Haan - both more "dress casual" shoes, even their dressiest are not super fussy) have a lot of comfort features, but I get the idea that foam, padding, air bubbles, etc. are a compromise to proper fit, and not actually a good fit. Hm, I suppose the key is to use a shoe for its intended purpose. Can't have a super dressy shoe that's comfortable for walking & standing around in (for hours at a time) with an oak leather sole... and a comfy walking/casual shoe can't be super dressy. Or am I way off base?
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