Shoe Geeks - What is a "Combination Last"?
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“Combination last” is a bit of a red herring, as there is only one possible combination: the heel width is always two measures down from the ball width.
Alden’s markings look like this (heel width first, ball width second): D/EE - B/D - AA/A
9 10 1/2
In these examples, 9 and 10 1/2 are the length, and C/E and B/D are the width.
In U.S. shoe sizing, the widths are: A & B = Narrow, C & D = Medium, E, EE & EEE =Wide.
Inside each Alden shoe, the width of the shoes are written as:
A/C, B/D, C/E, etc.....
The width is written as a 'fraction', and the bottom of that 'fraction', (the denominator) is the width of the shoe.
Example: C/E = E width, or B/D = D width
Unfortunately other combinations are not possible, someone who has a wide ball but a narrow heel cannot be accommodated.
(No AA/D lasts for example, D comes always with a B heel).
The relationship between front and heel stays always the same. It is possible, that many years ago, ball and heel width could have been chosen individually and truly combined. But that is not the case today.
(It like a suit which gets only produced with on 'drop', let's say '6'. The relationship between chest and waist, stays always the same: 6 inches.
So a size 38 (chest measurement) suit, comes with 32" (waist) trousers; a suit size 44 comes with 38" trousers.)
That was my understanding, e.g. that most/all makers do in fact use combination lasts even if they aren't advertised or labelled as such.
Combination last refers to shoes which combine wider and narrower widths. For instance, the toe box may be a "B" width, but the heel may be "AA" width. My heels are narrow, but I'm more comfortable with an average toe box, so a combination last works well for me. If I get a typical medium width shoe, unless it's an athletic shoe with which I intend to wear a heavy sock, the heel is too wide and "slips."