What is your opinion of the use of such a device as the primary or sole method of determining shoe size? Is is frequently used in an incorrect manner, or are there particular foot types where one should adjust the measurements.
The Brannock device is very effective for determining shoe size, if used correctly and you know how to adjust some types of feet for different footwear. First, you should always be seated while being measured. This is a point of contention right now, as the Brannock Device Company now publishes that the devise can be used either sitting or standing. However, I e-mailed the company asking when this idea changed (we always were trained to measure sitting down, by their own manual), and they responded that they are happy just to have stores use the thing, and it's just easier to let the stores decide the manner in which they are used. Better mostly right than getting too technical. OK, but the proper way to measure a customers foot is while they are seated and you are at the bench with the device on the footrest. If a salesperson does not do this, you will know they have not been trained too well. Period, paragraph. Most stores instruct salespeople to use the device as a tool to sell - if the customer takes their shoes off, there is a better chance they will buy a new one. Sad but true. Second, the most important measurement is the ball measurement. This determines the fit of the arch as well. If the ball of the foot is mis-placed, than the arch is too - in most every case (there are, of course, exceptions). Next, the width is determined. The salesperson will move the bar over to the outside of the foot and the lines will indicate width. This is what changes more than any measurement depending on the last the shoe that you try on is made from. I can only assume that, over time, shoe manufacturing has changed in this regard (girth of each listed size in this case) since the Brannock device was invented. One thing I do know, when width changes, the bottom of the shoe does not really change, the girth (volume) does. Maybe in the past this was different; I can not say. Anyway, it takes experience, but I find that the wider measurements need to be added to - D to 3A are pretty accurate. The very last part of the foot to consider is the toe measurement. Only if there is a longer measurement here than the ball of the foot should the results be considered. I can't really tell you when the last time I saw a foot with this result, so pretty rare. So, as you can see, it is pretty straight forward, and accurate with 'better' footwear. My shop is pretty much Allen Edmonds and above, in regards to quality, so that is my reference here. I can pull A/E sizes just about straight off the scale. Now, the more complicated part in fitting shoes is getting the proper type/cut of shoe for the particular shape/needs of the foot in question. As an example, this morning I fit a customer in Allen Edmonds shoes on the 5 last and the 0 last. He had been wearing the Park Ave. for years, and was happy - except for the 'break in period'. Well, in A/E shoes, there should not be a 'break in period' outside of simply getting the insole the soften into the gait of the customer. As an aside, this is why I prefer A/E to Alden, much better insole - the only factory I know of that cuts insoles in the factory. Alden uses a much thinner, pre-fab insole. Anyway, this gentleman had measured an easy 8.5D but he had a pretty high instep, with a moderately high arch. He had been wearing the Park Ave. in 8.5 E. The shoes showed un-even wear and extensive creasing. Instead of fetching an 8.5E and sending him on his way, we explained the need for a Blutcher pattern as being more consistent with his foot shape - and we could get a better fit. So, he took 3 pair of shoes, all Blutcher pattern, on 3 different lasts, in his proper size, and commented about how much more room there was in them. There was not, they just fit him better. One of the shoes was on the same last as the Park Ave., you see. Also, the new 0 last from Edmonds is very different in dimension than the more popular 5,7, and 4 lasts. In this shoe, he needed a 9D. The girth of the last is 1/4 inch more, but the length is 3/8 shorter, per same labeled size. Bottom line, the store personnel have to know what they fit. Finally, remember one more thing; shoe manufacturers change the toe shape of a model based on pattern or the prevailing style more than fit. If you consistently seek shoes where the ball of your foot rests comfortably in the 'ball' of the shoe, and your arch has a nice clean 'hug' to it (and I don't mean on the bottom, but in the line), you should have a good fit. Heels should, obviously, fit with a good grip, but keep in mind that sometimes, a properly fit shoe will slip in the heel slightly due to the insole, or a particularly stiff outsole. In many cases, this is not the result of a bad fit, just that the leather needs to conform to the foot. Just depends. There is lots more, but I got to get now, so i'll add to this later.