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Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by DWFII, Aug 23, 2014.
Once again, thank you very much, DW. It couldn't have been explained better I think.
If you are interested in science, here's something from CAD/CAM ergonomics and informatics researchers.
The degree of toe spring in a last depends on several factors, namely the heel height, the shoe style, the upper material, and the general flexibility of the shoes. When the heel height is high, the toe spring is lower. Stiff upper material requires more toe spring. Furthermore, toe spring depends on the purpose of the footwear. Normally walking shoes need more toe spring than dress shoes, while ballet shoes do not have toe spring.
I am neither a shoemaker nor a craftsman beyond simple woodworking, but I am fascinated by this thread and the elegance of the posters. I have read in entirety and want to thank those of you who continue this noble profession. I am quality shoe lover, but have never gone bespoke. Someday I will, and when I do it will be the result of reading this thread. Again, thank you for committing your life to this passion.
That's the theory but not always the practice. It's simply the inverse of low heel more spring.
That said, I know of no real life example where the stiffness of the upper can be consistently correlated to toe spring. Nor, in general, can the function of the shoe. Some mountain climbing or hill walking shoes sport a very extreme toe spring but these are, as mentioned extreme.
Ballet shoes have no toe spring because the person wearing them is literally standing on blocks of wood that are built into the ends of the shoes. The toes of the foot are, IIRC, actually bent under. AFAIK...even by the wildest stretch of imagination...none of the reasons for, nor putative functionality of, toe spring applies to ballet slippers.
In mathematics, its the exact same inversely proportionate relationship. I wouldn't call it the "inverse" of low heel more spring as "inverse" implies an opposite relationship, while its describing the same thing in different ways.
Mind you that the paper are written by ergonomics researchers/CAD guys exploring customized lasts using algorithm and modern equipments.
p.s., I think ballet dancers tip toe, not actually bending their toes, and the mentioning of ballet shoes is to demonstrate their point of form following function.
At the risk of introducing an element of embarrassment...I would suggest that we have had this discussion before--it's all "ivory tower" stuff. Until we see real life examples rather than attenuated and speculative, pie-in-the-sky hypothesis, the first and most salient question has to be how anyone can take such comments seriously.
Where are the shoes, IOW?
But the further question...and one that is perhaps much more interesting...is whether people indulging in this kind of digital mimeographing are really able, or even interested in, understanding what they are echoing.
PS...you may be right about how ballet dancers use their toes...I'm not one. My point is that it is bogus to make any reference to toe spring with regard to ballet shoes. That said, I understand that you're just reproducing something you read or saw on the internet and have no way of personally validating.
I understand you dislike the industrialized or institutionalized model of shoemaking, by either large corporations or small ateliers. Lastmakers make lasts, shoemaker makes shoes.
The paper I've cited is about shoe lasts, not about shoes.
Here are some ballet shoe videos. All of the ballerina heavily customize their RTW ballet shoes according to their feet, the way they dance, and the ballet act. Customizations including cutting outsoles in half, breaking the shank, breaking the toe stiffener, a lot of burning, stitching, and gorilla glues, etc.
Form follow function.
Some cobblers can help their customers RTW shoes fit better, by adding support or stretching shoes here and there.
from a medical / biomechanics standpoint, having at least a moderate toe spring will ease a proper gait for most people walking in daily life.
The foot is meant to roll forward as moving from the stance phase to swing phase of gait. Many people do not have enough degree of dorsiflexion of the hallux (lifting of the big toe at the big toe joint) to have the proper movement for gait, so the toe spring will help this process happen more efficiently.
This effect is exaggerated in some shoes that have rocker bottom soles. These shoes are used for people who have very little dorsiflexion as well as some other orthopedic deformities that are out of the scope of this comment.
Yes it is possible to have no toe spring, but most people will just slap their feet, causing a problem with walking that can even damage parts of the foot as well as causing an increased pressure that can work up to various bones and joints.
I don't agree with the extreme toe spring of some shoes, because they can look like elf shoes, but a mild to moderate toe spring goes with the general effect that happens to shoes over time as well as assists people in walking.
I was hoping you'd jump in here...
I can't speak for other makers but I believe most of my boot lasts, at 1-1/2"+ heel height, are running about 2cm of toe spring and AFAIK that's pretty standard. It does create somewhat of a rocker bottom and without it, as I said, gait would be adversely affected.
The toe spring on my 1" shoe last is right at 11mm (?) but I have built shoes on a previous iteration of that same last with 2cm TS. In fact, my alligator balmorals pictured below (the first of a number of similar pairs made for customers) have the 2cm. They feel and look terrific (little personal testimony there...FWIW) and I have not seen any downside to that much toe spring...either functionally or aesthetically.
So I would ask your opinion...what's extreme toe spring? At one inch heel height? At Inch and a half?
And what would you regard as optimal toe spring at one inch? At inch and five-eighths?
The balmorals...before wearing
I sure hope I didn't open a Pandora's box here, but thanks all you gents for your insight and contributions.
I very much enjoy reading your posts.
It is the flexibility or rigidity of, primarily, the sole and, ultimately, the entire shoes that decides the “right” degree of toe spring. On the one end of the footwear spectrum you have the Dutch clog whose rigid totally inflexible wooden sole determines the the curvature of the bottom; on the other end is the ballet slipper (I’m not talking about pointe shoes) which is designed to be flexible and the nearest thing to barefoot.
A classic opera pumps with a thin sole, despite it’s low low heel, has a “dead” forepart (little toe spring,) just like a (ballroom) dance shoe. A man’s dress shoe with it’s standard ¼” leather sole (designed for moderate walking) needs a bit more toe spring. The double-soled country shoe (heavier walking and less flexible sole) needs somewhat more toe spring and army- and hiking boots, traditionally made with extra-heavy leather soles and hob nails will need a rocker sole as a clog. That’s the theory, in practice no shoemaker likes to make a new pair of lasts for every single order by the same customer, particular as toe spring and heel pitch are very difficult to alter by conventional means. Although new digital design programs and digital controlled lathes have changed the difficulty level, it is still an added expense having a new pair of lasts turned.
So last/shoemakers are likely to settle for some medium toe spring which will work reasonably (but not optimally) well with different sole configurations and only will start making a new last in extreme cases. Whatever measurement of toe spring they settle is most likely to be defined by their training and local traditions and schools. In the case of those who buy commercial last to be fitted-up, availability will be most likely the defining criterion.
The rigidity of the outsole certainly enters into the equation...as does, to some extent, the thickness of the outsole. A good deal of this is simply what mw313 referred to--the ability of the foot to flex...and to induce the shoe to flex with the foot. But rigidity is not the whole story. A relatively flexible outsole that is thick, such as cloud crepe, needs toe spring to the extent that it even benefits from additional spring added to both the toe and heel.
That said, look at footprints in the sand. Shoes with minimal or no toe spring will tend to wear faster at the toe regardless of the flexibility of the outsole. Simply because a normal foot pushes off with the toe.
I suspect that this is the reason I have never felt the need to mount toe plates on any of my shoes--the toe spring on my lasts imparts enough rocker motion to minimize excessive wear.
But almost without exception, newer, more fashion forward, low profile shoes nearly require them. The combination of low toe spring and a semi rigid outsole make wear at the toe a certainty. Again because the foot is pushing off with the toe...against a resistant substrate.
I’m not so sure about that.
“Brothel-creepers” of the late 50s used to lay pretty flat on the ground
as do those “licorice-allsorts” shoes Prada had in their collection a year or two ago
English equestrian boots have very little toe spring (usually less than shoes)
John Lobb (London)
while American cowboy boot have oodles of toe spring. Is it really for just walking or do they introduce a particular walk, a kind of ‘John Wayne swagger’, which the owner of the boots might like?
Also excessive toe spring has been a design feature of fashionable footwear for the last ten or fifteen years.
n.d.c. made by hand
Here is a long-running forum thread that covers fashionable streetwear/footwear:
Whichever way you look at it, toe spring, either minimal or excessive, is intended as a statement.
When fashion...or simple ignorance...is allowed to dictate, anything can happen. Doesn't mean it's right or a standard. Or maybe, in some circles, it does. We sure see a lot of that kind of attitude here, IMO, not to mention the general population.
Stylized gait has nothing to do with it. It's height of heel and the desire to walk easily at that heel height...without sole slap.
I can't speak for other makers but I too would consider that excessive...if the shoes have never been worn. Which, not being as beguiled by "internet mimeographing" or second or even third hand information as others, I have no way to confirm one way or the other. They look suspiciously worn to me.
But the key element which I find entirely spurious is "fashion" or fashionable."
As Oscar Wilde said " Everything popular is wrong." It goes back to all the things I've railed against here on SF--the overt deception and subtly manipulative influence of PR and marketing hype on popular opinion. Group think. And the even more corrosive effects of inexperienced and unsubstantiated speculation.
I am one shoemaker and @mw313 is one podiatrist (?) who feel...from experience...that toe spring is not just about fashion, although it can certainly be distorted by fashion and misinformation.
IMO, there's more concrete reasons to eschew too low a toe spring than too high a toe spring...all within reason of course.
edited for punctuation and clarity
Separate names with a comma.