October 23, 2015 by Ville Raivio
Few men use welted shoes made on lasts with their measurements. Ill-fitting shoes advance over- or underpronation, treading with the outer- or inner side of the foot too much, which are regrettably common sights on the street, and stress the foot in the long run. Traditional welted shoes usually have wood or steel shanks under the insoles as this construction supports the gait, and guides it towards a natural form. These shoes also have stiffeners made from full leather or leather board inside the heel cup to support the foot in step. When fewer men buy welted footwear, even salesmen aren’t able to help them find a suitable fit, though the main aim of shoe shops of today seems to be higher profits instead of service or promoting stylish walking. With this in mind I wish to guide the man buying welted shoes.
My main advice with fit: the heel should not rise up from the heelcap during step. In practice, this matter is easily examined. First a pair is slipped on, then laced up, after which the other hand grabs the heel of one shoe. Now the foot is raised up while the hand tests if the heel rises from the cap. If it does, the pair offers no support and one might as well be wearing plastic sandals. Two options are on offer. Despite the large heelcap, the shoe can be bought and the fit bettered with thicker socks, added insoles or glued-on heel grips. The alternative is to try another model whose last fits the foot better.
My other tip concerns the instep. If empty space is left between the foot’s instep and the tongue, the pair will also not support the foot very well. This is solved again with thicker socks, added insoles or glued-on tongue pads. Thirdly: one can wriggle his toes inside a well-fitting shoe. Naturally, the toes will also have suitable room width-wise so that they’re not squeezed against the sides. At least 1-1.5 cm of free room should remain between the toe tips and the shoe’s tip so that the pair is also comfortable to walk downhill.
Lastly, it is well to remember that leather will stretch with wear. A new pair can be just a bit tight on the sides in the store because it will stretch later on. The less seams a model has, the more it will stretch. If need be, the shoes can be left at a cobbler who will stretch them height- or lengthwise and improve the fit. This may, however, leave ugly wrinkles on the upper leather. Shoes cannot be stretched length-wise due to the stiffeners inside the toe and heel. Shoehorns are the best friends of the shoe as they prevent the stiffeners from cracking and the leather from stretching too much, both caused by violent on-putting. A small horn is convenient to bring everywhere in the bag. In sum, a well-fitting shoe supports the heel and instep, and will not squeeze anywhere. If the pair is also pleasing to walk in, the better.
Translated from my book, Klassikko.