Why are shoes not feet shaped?

Simple question really but one of those questions that is both child’s play but also a serious design issue.

During the 1980s back in the day, a trip to the shoe shop meant having my feet measured not just for length but also for width. Clarks had this strange machine that we had to stick our feet into that the movement of four metal blocks would help decide what our shoe size would be. I want to know who stole that machine. My issue being that they don’t seem to have it any more – nor do any other shoe shops.

At the moment I seem to be restricted to shoe shops that have understood the concept of people’s feet not being the same width – yes, it’s a problem for us blokes too.

That’s not my only moan about shoes; I also have an issue with leather-soled shoes. Why are they so uncomfortable? Much as I sympathise with the concept of shoes that breathe, walking in hard-leather-soled shoes has the feeling of walking on granite in bare feet. For someone like me that means knees getting shot to pieces. Not a good feeling.

Therefore I’m in this minority of people who find that the high street doesn’t really cater for them. This means spending months at a time waiting for TK Maxx to come up with a pair of shoes wide enough that boutiques cannot get rid of that I find are reasonably suitable, or having to search online. My record of searching for shoes online is not a good one. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer to try on my shoes before buying them, avoiding the hassle of having to pay for the return postage when I inevitably find the first pair don’t fit.

The wider societal issue is that of general health. Bad backs and bad shoes? Bad feet and bad shoes? Internet searches will come up with lots of articles on these issues – and a number of health product manufacturers have been providing solutions to the symptoms of feet problems. What I’ve not found are any studies that comprehensively look at the issue of how our choice of footwear affects our health. I’m interested in your comments  (and links) to sound articles which look at these problems and anything that makes a reasonable effort to quantify what the impact bad shoes have on people and society. Should we be asking shoe designers to design (fashionable) footwear as if feet matter?

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6 Responses to Why are shoes not feet shaped?

  1. John Lawton says:

    You should try Clarks shoes, they do some with wide-ish fitting. IIRC Hush Puppies are available in wide fitting, otherwise get them custom made! Better to be a dragon, and go without?

  2. missnfranchised says:

    Was in Clark’s kids dept. recently. They have changed the metal blocks machine for the new high tech version. More importantly, the size and width range in kids shoes (girls at least) beats the size and width range in adults shoes…..

    Otherwise, I find DM’s to be good for wider fitting, and fairly hard wearing….

  3. I’m lucky enough to live near a good shoe shop (stocks Clark’s and others). People travel miles to use it. They measure. In fact they’re so good, they refused to move for a large new development and have made it fit round them. We have an L-shaped supermarket. Much more comfortable.

  4. My husband has wide feet and struggles to find comfortable shoes. He’s discovered that Timberland shoes come in a wide fitting and this is now his preferred brand (especially when purchased from outlet stores).

  5. gaiacaecilia says:

    As someone with wide, flat feet, athritic joints, severely injured back and possible early onset osteoperosis i can fully sympathise with you. Every year, particularly in sale season, you’ll find me traipsing round the better shoe shores looking for good winter shoes which i can comfortably wear day in, day out for several months. The difficulty in finding shoes results in them being worn into the ground, especially as i’m a student who goes to university on a 300 acre campus with many building of several stories height – and often no lift use to get there since lifts tend to be reserved for disabled students only.
    I’ve found one of the best shops to go to is Marks and Spencers, at least for quality and actually getting wide fit shoes – though Evans do wide fit, they fall apart within weeks. The only problem is the M&S tend to have either high healed shoes or shoes aimed at the over 60’s. I’m 20 and though i go for more sesible shoes than many my age i do actually want to were nice looking shoes as well as comfortable ones. Thankfully for my dad, who is also falling apart a bit, the mens department is rather better for shoes. The Airfix range is very good for providing him with good smart shoes for work which don’t kill his back as much, or his knees.
    It seems that the idea that not only the retired get bad joints and back is being very slow to perculate through to the industry, or at least them actually getting thier head round such an idea and providing for the market for good shoes that prevent or lessen the problem would be a good money spinner since i know a large number or people would be very interested in shoes that don’t make people hurt.
    (anyway, i shall stop ranting now, even if i have several years worth of fustration built up on the subject…)

  6. http://www.shoedial.com says:

    If you are referring to any type of x-ray machine be careful. The reason hardly any shoe store still use these machines is they were thought to be dangerous.

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