When it comes to dress shoes, you’re likely not the size you think you are.
That’s because 80% of guys are actually walking around in shoes that are the wrong size, which affects their comfort and longevity.
In light of hearing this statistic, I started thinking: what if I’m not wearing the right size shoes? I do have one pair of dress shoes in a size 9 in a brand that didn’t carry wide sizes, but they’re uncomfortable and hurt my feet.
What even is my “true size”? The fact is I had no idea.
Allen Edmonds, a high-end shoe manufacturer, invited me to their store on Madison Avenue in New York City for an appointment with a master fitter to find out once and for all. As it turns out, I was pretty far off.
The Allen Edmonds store at 551 Madison Avenue is pretty unassuming. A corner retail spot located on a busy intersection in a major shopping district, I expected something a bit more flashy.
As I walked in, I took stock of my surroundings. A picture of Allen Edmonds' factory in Port Washington, Wisconsin, hung on the wall.
But the store was rather small by square footage. I was informed it boasts the highest sales volume store out of the brand's 437 stores across the country, however.
I met with Stan Kilbourne, an Allen Edmonds master fitter. He was there to guide me in the finer principles of shoe fitting.
He directed me to choose a pair to get started. I chose the Strand, a classic model in Allen Edmonds' lineup.
The Strand is a brogue cap toe balmoral model. Balmoral means it has a closed lacing system, and doesn't allow for much expansion in the upper to accommodate your foot. That means the fit has to be exact, or there will be too much pressure, and the shoe will be extremely uncomfortable.
The first step was using the Brannock Device, which measures not only the length of the foot (I'm about an 8), but also width. The Brannock put me between an E (the first grade of wide) and a D (regular width). Kilbourne emphasised that the Brannock is merely a starting point for shoe sizing.
With that information, Kilbourne went to go fetch a range of sizes to try out. The many, many different shoes in the store were hidden behind a mirror right in the middle of the store. I didn't even notice until he slid the mirror aside.
He brought back two sizes: an 8 E and an 8 and a half D. They both had the same problem: too much pressure on the ball of the foot. Kilbourne also brought an 8 EEE, but it was too large.
This is where the Brannock fails -- it doesn't take into account things like arch and stance, both of which required more width for my feet to feel comfortable. That made me a super-rare size: an 8 EE. Kilbourne told me that out of 9,000 pairs of shoes sold in the last year, only 62 were 8 EE. I tried not to read into this too much -- put simply, I have weird feet. (I also learned that my left foot is bigger and wider than my right foot, but I suppose this is pretty normal.)
He also brought me an 8 E in an open lacing system shoe, the Leeds, to see the difference between open and closed lacing systems. The open lacing allowed much more forgiveness in the fit, and the 8 E fit great.
This might have also been due to the different, slightly wider last (the wooden shape that shapes the shoe in manufacturing) used to make the shoe. However, that wasn't the shoe I was after...
There were no 8 EE shoes in the store at all, unfortunately -- that's how rare of a size it is. Kilbourne had to order it for me from another store, and it would come in a few days. I had to come back.
When I came back, I faced the moment of truth. As Kilbourne tied the 8 EE, I was nervous. This was my last chance before I had to give up on this model forever.
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