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Footwear fitting rhetoric

Discussion in 'General Issues and Discussion Forum' started by Atlas, Feb 27, 2008.

  1. Atlas

    Atlas Well-Known Member

    Members do not see these Ads. Sign Up.
    We all pride ourselves about our knowledge of footwear and fit. The shoe outlets pride themselves on their knowledge and attention-to-detail footwear and fit. The shoe manufacturers pride themselves on cutting-edge technology and a pursuit of excellence.

    Treated a patient last Sunday who will run in the nationals in Brisbane this weekend. He has been sponsored by Brooks for years, and has been wearing the trance shoes (old style red...new style blue), in addition to competitive footwear.

    The athlete has been informed for years that his feet sizes differ by at least 1/2 a size.

    My point is, why on earth has this fellow, in view of his level of competition, in view of his sponsorship arrangement, not been supplied with a left and right that differ in size?

    If this athlete can get through the system, and we all (pods, physios, shoe retailer and shoe manufacturer) can't even get the most basic measurement right..what hope has the footwear consumer got?

    Another example of us all worrying about the complex, when we can't even get the most simple thing right. Would a retail outlet have the brains and the (retail) guts to provide a 10.5 in left and 11 in right? Or would they be too concerned about clearing the other 10.5 in right and 11 in left?

    Footwear fitting has too much talk and not enough walk IMO.
  2. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

    Footwear should not be sold in pairs

    But just imagine the logistics to achieve that.

    If you consider Men's, Woman's and Children together they can easily add about 300 size /width combinations.

    It is virtually impossible for a store to carry all sizing combinations, if you add the single shoe in this equation the retailer will :sinking: .

    There are alternatives like:


    Even so in my fitting experience I never had a case impossible to fit, because of his different sized feet , there is always an alternative (most times the solution is to fit the bigger foot or a compromise between feet and shoe size: if feet size difference is up to 1 or 1/2 US/UK Size, we use the middle size)

    More Here

    If you buy at My Adidas stores or events you can buy different sized pairs, but shoes tend to be more expensive.
  3. Freeman

    Freeman Active Member

    I generally find some discrepency between feet...either in length volume or width. In cases of a size, I generally do not make a big deal of it. As a pedorthist I can lace or jury rig something in the large shoe to make it a little less sloppy, or can stretch the smaller shoe in some manner to make it a little less confining. A half size (North American) is not much. I have known and looked after many international class athletes and I would say most of them have some mild discrepencies.

    I would also say that one of the characteristics which makes international class athletes "exactly what they are" is their ability to throw off minor distractions and focus on the ones they need to. That would be to say, training with your guts hanging out of your mouth during practice rather than focusing or being distracted by a shoe feeling a bit different than the other.

    I have not htought much about the financial aspect as I have generally been able to address the fitting issues without too many difficulties.
    Best regards
    Freeman Churchill
  4. This is true. However i still wonder how many shoes truly fit, and how small the atom needs to be split.

    In peadiatrics (my field) there is a multi million £ industry based on "proper" fitting of shoes. The likes of clarks and startrite make great play of the importance of accuratly fitted shoes. Giving your child shoes from anywhere else or, heaven forbid, giving them shoes 1/2 a size wrong is tantamount to giving them a rattlesnake to play with or sending them to the Mansons for a sleep over if you beleive the advertising. The last time i took my little girl to the shop they told me that one foot was 3 1/2 and the other was 3 3/4.:D

    And yet when i do the boot clinic things are rather different. For piedros the protocol is to measure the foot and add 2 (paris points). For ordinary shoes you add 3. Piedros get reviewed every 3-4 months.

    This makes one question just how accurate these fittings are (in children.) If the foot is 3 3/4:rolleyes: now, it'll probably be 4 in a couple of weeks. By the time she goes back to be measured again they'll doubtless tell me she'll be a whole size bigger and yet she'll still be wearing the same shoes up to that point. Will she grow up looking like a foot binding victim? i doubt it.

    So just how much difference does this millimetric attention to detail matter? Less, i suspect, than we would like to beleive.

  5. Boots n all

    Boots n all Well-Known Member

    l find your last paragraph offensive, but everyone is entitled to their opinion as are you

    In our store we find we have two answers for this situation, the client could not be bothered waiting a week while we make the shoe or "Cost".

    We offer split sizes, at a cost and this is when the client sometimes does a runner :D, your marathon runner may have the attitude of, "nar thanks, l have made it this far alright", then who is to blame?

    The client has a very big input as to what they walk out the door with, we do our best but it is their money and their feet, remember the old saying "You can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink"....:deadhorse: it has to want to.

    Having said that, his sponsor should be told by a "professional with brains and guts" that there is an issue so they can fix the issue? Good luck with your client
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2008
  6. Cameron

    Cameron Well-Known Member


    The history of footwear would support shoes were worn for decoration long before they were used for functional purposes which has taken until the 20th century to become possible. Industrialisation and rising affluent middle classes have combined to create the social norn we need special shoes for all occassions.
    In truth this is a myth.

    Children's shoes and sport's shoes are good examples of establishing a market not based on need but created by vigorous advertising. The history of Clarks shoes will support advertising was a rouse to capture the interest of affluent Middle Class parents keen to have their children in the new shoe fashion for smaller feet. Newsprint was the means of bringing this to the public's attention. In the same way our modern preoccupation with sportshoes was promulgated through the media showing icons sporting fashionable canvas topped rubber soled shoes. Once the market was established then in its wake comes all the details (usually ill informed), as to why it is essential to wear these particular shoes. Hence with 20/20 hindsight we can now examine some of the claims and find them wanting.

    There remain very few independent published studies on shoe fit. Partly this is due to the highly competative nature of the industry but from the works that are available it appears confort is the critical issue. This would imply comfort in use as well as at intial fitting.

    Currently there are no international standard size systems nor agreed fitting criteria and all attempts to establish same have been sidelined by a highly competative industry which is multi-national. Matching available shoe styles to feet requires considerable skill and know how, which is not always appreciated. So my hat is raised to shoe fitters.

    As too sponsorship in sport one of the most common problems is when a company has only a limited range of sizes available and when a sportsperson falls outwith the range i.e feet are too long, then usually because of the conditon of sponsorship the person is obliged to wear the biggest shoe in the range. This can mean crushing their feet into smaller shoes. Unless you have shoes made to your requirement (the exception), then you get what is available. More and more shoe deals are becoming more understanding and will allow athletes to compete in their preferred shoes but require sponsors gear is worn for all promotional work.

    Hey. what do I know?

  7. PodAus

    PodAus Active Member

    Most of the athletes sponsored by footwear companies have exactly the same concerns with the fitting of the provided models, as does the public.

    New models are forwarded, tried on for 'fit' by the athlete, and then ordered / delivered to the athlete. Just as the athletes clothing is.

    Does the shoe actually fit 'correctly'? "Feels comfortable" is really all the athlete gives as feedback... however the athlete still is able to perform.

    Nothing special, nothing custom made, nothing especially fit by a team of 'experts' - just regular new season models being promoted by the athlete for payment :drinks
  8. Atlas

    Atlas Well-Known Member

    My employee worked at a multinational footwear retailer for 5 years. He was discouraged to sell an odd size, because the retailer would be left with an odd size. You are right: the retailer should not bear an extra cost. But how easy should it be for the retailer to contact Brooks or Adidas or whatever, and ask to swap a left 10.5 for a left 11? In other words, the manufacturer should be prepared to absorb it. Even if the customer has to pay an extra 10% for the specialised specific fitting. Gee wiz, they are already prepared to pay hundreds on orthoses and hundreds on footwear...what is an extra 20-30 in the scheme of things.

    The sponsor should have the guts and brains in the first place.

    But give me their number in Melbourne, Australia...I am sure they will love the advice. Pretty hard to unscramble the egg. I don't think they will accept a return of the issued shoe(s). But, as I will be prepared to advise, they should be able to issue at least one shoe to get both fitting.
    I am not selling the shoe. I am not issuing the shoe. I am not recommending the shoe.

    But if you David are offended by "Footwear fitting has too much talk and not enough walk IMO."; God help Brooks when a professional with guts and brains dares to offer a little bit of advice. They might go into cardiac arrest.
  9. pgcarter

    pgcarter Well-Known Member

    Hi Atlas,
    I hope the wife and kids are well.....you know I spent years fitting ski and walking boots and shoes.....we tried for years in Australia to get access to odd sizes for doing this....nobody was interested in supplying odds....we wanted to order the back fill odds once a year or something like that......but the length of life of models is so short these days that you often only get a style for one season or year and that often means only one production run at the factory......and as has been said nobody is prepared to pay for 2 pairs in order to get one....and as has also been said you can nearly always make things very functional by fitting the big foot and dealing with the other one the way you are forced to by circumstances.....shims, pads, an extra sock...it's not that hard. And it usually works pretty well. Can you actually tell us what the functional problem was with the situation you are dealing with?

  10. Trent Baker

    Trent Baker Active Member

    I spent 8 years working in an athletic footwear store in Sydney, before and during my studies to become a Podiatrist. To be totally honest, unless the size difference was dramatic, meaning perhaps more than 1.5 sizes there was never an issue. When the size difference was dramatic the customer was already aware of it and in cases that involved high impact sports they were usually willing to purchase 2 pairs.

    In saying that, I'm certain that most retailers would generally be happy to go to the trouble of hunting down an odd sized pair of shoes if the suppliers would come to the party and meet them halfway. In my experience though, the athletic footwear suppliers are not easy to deal with. They are often hard to get anything out of and certainly when it may cost them money, which inevitably it would when stuck with odd sized stock. I think the focus should be on the suppliers here, not the retailers.

    This is always going to be an issue, unless they start selling shoes singularly in size runs. For example, a retailer buys a run of right shoes in say, sizes 7 - 13 and the same in left. Then has the ability to fill in missing/sold sizes. This would require a total restructuring of the industry and quite frankly will never happen.

    However as I stated above, there are usually very few problems with a smal size difference. The larger foot is generally fitted giving the smaller foot a little more room, which can then be accommodated in several ways as explained by Phill.

  11. Boots n all

    Boots n all Well-Known Member

    Dear Atlas,
    You need to visit a manufacturing plant of “runners” so you can understand what it is you are asking, the large rotary injection moulders are not designed to run a single mould empty.
    As to absorbing the cost of the odd size, if they could do it what is the real cost? everything is produced in pairs, all raw materials are laid in multiples of 2 to 6 which equals a lot of waist for an odd shoe, not to mention the extra hours of labor producing and following through to see the right shoe was actually made, it would actually be cheaper to produce two pair.

    Why should the manufacture absorb the cost? They are not the one with the special need.
    Do you absorb the difference between a custom Orthosis and an off the shelf Orthosis for your client? l dont think so, the fact that your client needed something different is not your issue it is theirs and l am sure you will help them with it for the extra cost, or are you going to absorb it?
  12. Atlas

    Atlas Well-Known Member

    I try to be smart, but not by half.

    For those out there with odd sized feet, do you really think David, that all have right bigger than left? Don't you think there is likely to be a 50/50 spread? In that case, I can save my time visiting a plant because where one person may need a left 11 and a right 10, the next may need a left 10 and right 11. So while there may be increased couriering/delivery infrastructure needs, I don't think that the manufacturer need change their manufacturing methods and materials etc.

    The other important point is that I am aiming primarily at the big chain, multinational shoe store that emphasises its puruit of excellence and fit; and secondarily at the footwear practitioner that may spend more time/effort on nth-order issues like windlass and branding way over-and-above getting a basic right such as matching footwear size. I have used the example of an elite athlete with half size difference; but where is the line in the sand? One size? One and half? Two?

    And costs? As I have said in an earlier post, the footwear client, who is prepared to pay 500-750 on a pair of orthoses, 200-330 on a pair of runners, should be prepared to pay an extra 20/30 for the privelege of exact sizing.

    I absorb costs. When plan 'a' orthosis don't work, or don't measure up, I throw them out, go back to the lab and start again. Sometimes 2 pairs is all it takes; occasionally 3; and rarely 4. That damn heat-gun in the back room doesn't quite cut it. That damn theory; a plantar-flexed first ray and a orthotic-reaction-forces medial to the STJ doesn't cure everything David. Occasionally, one has to dig deeper and find something unconventional like a FF-varus wedge.

    For the minority of us that make devices (including additions) from start to finish, that is hours upon hours of labour, and huge increases in costs (electricity, machinery wear'n'tear, materials). Do I, after the final product has been issued, ask for double or triple the original quote? No, of course not...not even 1c more.

  13. Atlas

    Atlas Well-Known Member

    Phil and Trent, your expertise in the footwear industry obviously outweighs most of us, including me. And I have no doubt, that you both have a few tricks-of-the-trade to make up for half-to-one size in difference. I would love to pick both of your brains on the haglund's deformity/irritation and the role of biomechanics and/or footwear (friction slipping?).

    My old volvo could run well with my wheel unbalanced, diff slightly warped and giving it low-octane fuel to drink. A formula one car might be another matter though, and the fact that sponsored athletes, that have consulted many good physicians are getting through the system makes me arrive at the conclusion of the thread title.

    If we think the big footwear chains, like Athlete's Foot, pride themselves on prescription and fit then they need to do more than get the customer to walk on a 2-D pressure map. If we, as lower-extremity foot (musculo-skeletal) clinicians, pride ourselves on a superior knowlege, we must do more than dogmatically recommend a brand and make sure that the EVA under the medial rearfoot is higher density. Moreover, we need to stop thinking that matching a size for a particular foot is not necessary, and an nth-order issue.

    I repeat again, I have much less footwear experience than you guys, but I see it as a basic that is too readily overlooked; and see too many overrated overcomplicated issues being overcooked by marketing and most of us.
  14. Trent Baker

    Trent Baker Active Member


    I'd be happy to share some lacing and padding techniques to deal with haglaund's deformity and related irritation, as well as many ways to deal with size differences in footwear fitting, however I would hardly say I'm an expert on the subject.

    I actually agree with you, there needs to be more done at some level to increase the availability of individual sizes in all footwear, not just athletic shoes. However the reality is that they just won't do it mate. As a profession we could put pressure on retailers and manufacturers in an attempt to make this happen. Although why would they change when we have many, many Podiatrists endorsing products in the current format. Podiatry Associations willing to put a 'seal of approval' on shoes that 'meet the standard' for Podiatrists. They already have our support on many fronts without having to change a thing, so why do they need to change.

    The problem here is a lack of continuity as to what we represent as a profession. There are many people pushing their own wheelbarrow in this profession of ours. Many conflicts of interest and the footwear industry is just one area.

    We also may not have the profile we think we do in the footwear industry (see thread 'Podiatrists - people that just hand out pieces of plastic), therefore perhaps not the influence it takes to affect such a change. As I said, I agree that it would be easier if shoes came as individual sizes, they just don't though, so it's up to us to help our patients deal with the situation.

    I have to say though, this sems like a bit of a storm in a teacup, it's really not that hard guys.

    I also agree that podiatrists should go to more trouble in regard to Footwear fitting. "If we, as lower-extremity foot (musculo-skeletal) clinicians, pride ourselves on a superior knowlege, we must do more than dogmatically recommend a brand and make sure that the EVA under the medial rearfoot is higher density".

    I actually ask most of my orthotic patients to get a neutral lasted shoe with NO medial support/anti-pronation features. That way I know I'm applying devices to a relatively neutral base and they are not being overcorrected. We should all spend more time in our local shoe stores, building relationships and earning trust. Perhaps then we could ask on that odd occasion to have individual sizes fitted/ordered for that special patient.

  15. Boots n all

    Boots n all Well-Known Member

    Two thought's Ron and then l will leave it at that.
    Carrying odd sizes, thats great if everyone will start wearing the same Brand, Style, Colour and width fitting. other wise you would get....Lets see, Dunlop 70 (styles) x 3 (colours) x 7 (sizes, no halfs no width fittings) x 2 (Left or right) = 2940 shoes and this just for Mens, imagine the stock required by the bigger fitting brands like Asic or Brookes?

    The other point regarding cost and l will quote you again..

    "I absorb costs. When plan 'a' orthosis don't work, or don't measure up, I throw them out, go back to the lab and start again. Sometimes 2 pairs is all it takes; occasionally 3; and rarely 4."

    But that is different, with that Orthosis someone made an error, either Diagnosis, Prescription writer or the Tech that made it, the Shoe Manufacture did not make a mistake that they should try and fix/absorb the cost of, the client has odd sized feet, not a manufacturing error by footwear maker.

    If you are ever in town let me know l will show what we do in our plant and l would like to make it possible for you to come with me to see a rotary injection moulder at my mates plant, in action, if you will allow me.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2008
  16. pgcarter

    pgcarter Well-Known Member

    Hi Ron,
    I didn't know and don't think most podiatrists pride themselves on expertise in footwear in Victoria anyway.....they don't teach anything about it in the undergrad course....not in the 10 yrs I was associated with the place......correct me if I'm wrong....but nobody there knows anything about it......in general they have no idea about shoes, materials, static fit, dynamic fit, shanks, last shapes, tooling, stretching, molding, steaming, grinding, shimming. There are very few people who know anything much at all about this stuff in Victoria, a small number of shoe makers, one or two P AND O folks.....a very small number of footwear retailers. There is nowhere you can go to be taught it. For those of you in the rest of the world remember the whole of Aus has less than the population of L.A. in the US. Most of what the Athletes Foot does is marketing not actual knowledge and expertise, so in general you won't get much there either.....odd franchise owners will be trying hard though, to do the right things. I used to get approached by people all the time looking for help with their skiing or their expedition to "Mt Wherever".....athletes are basically the same....they want a cheapie, a sponsorship deal because they want some one else to help them pay for what they want to do......why should you...why should I...after sponsoring at least 6 Everest expeditions.....I'm still trying to pay for my own trip to base camp......don't take on other peoples luxuries as something that is your responsibility......if it's that important to them they will pay for it themselves...and be glad some one solved their problem.

    Ron I agree with you....but you'll have to solve it another way, you won't get odd shoes through retailers, via wholesalers.
  17. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    They get several lectures as part of first yr biomechanics and matt d does a day session with them during paediatrics in 3rd yr; and there is a footwear clinic with a pedorthist on Friday AM's the students are rotated through..
  18. Atlas

    Atlas Well-Known Member

    Cheers David.
  19. pgcarter

    pgcarter Well-Known Member

    Hi Craig,
    The pedorthist thing is new then. This field is a profession...or used to be...and now we think we are experts with 6-12 hrs spent on it?....we are only kidding ourselves. Another thing you can't really learn without actually doing it for some time...not popular in education these days...it costs too much...the university can't make any money out of it so it does not really want to do it......
    Phill....I must get back on my anti cynic medication.....
  20. Atlas

    Atlas Well-Known Member

    Phil and you are both right IMO.

    As for footwear education, the historical lessons were quite in depth for memory, and the Latrobe clinicians were always ready and willing to ensure that the students considered footwear (as they should) in the overall management approach. We also had a footwear 'seminar' from some company reps for memory as well.

    In hindsight, someone independent (business wise) that worked at the coal-face for years {like Phil (I am biased I worked with him), and fellow colleague Tristan Fairbairn (I am biased I work with him)} taught me more in minutes. However, it should be pointed out that I turned up university to pass (51 is a waste of mark; 49 is a waste of a year)...so other students would be better equipped to comment.

    I think the pedorthist (Clare) idea came in after Phil and I left the place; so that might be what Phil was getting at. Actually we send our patients to her in Moonee Ponds for medical/custom footwear; and the feedback has been A1.

    Mr. 51
  21. PodAus

    PodAus Active Member

    Hi Guys,

    Footwear experts - those whom design the footwear, manufacture the footwear and study the footwear (researchers) - I would have to assume.

    The rest of us? Just users of footwear, with a vested interest in understanding some of the 'features and benefits', just as with the businesses that market and sell the things. The Athlete's Foot, and the other retailers are just retailers - not experts. If they were, they way the footwear is spruked, applauded and praised would be a lot different.

    Your right with the athletes, we/they just want shoes.... and the cash payments. Don't kid yourself with anything else... :santa:


  22. Phil Wells

    Phil Wells Active Member

    Dear All

    Do we really need to worry about small differences in the lengths of footwear?
    What I am getting at is that other parameters such as short and long heel, heel counter size and shape, vamp angle etc are more important.
    An example of this is when we lace up the shoes differently from left to right in an attempt to 'pull' the foot into the heel or add a 3mm layer of poron to the 'smaller' foot. They usually work really well with no ill effects.

    Aspects of the shoe that may impact on proprioception of the foot e.g. a loose fitting shoe seems to affect swing phase 'feel' when walking along with heel counter stiffness may be more important than the length issues.

    Just my two-penenth.

  23. Boots n all

    Boots n all Well-Known Member

    Perhaps the Uni could run a refresher type course for the pods. already out there, which l am sure the Australian Pedorthic & Medical Grade footwear Assoc. would be happy to help with.

    l Received a letter from a Pod late last week, the client bought in the letter with a shoe we made for her two years ago.

    The letter said.....
    "Please supply a custom made shoe for client XXXX as this "Oxford" as previously supplied fits well"

    Sadly the shoe was a "Derby", no big deal it just meant l had to make two phone calls to make sure we had the right shoe in hand and explain the difference between an "Oxford" & "Derby" so we didn't go down the same path twice, it helps if at least we speak and understand the same language.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2008
  24. pgcarter

    pgcarter Well-Known Member

    My experience in the skiing and bushwalking footwear market was that the people who made the shoes did not necessarily know much about feet and how they work and that about the most sofisticated view was about static last shape......the idea of dynamic function being taken into account was just a glimmer in the future....I'm sure with how big the running shoe companies are getting that there are people paid to try and get their heads around it all these days....it just still does not mean that they know how to look at a foot and choose the best pair on the market for that particular foot....this is the real skill of shoe fitting...knowing the product really well and feet fairly well and matching the two, without having to go to heroic efforts in adjustments to make it work well......The Brooks rep knows how to fit Brooks....but not if a Nike might be a better choice......true independant advice is rare....and most retail staff don't hang around long enough to get there....they graduate and get a real job......and more and more the politics of business stop retailers having a good spread of brands because they get leaned on by manufacturer/wholesalers to get their figures with a particular brand up.....all things that force altered behaviour in sales.
  25. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

    My feelings exactly Phill, around here its about the same, I guess globalization its here to stay, for the best and the worst...

    I just like to ad that usually all the industry is focused in materials and technologies rather then in function and fit, they truly believe one material or technology is the solution for most foot problems, and the consumer is also drived in to this, by strong marketing campaigns.

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