Don't Fail Your Feet

Okay, Here’s the Thing…

… you are wearing your shoes all wrong. And so am I. Like Oprah so famously revealed about bras, nearly 80% of us are wearing either the wrong size shoes or wearing our shoes wrong.

I’m just as guilty as anyone. I am kind of terrible to my shoes. I wear them until they literally fall to pieces, I don’t keep them nearly as clean as I should, and I always lose the little plastic thingy on the end of the laces.

It's called an "aglet".

So, since this is your monthly dose of do as I say, not as I do, I decided I needed a little extra help. And that help came in the form of Ashley, who works at The Walking Company. The Walking Company is a specialty shoe store whose whole focus is making sure that you are wearing the best, most comfortable shoes possible. (Full disclosure, I have never bought a pair of shoes at The Walking Company, my last 3 pairs cost less than $10 each at Wal-Mart.)

I meet up with Ashley at her store and asked me to walk her through the shoe buying experience. The first thing she did, was pull out one of these numbers:

“Oh! I remember these from when I was a kid!” I exclaimed.

“You don’t see these much anymore,” she said as she helped me position my foot on the device. “It’s called a Brannock.”

The Brannock device measures three things: your toe length, the arch length and your foot width. These are all very important for finding a good fit.

Your toe length is what most people consider their ‘shoe size’ That is the number we all yell at shoe store clerks when we are trying to find a pair of Converse that will fit over our DAMN FOOT ALREADY! The toe length is a number one though 15 according to the Brannock. I traditionally wear a 10 ½ or 11, which is why I was so surprised when I stepped on the Brannock and Ashley called out a chipper, “You’re a 9!”

“9? I usually wear an 11,” I protested. I don’t know why I was so caught up in this number, but there you go.

“That’s good actually,” Ashley replied. “Because of your wide feet.”

According to the Brannock device, my foot is an “E” width. Which is right smack in the middle of ‘wide country’. This, according to Ashley, is a much more important to finding a shoe that actually fits you correctly than the toe length.

“People think that their toes have to touch the end of the shoe, but that is a myth.” Ashley said matter-of-factly. “Think about dress shoes, your toes never touch the end of a dress shoe.”

The place you want you shoe to fit, and I mean REALLY fit, isn’t in the toes. It’s across the widest part of your foot.

American Shoe
European Shoe

American shoes are made kind of like a rectangle. This can make it difficult for a person (like me) with a wide foot to find a shoe that corresponds with both his toe length number and his foot width number. So to find a shoe that really fits, it’s width first, length second.

Next, Ashley led me over to a pair of sensors on the ground, and asked me to step into them.

An image of the bottom of my feet appeared on a screen above my head.

“According to this,” Ashley said, drawing on the screen like she was dissecting a freeze frame of a football play, “you carry most of your weight in the balls of your feet and the heel.”

“Is that normal?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said. “This is how the bottoms of most people’s feet look. Unless you have really flat feet or another problem.”

Color me relieved.

Ashley disappeared into the back of the store to find a couple of pairs of shoes for me to try on. This gave me a little chance to look around the store. I am used to buying my shoes at a Big Box store.

Not a shoe store...

Like Wal-Mart, or what I like to call a “warehouse store”, one of those places that’s basically a room full of shoes. By contrast, The Walking Company is small and intimate. Aside from myself, another sales clerk was assisting a woman and her daughter in choosing a running shoe. One shoe of each style was displayed on the wall.

Ashley returned with three large shoe boxes. “What kind of socks are you wearing?” she asked.

“Erm, I don’t know.” I said, “The… regular kind?”

They make all the difference.

Ashley put the shoeboxes on the ground and headed over to a wall where several different styles of socks were displayed.

“Socks can affect your shoe size by up to one full size. When you try on shoes, you should bring at least three pairs of socks to make sure your shoes fit correctly.”

“Okay so what shoe should we try on first?” I asked.

“Let’s start with…



The first thing you need to do when picking out an athletic shoe is pull out the insole and inspect the arch. The soles of many shoes are flat, relying on the insole to give you the support in the arch. For an athletic shoe, this isn’t what you want. You want the arch support to come from the actual shoe.

Look for a brand that will meet your foot width. If you have two brands of a shoe that you are considering, the best way to determine the width is to turn them over and examine the width of the sole.

When trying on an athletic shoe, the widest part of you foot needs to hit the widest part of the shoe and the arch support should be felt right below the ankle.

So how do you know if a shoe is right for you? And how long should you wear it around the store before you decide? Well, according to Ashley, only you can know that for sure, and it could take time.

Burning. Tingling. Numbness, these are all signs that a shoe is too small, but you might not know this in the store. The best course of action is to ask about the store’s return policy and then, assuming they have one, take the shoes out for a test drive of at least four hours. That is about how long it will take to determine if the shoe fits you right.

So with that bit of advice, and a change of socks, Ashley and I moved on to…


The insole of dress shoes is always flat. But that’s okay, because unlike Athletic Shoes and Casual Wear shoes, we wear dress shoes a whole lot less.

Aside from the width of the shoe, what you need to pay attention to on a dress shoe is how it fits along the top of your foot. See, while an athletic shoe or a casual wear shoe can rely on the laces to hold you foot in place, a dress shoe’s laces are there just for show. The shoe itself is what actually holds the shoe in place. It should be snug enough to allow you to place a finger in with your foot, but no more.

Again, it doesn’t really matter where your toes are in a dress shoe, but your heel placement is actually kind of important. In a dress shoe, your heel should be free to move around in the shoe. According to Ashley this is called “slippage”. A little slippage is a good thing. It allows a better range of movement for your foot.


So, casual shoes are what we all spend most of our time in, and this day and age where even the most businessy of business people can get away with wearing a sneaker to work, knowing how to fit a casual wear shoe is important. When picking out a casual wear shoe, look for roughly the same stuff you look for in a sports shoe with the one important distinction of not picking out a sports shoe. I know, it’s confusing.

According to Ashley, the worst shoe to wear as a casual everyday shoe is a running shoe. Running shoes do not offer the correct kind of support for all day wear.

So what do we wear?

Well, according to Ashley, the best shoe for casual wear is a hiking shoe. I know. I was surprised too. But apparently, a hiking shoe is made for hiking and hiking is like, exactly like walking and since we all spend a great deal of the day walking… hiking shoe.

So that about covers it. This is what we are supposed to do, what are we supposed to not do?

According to Ashley, those shoes with the toes are terrible for you. Whose toes? These shoes were built specifically for running on soft surfaces like sand or dirt. Not for walking around in, or even running on hard surfaces. SO basically, they are good for nothing. Don’t buy them.

A Bad Idea

And here’s a little tip for the ladies: Stay away from the super high heels. Yes, we know they make your gams look great, but anything over two inches is basically murdering your feet.

A Worse Idea


Alright, so there is everything you need to know about shoes but didn’t know you didn’t know you didn’t know about shoes.

Until next time. Try and dress better.

Dustin Adair

Dustin Adair grew up telling odd stories to concerned family members in Wimberley, Texas. He went on to study Screenwriting and Costume Design at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. He currently tells odd stories to concerned friends in Kansas City, Missouri.

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