Arch length

This post is for anyone who wonders what it means to say that a shoe fits because knowing what should be happening when you walk into a shoe store will help guide you through the footwear selection process. First of all your fitter should be pleasant and there to serve you. They should ignore people who tell them that they don’t need to be measured, and then a hosiery discussion should take place. Ideally people will already own and wear socks that are appropriate for them, but the fitter should still discuss it in case the socks they’re currently wearing are an anomaly.

To give you the best idea of how your shoes will perform, it is advisable to try and recreate the environment in which the shoes will be used. Runners will want to come in after a run while a minister will want to come in after church. Each foot will be measured in a weight bearing position, and three separate measurements will be read; heel to longest toe, heel to ball of the foot (MTPJ), and width is obtained after you determine whether you are fitting to total foot length, or arch length.

Heel to longest toe gives you total foot length. This number does not always match the heel to the ball of the foot measurement which can be longer, or shorter than total foot length. Typically you will use the longer of these two measurements to determine the appropriate width measurement. Some people average these two numbers, I don’t recommend that, and would like to hear justification for it on a case by case basis. It is always appropriate to ask if you are unsure why a fitter chose a particular size or width for you.

Sometimes two pairs of shoes can be the same size, yet one will fit, and another won’t. Let’s take my daughter’s feet and the shoes we purchased for her yesterday. If you measure from her heel to her longest toe, you would probably grab a size 4 off the shelf, but if you fit to arch length, you will skip size 4 and pull a size 5 off the shelf since the 4 will not extend along the length of her arch. This is how you can get shoes that are the right size, but don’t fit, usually evidenced by creasing and pulling of shoe material across the vamp.

Putting my daughter in a size 4 shoe will short her arch. That means a portion of her arch is unsupported since her arch needs a size 5 shoe to be fully supported. Terms like pronation and supination are nice, however if arch length is not addressed, those conversations are futile since the medial arch in question isn’t being fully supported. Since my oldest daughter has a tendency to over pronate, a stability shoe probably makes sense for her, however if we put her in the best stability shoe money can buy, but fail to fully support her arch, what have we really done to improve her foot health?

Yesterday the fitter brought out a pair of children’s shoes for my daughter to try. They were a terrible fit so I questioned why he was bringing out a size 5 ½ for her since I couldn’t figure out where he was getting that number. Sometimes shoe stores don’t have the size that they need or want, but the wrong size can verify that a smaller size is needed which was hopefully the case yesterday.

Children’s shoes tend to run much wider than women’s shoes. My oldest daughter has a narrow, shallow, bony foot with long toes, and a very low arch. None of the children’s shoes fit her, but I found a pair of size 5 women’s shoes on the clearance rack, and for once I was really happy about seeing my daughter’s feet in a pair of shoes since the B width was much more appropriate for her than the D width of the shoes she had tried on previously.

Women’s shoes are much more expensive than children’s shoes even if the same size has less room and materials. Yesterday moving from a children’s shoe to a women’s size meant we were going to spend $120 instead of $60 because the size 5 clearance priced shoes ended up being too short for my oldest daughter. Had I not been there I doubt that we would have ventured into women’s sizes, and I know that the fitter we were working with would not have chosen the clearance rack shoe since he walked past them numerous times.

Had I not been there my children would have had their right foot measured, and arch length would not have been a consideration. Instead of selling us two pairs of children’s shoes, our fitter was able to sell us two pairs of women’s shoes which we both agreed fit better than anything the children’s line had to offer. I questioned buying the clearance rack shoes for my youngest daughter despite my happiness with the fit since a stability shoe can give a growing foot too much support, but the fitter agreed that her foot was not being overcorrected, and I felt that the neutral shoe did not fit well enough to warrant my shoe budget dollars.

If I’m selling shoes, I want to sell higher price point shoes. I also want to clear out sale merchandise to make room for summer shoes which should be hitting shelves soon if they haven’t already. I want satisfied customers who are going to return to my store, and tell their family and friends what a great experience my store is so they come in to shop.

That fitter we worked with gets an F in basic measuring skills. He failed to measure both of my children’s feet, he didn’t measure either of their arches, and he wasted time by bringing us several pairs of shoes that did not fit at all, and did not fit well. If I employ fitters, I want them to be ludicrously efficient. I want them to be able to put a footwear portfolio together, and had he been smarter, he would have tried to up and cross sell to us. My oldest daughter was wearing a very thin pair of socks, he could have offered to let her try on a better pair, and I probably would have bought them for her.

He could have measured both my husband and myself, and asked if we wanted a complimentary gait analysis. He could have asked me more questions, I picked his brain while I was there, and I deferred to him when his knowledge base was greater than mine because even people who don’t know how to measure know things that I don’t about the brands and styles that their store carries.

My kids were in the store trying on running apparel, our fitter could have gone to town on us, parents are captive audiences when their children are trying on shoes, anything that people touch should be mentioned because that’s smart selling, and my family saved money since he wasn’t as good at selling as he should have been, but is he really doing his employer any favors? I come to shoe stores ready to buy if I think a deal is too good to pass up as I have a good idea of what is out there, and what reasonable prices are for certain shoes.

Had that employee been mine, I would have had him shadow a good fitter and seller. Great fitters are a rare breed, but even a novice with no experience can be trained to use a Brannock properly. That man had a chance to earn more money than he did, learn more than he did, and instead of telling my audience how awesome that store is, now I don’t feel comfortable recommending them to people if that’s representative of their fitting crew.

My family walking into that store was a missed opportunity for them. We don’t look particularly wealthy, but I believe in good shoes, and we may not have bought everything he had us try on, but he could have gotten both me and my husband to at least try on shoes which would have been a more efficient use of his time. Not capturing arch length will break sales for people who understand how shoes should fit.

Shorting an arch increases the chance of a foot related injury since the support inside of a shoe is not lining up with the length of the medial arch of a foot, and that’s the essence of what makes shoes work for, or fail an individual. Many don’t plan footwear failure, they may have no idea that their arch length needs to be considered, and since many stores are not measuring it, they don’t know the value of that measurement.

By his actions that fitter told my children that measuring their feet was not that important when he only measured their right foot. Shoe companies assume a good fit when they design shoes. Ignoring arch lengths undermines shoe functionality and comfort. It predisposes people to injuries since no one performs as well in equipment that doesn’t suit them as they do in equipment that takes into consideration what makes them unique.

While I’m sorry that this phenomenon exists, I’m excited to be sharing this information with you. I can’t call it a business secret, but if I was in charge of anyone who had feet, I would be using this information to my benefit as enhanced foot comfort and better foot health hurts nobody. This is one of the reasons that Saberfeet exists because we know how to capture arch length, when to fit to it, and when to fit to total foot length. There are also times to break rules and occasions when Saberfeet will refer a client to a level of expertise that surpasses our own.

Good foot health is desirable, attainable, and affordable when you consider the alternatives. Acute injuries are a surprisingly small portion of poor foot health, the majority of feet were born with the capability of transporting us in a pain free capacity. Children should be safe when they’re running, jumping, climbing, sitting, standing, playing, and resting, yet the school my daughters attend is populated with parents who believe in education, but shod their children poorly.

You might wonder why, if arch length is as important as I keep saying it is, that people aren’t measuring it, and using it to guide their clients through the fitting process. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for that. Brannock has instructions on their site, and I wonder if the age of people buying shoes online has contributed to a devaluation of the role of the shoe fitter in modern society. People want cheap, many want service right to their door with no hassle returns, and a trip to the shoe store will cost more in gas money, time, and sacrifice convenience.

Maybe they don’t want the high pressure sales tactics some shoe sales people employ. I don’t blame them. I don’t want that either. Often I can see things the way that they could be. I can see a family walking into a shoe store needing new footwear, being instructed, educated, and fitted for shoes and socks. After that we can drive down to Miller Park, maybe we packed a cooler, or we spring for concessions at the game because it’s a treat I didn’t get when I was a kid.

Things that are done well are a joy to behold. Can you envision the day when you go to a game, and every person there has footwear that fits? This could be me, but the grass is a more brilliant emerald while the chalk lines are purer, cleaner stripes of unmarred white. The sky is that special shade of blue that helps you forget about whatever problems you have at work, school, or home, if only for nine innings at a time. I can see that day, and I think you can too.

We know there’s a better way to fit, and if we’re patient, we might live to see that game together. Until then it is up to us to keep spreading the word, to keep our eyes honed on good cleats, and those that could fit better. We’re helping people; players, fans, coaches, bat boys, trainers, parents, children, because shoe fitting is a universally good way to enrich the lives of everyone you know, even the people who don’t have feet because it truly is better to give than to receive, and genuine smiles are often generated when people share meaningful experiences like the one I just shared, with you.

Saberfeet: What if everyone wore shoes that fit?