Different types of shoe will fit you better than others. This has nothing to do with the material or the design. It is the last.
You will occasionally hear people, deep in sartorial conversation, say something along the lines of: “Well, you see I’ve never found anything to quite fit my feet ever since Edward Green discontinued the 202 last.”
They are referring to the shape of the sole of the shoe, how pointed, chiselled or rounded it is at the toe, how wide through the ball of your foot and how tapered at the waist. This is the last. At a basic level, it is the footprint the shoes make, and it is the most important thing to fitting you well.
[By the way, do not panic EG fans, the 202 is live and well! It was just an example. Think of the summer sales and calm down.]
Now, I have no idea what last suits me in Edward Green, John Lobb, or any other shoemaker for that matter. But over time, largely through chatting to friendly staff in shoe shops, I have discovered a few things about my feet.
I have very wide feet across the ball of my foot. I know this because, whenever I put on a shoe that is too slim or too pointy, I have to try it in a bigger size to avoid pinching down either side of my toes.
However, I also have a relatively high in-step and narrow bridge across the top of my foot. I know this because when I try this pointy shoe in a bigger size, I cannot do the laces up tight enough. My heel slips at the back, which is never a good sign.
The lovely co-owner of Hardrige shoes, just off Bond Street, taught me this, during a long consultation. (I recommend Hardrige for custom made shoes. For around £250, 20% on top of the ready-to-wear price, you can customise the lining, piping and colour of the leather itself. www.hardrige.com)
Now I know this about my feet, it doesn’t mean I know which last to pick. But I do know that a chiselled toe fits me best, something that can be wide yet still elegantly slim at the toe. I know that I need to be able to tighten the shoe effectively, often to extremes. An oxford shoe (one piece of leather split into a V where the laces are, rather than two pieces tightened from either side – a derby) needs to start with quite a lot of space remaining in its V. Even when the leather has expanded and the V narrowed, it must tighten well. A monk-front shoes also works well in this regard, as an extra hole can often enable it to be tightened further.
It also means that if I ever walk into John Lobb to pick a pair of shoes, I’ll be able to give a fairly good description of the last I want, if not the number.
Go find an accommodating sales person. I recommend glancing through shop windows and finding one that looks a little bored.