As a child, traditionally, your parents would check the fit of the shoe by reaching over and checking for a thumb’s length at the tip of the toe. Other than that, maybe… does it feel too tight? That’s about it.
Later, professional fitters evolved. Besides the fit, professional fitters also know the many variables that need to be considered to obtain the ideal fit. For example, function, pathology and morphology all play a role in finding the ideal fit shoes.
There is no perfect or proper fit when purchasing shoes. There is only the ideal fit. This is because most of us are not symmetrical, but shoes are symmetrical. Where to compromise on left to right is subjective. It varies individually, especially, if you have a problematic foot. A professional would be best to consult with fitting of shoes. The old thumb fit, and even the new computerized scanning way, will not provide enough information for the ideal fit.
Today, one may see a computer programmed scanner checking your feet for size and girth. Wowing you with a computerize drawing of your feet and measurements. They may even gather information unnecessary to obtaining the idea fit. What is the scanner really telling you? Other than a fancy drawing/picture of your feet, which you can see yourself using your eyes and a measuring stick or Brannock device, is it really telling you much more?
The computer does know the inventory available and will inform the salesperson what size shoe to bring you. The salesperson may bring out a couple of styles and then ask you how it feels. That’s it. High tech is here, yet, useful information from it is not complete!
Therefore, currently, I consider most foot scanners available now to be nothing more than “Eye Candy.” Providing a high-tech look will improve sales, especially since there are those that think the best technology is the only help for them.
Do not be fooled. Current computer scanning does not take into consideration the many variables needed. One example being what activity you’ll be doing. Computers provide little information than what is currently available through a professional fit using a measuring device, along with your own eyes and intelligence.
For example, I had a patient who purchased a pair of shoes through one of these so called professional fit stations. He related they scanned his foot and came out with a couple pair of shoes and simply said “which feels the best?” Unfortunately, the pair he chose ended up being significantly larger than what would be considered the ideal fit. Why? Because initially, it felt less inhibitive on his feet; however, when wearing for a longer period of time, he developed pain. The pain was a result of the shoe not functioning (bending, flexing, stabilizing) with the function of his foot. The shoe did not bend at the ball of the foot where the foot bends. Therefore, it caused the joints to jam together leading to pain. The computer did not know where the joints of your feet are aligning with the “Joints” of the shoe.
Professional Shoe Fitters
There are many benefits to seeing a professional shoe fitter instead of a knowledge limited computer scanner.
Professional Shoe Fitters know the different types of feet, pathologies, and how the alignment should be during stance and gait or walking.
They have the experience of knowing the inventory available and how each shoe typically fits the many different types of feet. In addition, they know what modifications are available for not only fit but function as well.
They know the different materials to accommodate for the variable lumps, bumps and protrusions on your feet. This helps with increasing comfort as well as avoiding shoe irritation.
They will know which shoe is best for the activity you will be doing. Some activities require the shoe to be tighter, looser or a different type of material, not only on the upper but the sole itself.
They will, most importantly, feel through palpation the position of the big toe joint, the available room in the toes and around the ball of the foot. This allows them to know if it is too much or too little room.
Fitting a shoe is more than a thumbs length at the toes. It is more than the information a computer can provide. Material selection and ideal fit and function require a plethora of information that varies from individual to individual; something computers will eventually obtain, but just are not fined tuned enough to do so, just yet.
David J. Sables, D.P.M., C. Ped.