Foot types and how we fit them

A Brannock measuring device

Feet are like fingerprints – all unique!  This presents quite an issue when choosing footwear. However, we’ll describe the main foot shape types we see and the sort of footwear that might suit them.

The narrow, shallow height foot
This is one of the hardest foot types to fit as most mass produced footwear is designed to accommodate as many people as possible so is generally pitched fairly wide. The only way a lot of people with this foot shape get a secure fit is to size down lengthwise but this often leads to contact with the front of the footwear which can damage toe joints and nails. We look for specifically low volume, narrow fit footwear where possible and often add volume reducer footbeds which snug the footwear up without shortening the length. Traditionally, the Italian brands such as Asolo, Zamberlan, Scarpa and AKU have tended to suit the narrow foot but in latter years commercial pressure to produce for the mass markets have meant these manufacturers are increasing the width and volume of many of their lasts.

The wide, fat, high volume foot
Fat’s not the nicest word to use but we see plenty of this type of foot and they need the highest volume footwear out there. Meindl’s Comfort lasted footwear and Altberg’s XW and G Fit boots are likely to be the only real options for a non compressive fit. Ironically, cheap Far Eastern footwear frequently feels comfortable for this foot type but that’s often because the uppers are made of such flimsy materials or thin leathers that they stretch to fit under load. However, this can also mean that they break apart prematurely under the extreme stress they’re subjected too.

Folk with extremely wide feet will often buy footwear several sizes bigger than their actual foot length shoe size – the longer the shoe, the wider it’s going to feel. However, this often leads to issues with flex points being in the wrong place and in some cases, tripping.

The wide, shallow forefoot, narrow heel and ankle
Another challenging foot type! Thankfully, certain manufacturers have catered for this shape which is quite prevalent. The key issue is getting enough width for the toes without suffering from excessive room around the ankle which will lead to movement and heel lift. We find Altberg’s A Forme lasted boots such as the Malham and Nordkapp models are often ideal for this type of foot.

Assymetric shaped feet
These feet tend to have a long, straight big toe and sometimes a concavity along the inside (medial) part of the foot between heel and toe. Traditional tapered footwear styles such as are produced by many of the more established manufacturers will most likely put excessive pressure on the big toe of such a foot type. However, some of the more contemporary designs from companies such as Oboz, Scarpa, Asolo and Meindl cater for this foot shape. Alternatively, going up half a size often takes the taper point of a traditionally styled boot forward and prevents pressure on a straight toe.

Feet with prominent bunions
We see many differently shaped feet with bunions (displaced big toe joints).They are often worse on one foot and are almost always caused primarily by a genetic instability issue which causes overloading and excess directional pressure on the first metatarsophalangeal joint or hallux (big toe). Here, even though a foot may not be wide throughout, the prominence of the displaced joint and subsequent extra ossification generally needs a wide fit shoe. In this case lacing techniques such as zoning can help with keeping the rear foot secure while allowing space around the forefoot. This is when our specialist one to one fitting appointments are invaluable as it’s often necessary to alter the footwear by professional means.

Bunions are generally a symptom of a genetic and structural weakness in foot makeup and we spend time during fitting appointments identifying the causal issues and helping to alleviate them, often with carefully chosen orthotic solutions. Many people still think the primary cause of these joint structure changes are unsuitable or ill fitting shoes from previous years. In truth, the wearing of poorly fitting or unsupportive shoes may well have exacerbated the issue but is unlikely to be the primary cause in most cases as mentioned previously.

My foot isn’t one of the above!
The types of foot shape mentioned above are only generalisations as you’ll realise. In reality, most of us will be a mix and match of some or all of the characteristics mentioned and we’ll endeavour to ensure you’ll know way more about your own feet after a visit to Mountainfeet!

A good rule of thumb in health terms is that it’s generally better to go too big than too small when buying footwear. Excess space can generally be reduced to snug loose fitting shoes up by introducing volume adjusters and using better lacing techniques. Although a little extra width can be created in tight fitting footwear by careful stretching, there is no procedure that can extend the length and trauma can easily result to toes and nails when shoes or boots aren’t long enough.

We hope this basic guide has been helpful and given you a flavour of the many variables involved in professional footwear fitting.