Many men consider dress shoes synonymous with discomfort.
You probably developed the association as a kid:
Dressing up meant pinched toes and sore heels.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
Dress shoes should fit so well, you barely notice them.
About 80% of men are wearing the wrong size dress shoes.
They only take length into account. That’s okay for sneakers, which are meant to have some give in them, but with dress shoes, as with suits, fit is king.
Leather dress shoes are meant to be closely fitted to your foot and eventually mold themselves to it. If a shoe doesn’t fit properly, that can’t happen, and you’ll not only end up with ugly creases and cracks in your shoe, you can also hurt yourself. Many common foot, ankle, knee and even back problems are caused by ill-fitting shoes.
How To Find Your Dress Shoe Size
How many measurements do you think you need to know your dress shoe size? Maybe two – length and width?
Wrong – it’s three: overall length (heel to toe) width, and arch length (heel to ball). Dress shoes are designed to flex at the ball of the foot – if the ball isn’t properly placed it can damage both your foot and your shoe.
How To Use A Brannock Device
A Brannock device is the most accurate way of taking all three measurements. You can find one in most shoe stores, but there won’t always be staff on duty who know how to use it, so it’s worth learning to do it yourself.
- PREPARE THE DEVICE. Set the width bar to its widest position and slide the arch length indicator back.
- POSITION THE FOOT. Remove your shoe, place your right heel snugly against the back of the right heel cup and stand with equal weight on both feet.
- MEASURE LENGTH. Press the toes flat against the base of the device and look straight down over the longest toe (not necessarily the first toe) to read heel-to-toe length.
- MEASURE ARCH. Place your thumb on the ball joint of the foot. Slide the pointer forward so the inside curve of the pointer fits the ball joint of the foot and the two high ribs come in contact with your thumb. This will show you the arch length.
- FIND THE CORRECT SHOE SIZE. Compare the arch length with the heel-to-toe length. They’ll often give you two different shoe sizes. Pick the larger one.
- MEASURE THE WIDTH. Slide the width bar firmly to the edge of the foot. Find the shoe size from step 5 on the movable width bar to see the width measurement. If the size falls between widths, round up for a thick foot and down for a thin foot.
Now repeat for the other foot. You may find that one foot is slightly larger than the other – if that is the case then focus on getting the right size for the larger foot.
If you don't have access to a Brannock device, check out my guide on how to measure your shoe size by hand.
How To Tell If Dress Shoes Fit Properly
The Brannock device is no substitute for actually trying shoes on. Every dress shoe manufacturer has slightly different sizing conventions, so if you think you've found the best shoes to wear with a suit, make sure you walk around the store in them and follow these tips before you buy.
Try on shoes later in the day.
Your feet often swell as you go through the day, so your feet can actually be larger in the afternoon or evening.
Always use a shoehorn
Use a shoehorn when putting on dress shoes to avoid damaging the heel (if you break it you buy it!) Many shoe stores have shoehorns available, or you can buy them at supermarkets, drug stores or dollar stores. Use a long-handled one if you have trouble bending over. Here's how to put a shoe on with a shoehorn:
- Undo and loosen the laces. It’s okay to push your feet into laced-up sneakers, but don’t try it with dress shoes – you’ll damage them.
- Place the blade of the shoehorn inside the shoe, up against the back of the heel.
- Put your toes into the front of the shoe and rest your heel against the blade of the shoehorn.
- Push down with your heel on the blade of the shoehorn. The slippery surface will help your heel slide into the shoe.
- Remove the shoehorn, leaving your foot in the shoe.
When trying on shoes, only walk on carpet
Walking on hardwood or concrete can scuff the soles (again – if you break it you buy it.)
Make sure the shoe fits snugly around the middle of your foot
Don't worry if it feels a little tight at the ball width. For this area, a bit too tight is better than too loose. The leather will naturally develop some give as you wear the shoes more.
As long as your toes aren’t touching the ends it doesn’t matter where in the shoe they sit. Certain shoe lasts are made to have longer toe boxes.
Make sure the heel fits closely and doesn’t slip on you.
Again, loose heels are a deal breaker unless you want your shoes tripping you up and giving you blisters.
A good pair of versatile dress shoes can become a staple of a man's wardrobe for decades, but only if he's comfortable and confident about wearing them. Fit is the first step to getting the most out of a quality pair of shoes.