How A Dress Shoe Should Fit - Guide To Finding Your Shoe Size

How A Dress Shoe Should Fit – Guide To Finding Your Shoe Size

In recent years, buying shoes online has become very popular. Originally, people thought “How can I buy a shoe that I’ve never tried on that actually fits properly?”.

Now, even if you’re at a store and you try on shoes, you might not find some that fit because, at the end of the day, all that matters is the last, its shape, the size, and whether it works for your foot or not.

This guide is brought to you in collaboration with Ace Marks, so all the shoes you see in the video come from them. 

No Foot Is Like The Other

Humans are an asymmetrical bunch. For example, my right shoulder is a lot lower than my left one and because of that, my arms have different lengths. It’s the same for your hands, for your face, and for your feet. The left side is never like the right one. The solution to that problem would be that every man out there gets a pair of bespoke shoes.

Bespoke Shoes Are Awesome For Your Feet But Too Expensive

The problem with that is it costs about $2,000 for one pair, and it’s simply not something the majority of men out there can afford. That’s where off the rack shoes come into play; they’re nicely finished on an elegant last with high-quality leather, hand polished and burnished, at just a fraction of what a bespoke shoe would cost you.

Just like shoes by Ace Marks, they cost $300, they’re made in Italy from high-quality leather, they use a rather flexible blake rapid stitch sole, and the inside is cushioned with some foam between the leather, that way, you just have a very comfortable feel.

On top of that, their shoe last fits my foot really well. It’s a medium D width and it’s slim in the heel, it hugs my foot in the middle, and overall, the fit for me is very close to a custom shoe even though it just costs a fraction.


Ace Marks - Basic 4 Shoes

Ace Marks – Basic 4 Shoes

How Do You Find A Pair Of Shoes That Fit Your Feet Well?

In our opinion, the most important part for the fit of a shoe is the middle part. You want it to really fit snugly around your foot so it holds it in place even without you having to tie your shoelaces. At the same time, you want the front part of your foot to have enough room in the front and be neither too wide nor too slim at the sides.

When you walk, your foot gets longer and shorter, and because of that, you want about half an inch to an inch in front of your longest toe inside the shoe so you compensate for the movement and you’re always comfortable.

So what’s right? The perfect width of the last is the one that just hugs you without being too tight or too loose.

wrinkles on the vamp

Wrinkles on the vamp

Vamp Spacing

If there’s too much space between the vamp and your foot, you’ll easily see wrinkles in the leather and it’s also more uncomfortable to walk in them. Ideally, you want the leather to be very close to your foot without it being too tight and uncomfortable for you.

Tight Heels Provide a Bespoke-Shoe-Like Feel

Finally, my pet peeve with most ready to wear shoes is the heel. Most shoe companies design shoes so it’s very roomy and wide so it fits every kind of shoe, however, I find it’s very important that it’s very close to your heel because that way, it hugs your foot, you’re not gonna slide out when you walk, and it’s a lot more comfortable to wear a shoe that way. Because of that, all bespoke shoes are always very tight.

Front & Back Caps Are Important For The Comfort Of Your Feet

Also to keep the shoe in shape, you have caps in the front toe box and in the back heel. Most of the time, heel caps are stiffer than the front toe caps and some are really stiff and uncomfortable. So if your heel doesn’t fit a hundred percent in there, it’s gonna hurt and you may end up with blisters.

The shoes from Ace Marks are quite nice in the sense that the heel is not too wide, the cap gives stability but it’s not too hard, and the leather is soft, so there’s some room for different heels and different sizes.

Now with the lace-up shoe, you always have the benefit of having laces that keep things in place, but you don’t want things to be too tight.

V-Shape on Oxford Indicate Fit Issues

When a shoe is new, and the leather is unstretched, you will likely see a slight v-shape in between the laces in an oxford that should close overtime. Too much of a v-shape means that you need a last that’s slightly bigger, or maybe you just have a bigger foot.

Now, if you have laces, you can get away with a fit that is maybe just 90 or 95 percent versus if you go with a slip on or a loafer shoe such as this penny loafer from Ace Marks, you have to get a fit that is much better because you don’t have laces that help you. Again, it’s super important on a loafer that hugs you tightly and that the heel isn’t too wide otherwise, your feet will slide out all the time.

With new shoes, when in doubt always go slightly in the smaller side with a slip-on shoe because you don’t want them to come loose and otherwise, you won’t be able to wear them at all later on.

Ace Marks Penny Loafers

Ace Marks Penny Loafers

Listen When You Put On A Shoe – It’s Indicator Of A Good Fit

So one little secret that you don’t hear about very often is that when you remove the shoe and you get that sound like the release of a vacuum, that’s a good indicator that you have a tight fit. On a bespoke shoe, that’s usually what you get and it’s also a little more difficult to take them off. So if you experience that, chances are this shoe fits your foot quite well.

What About Arch Support?

Personally, my feet are quite flat yet I have never found the need for additional arch support. It seems like it is a controversial topic where some people argue in favor in insoles that support your arches, while others think it just deteriorates the problem. I suggest you go with what feels right on your feet.

How Do You Find The Proper Shoe Size?

Of course, it sounds very simple, and you just have to measure your feet before you buy. The problem is your left foot is not just different than your right foot, but the size of your foot also varies throughout the day with the swelling and depending on how much you walk.

For most people, the feet are biggest in the evening so that’s a good time when you should measure your shoes or go and buy shoes. It goes without saying that you should always measure both feet because sometimes people have more than a size difference between the left foot and right foot.

The Brannock System – Standard Footwear Sizes in the U.S.

In the US, the most common sizing system is the Brannock device. You can find these metal sizers in shoe stores all across the US or you can buy them on Amazon for about 60 to 65 bucks. That device is very simple, you just step in, take the reading of the width, as well as your length based on your big toe. Now, most people don’t have a device at home and because of that, Ace Marks provides you with a letter-sized and a Din A4 format shoe sizer that you can just print out at home.


How Determine Your Shoe Size Accurately With a Printout or a Piece Of Paper

Once you have it, your heel must be on the line. I always suggest to take a big book and put it down. That way, you can’t slide back when you stand there and then you take a pen and mark it slightly facing inward where your big toe is and that way, you determine your size. Do it on both feet and you know exactly what size you should get.

What I’ve found over time is that a lot of shoe companies have different sizes within their own brand, meaning, different lasts have different sizes and I had ten, ten and a half, and eleven in one brand; now that’s not helpful at all and it always meant I had to buy shoes, return them, try them on again, and it’s just a big hassle.

Definitely watch the video, otherwise you’ll get it wrong.

Ace Marks Conforms To The US Brannock System

If you know what your Brannock size is, you know Ace Marks is going to fit. While it’s possible to determine the right size of your foot with a print out at home, I suggest having someone help you just to make sure it’s 100% accurate.

Print out in DIN A4 if you usually us cm, Letter Size if you use inches, Legal and 11 x 17 inches if you have large feet and a printer that can handle larger paper. Please check out the size conversion chart below to find your proper shoe size.

Now if you don’t have a printer, what you can do is to trace the outline of your foot with socks and make sure to hold the pen slightly inward so you get a neat tight outline of your foot. Once you have that, you measure it from the longest point of your heel to your big toe. With that measurement, you can check out the size chart in centimeters or inches on the Ace Marks website and you can exactly determine what US Brannock size you are. When you do this, make sure you stand because the size can be different than when you sit.

Personally, I wear a size 11 1/2 US on the US Brannock system and it works quite well for me. Normally I am a 10.5 or 11 UK size and about 44.5 to 45 European shoe size. The Ace Marks come in a medium D width and overall, they hug the middle part of my toe, they leave enough room for my toes, and they really are good around the heel. Lets say you measure and you come up in between sizes, I suggest you simply get both sizes have them shipped to you at home, then you can try them on a carpet or a rug so they don’t scratch the bottom and you can send the pair back that doesn’t fit you and that way, you make sure that you get the best size for your foot.

Finding Your Shoe Width

When it comes to the width of the shoe, most manufacturers have numbers. Letter A means it’s a slimmer width, D usually is a medium width, and E or EE or F are larger widths. The problem is this is not a uniform standard and so you have to look at each individual brand.

With the US Brannock system device or the printout, you can also determine your width in medium, wide or extra wide.


How A Dress Shoe Should Fit - Guide To Finding Your Shoe Size
Article Name
How A Dress Shoe Should Fit - Guide To Finding Your Shoe Size
Learn all about dress shoes; how you can find the right fit, what constitutes a good fit, and how you determine your proper size.
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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5 replies
  1. Stuart says:

    Nice shoes – great video, as usual. Thanks for all that you do. I learn a lot from your site… yet, my question is not about the shoes but about your jacket (which is quite attractive); specifically the “dimple” that I see just under your right shoulder, on the sleeve. I couldn’t help but notice that many of my suits – even the ones that are made to measure – have a dimple under one or both shoulders and I wonder if it has to do with arm hole being too narrow or padding or both? Neither? These jackets are “custom” fitted for me but -to be clear – they are not bespoke – they are made to measure (Don’t hate on me, internet!) Do you have any thoughts on why this may occur and if there any tailoring fixes for it? I can’t help but notice it and it bothers me because I’ve spent a lot of money on these made to measure jackets, but didn’t notice until recently. They fit well on my shoulders but I can’t help but notice the dimple(s). Thanks Raphael.

  2. Patrick says:

    I agree with David’s comment about American shoemakers. I prefer Alden over Allen-Edmonds as Alden shoes utilize a steel shank which gives me needed stability as well as a longer lasting shoe; flexible soles break down more quickly. The good thing about Alden shoes is I have found my correct size on the last that is most comfortable to me so I can order my shoes online.

  3. Roger Starnes says:

    I didn’t see you mention that the Brannock System has a secondary measurement to address feet that have a high instep (see their website section on the heel-to-ball measurement). For instance, my absolute foot length is 10 1/2; however, for the instep to fit correctly, I need to purchase size 12. Most shoe salesmen and shoe stores don’t seem to know how to actually use the Brannock System, which results in a lot of men having discomfort because the shoe pinches their instep. The men think it’s the shoe, but it’s actually a lack of service.


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