I used to hate it when customers would come into the place that I worked and say, “I am looking for comfortable shoes!” Great! And that means what?? You want Ferragamos? Mephistos? Or comfort under $100 like Kenneth Coles?? The thing is, comfort is so subjective!!! What’s comfortable to me is most likely not going to be what is comfortable for you. So unless the customer gave me the ‘show me what you have’ line, I would try and just sit them down so that I could bring them out a selection and sell them what my definition of comfort is, SUPPORT!! Comfort is great, if you want to walk around your carpeted house. But for every other physical activity (this includes walking), you need support, NOT JUST SOMETHING CUSHY AND COMFORTABLE!! And while this may seem obvious, you would be surprised of how many people don’t realize this and why brands like Ecco — built for comfort, not support — are the #1 selling shoe brand for the companies that carry them.
So how do they differ, you might ask?? Well let’s take the shoe directly above and examine it. Now, it may be hard to tell but considering that I have held this shoe at least a million times, you can take my word for it; this shoe was made using a pretty flat last. “What is a last?” It is the mold that represents the foot that a shoe is made around. “What do you mean by flat?” From the ball of the foot to the heel, there is almost no height difference. That translates into not having any arch. Without the arch, there is not any support. You are just left with the great marketing scheme telling you that this rubber soled shoe with it’s Nike Air technology is super comfortable and supportive and will have you feeling great all day long. Bullshit! Sure you have some cushion, but the lack of support in the long run is going to allow your feet to pronate more and more which causes you to overwork them increasing your chance of injury and fatigue. Naturally the feet will pronate and that’s why arch support, stiff mid-soles and a good heel counter are the things that you want in your shoes to help you reduce the chances of over-pronation.
If you take a look at the shoe at the top of this post, you will notice the difference in height from where the heel sits to where the ball of the foot begins. It is quite evident how the last must have looked. The problem whether knowing a shoe was made with this type of last or a flat one, is not always easily noticeable. Like the Ecco above and all shoes for that matter, there needs to be some sort of heel put on the shoe. The mere fact that there is a heel will give you the illusion that the heel and ball of foot sit in different places, which they do looking at the outside of the shoe. But that still does not mean that the last had an arch. To tell, you will need to look inside of the shoe and see if you notice some sort of slope downwards from the heel to the toe area. If you do notice this, then chances are, the last was made with arch support. From my experience, any shoe that has a removable liner was made with a flat last and may be a “comfortable” shoe but sure enough won’t be a supportive one. For me, Ferragamos are one of the most comfortable and supportive shoes off of the rack because they fit my long arch and narrow foot and to me this is better than any amount of cushion. So the next time you go into a store to get shoes, ask yourself first whether you want cushion or support and then ask the salesman accordingly. The sad truth, however, is that almost all supportive shoes are also the one’s with the higher price tickets.