“I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes.” Oprah
December 8, 2010 5:17 PM   Subscribe

Shoes for a man. From a woman who knows only the barest bit more about fashion than he does. Difficulty: for an engineer who wears mostly khaki slacks and jeans, wants to look a little sharper at work, and wants to be more comfortable working out and dancing (resoling for dancing is perfectly fine). Bonus points: men's 11 AAA (yes, that's 3 A).

Amazon.com offers a paltry 4 pairs of men's shoes in that size range. , and I suspect that Allen Edmonds are a touch more...dressy than he wants.

6pm.com strangely offers 3 pairs of men's 2A shoes, and I didn't look at the 4A because I was annoyed at the search function of that site.

Zappos has....lots. And this is where I promise I will never again make fun of men's shoes being all interchangeable. Because I do not have any idea how to choose. So. Well Shod Men of Metafilter, tell me about your shoes.
posted by bilabial to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Probably a stupid question, but does he want one pair of shoes for work, dancing and working out?

Probably a less-stupid question: what kind of dancing and working out does he do?
posted by box at 5:23 PM on December 8, 2010

Response by poster: Working out - P90X
Dancing - Lindy Hop primarily, with other types of swing.

Probably 2 or 3 different pairs of shoes, one for work (yes, I know this should be two pairs, but let's start slow here), one for working out, and maybe a third just for dancing.
posted by bilabial at 5:31 PM on December 8, 2010

tl;dr: A factory store that can order shoes quickly is probably the best to get a good fit for now and the future, working out and work/nightlife probably warrant different shoes.

That's hard to fit. He should pick a few manufacturers and go to some factory stores to get fitted. If they come in and don't fit, they can get them done again. Doing this initially online will lead to a lot of heartache.

For dress/casual/work, I'd go with Allen Edmonds. A pair of brogues will go with khakis and jeans, especially in a nice cordovan-color or light brown. Allen Edmonds has traditional and newer styles in that vein. There's also a couple with rubberized or crepe soles that would work well.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say "working out and dancing" in conjunction with "a little sharper at work". I don't see work+dancing being near workout shoes. I'd go with separating the two. Honestly, it's better not to wear the same pair of shoes all day every day anyway =).
posted by graftole at 5:31 PM on December 8, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry, I wasn't clear. This is meant to help me find two separate classes of shoes. Also, I think Allen Edmonds is a touch nicer than he wants to look at work. We're not overhauling his whole wardrobe in one fell swoop.
posted by bilabial at 5:36 PM on December 8, 2010

I like ECCOs (Helsinki & Teranno). But men's are not that slim.
Slightly crazy but how about a look at the women's section on Zappos.
Woman's shoes are always made slimmer than men's, but have some similar styles.
posted by artdrectr at 5:45 PM on December 8, 2010

Hey, Allen Edmonds aren't always as nice as you may think! They have clubworthy shoes too =)

If I had *really* hard-to-fit feet (and I generally go 8.5E to 9E), Allen Edmonds, Alden, and Lucchese are the manufacturers I would trust to make a pair to fit at retail cost if it came to that.

You mentioned swing dancing, which really says "have a '40s vibe brogue" to me (either wingtips or fullwings). AE or Alden could deliver an expensive shoe with a non-obvious rubber sole that works for the dancing and for jeans/khakis/suits. It would be very durable and repairable.

For snowy days and wearing jeans, I like my old Doc Marten's fullwings, but I don't know if you could get them in 11AAA. The quality isn't what it was, but they still last a while.
posted by graftole at 6:00 PM on December 8, 2010

Can he wear a 2A or even just an A and put in insoles, heel bumpers, etc.? I have really narrow feet, but typically just wear regular width shoes and put in insoles when needed or wear good socks (with sneakers/boots) because it's too limiting to just wear shoes that come in narrow sizes.
posted by elpea at 6:02 PM on December 8, 2010

For dancing, you must have the right shoes. You can't skimp. Even apparently small differences will make a huge difference to his performance. Link. The shoes should have a day to dry out between sessions, so he should get two pairs if need be.

As for workout shoes, it depends on the kind of workout. IIRC it's really only for running that you have to have very high-tech shoes, otherwise, plain old low-tech sneakers should be plenty. Ditto above about letting them dry out between sessions.

A pair of black leather lace-ups, worn with black or grey socks, will cover him for formal occasions and go with black, grey, or navy pants. Then a pair of brown leather lace-ups to go with all other colours of pants, tweeds, sport coats, etc. If in doubt match sock color to shoe color.
posted by tel3path at 6:03 PM on December 8, 2010

AAA width is going to be difficult. Allen-Edmonds seem to offer 10 pairs of shoes in that width. Their Wilbert looks pretty casual as does their Walden loafer.
posted by cazoo at 6:26 PM on December 8, 2010

He might not want to wear some slick and polished brogues, but those companies also make suede shoes. For work, get him some brown suede monk straps (link for reference, not an endorsement of the product). Not too slick, comfy, and will probably start tipping him toward buying a matching belt, then maybe nicer slacks. Double monks are so hot right now, but they'll look great for years.
posted by markovitch at 6:30 PM on December 8, 2010

Please get proper shoes for dancing - this is imperative not just to his dance performance, as tel3path said, but also to his long term physical health. He certainly doesn't want to have a long term injury through lack of good shoes! You can check Capezio, Bloch, and Sansha for dance shoes - and there are also several places you can get these custom made to fit him. I go through an Australian company, www.jqdance.com.au, to get my custom salsa shoes, and they have good brogues/spats and can custom make too (with good prices).
posted by shazzam! at 8:03 PM on December 8, 2010

Pricey but built to fit any size foot and to last (small pun) White's "Semi-Dress" or Centennial Walker work shoes. No dance shoes though.
posted by X4ster at 9:46 PM on December 8, 2010

Best answer: As a former shoe maker, shoe machinery manufacturing business owner, shoe salesman, and a long time shoe wearer, I often advise people at the extremes of shoe sizing to fully understand how shoe sizing really works (in the U.S., we're still using sizing loosely based, by manufacturer, on the "proportional sizing system" invented in 1880 by Edwin B. Simpson), and then to have their feet measured carefully, by an experienced fitter, with a Brannock device, with an eye to finding, if at all possible, decent fit compromises in the standard sizes and last models of major manufacturers.

As an example, your SO's AAA width measurement, which so restricts your style and manufacture choices due to fit, is only 1/4" in total circumference at the ball of the foot narrower than a AA width, in the American sizing system. In a high heeled boot, where weight is easily transferred forward to the toes in boots that are too big, that's a lot of size difference, but in a flat shoe, like a boat shoe, or loafer, it is not nearly as noticeable. And, one maker's AA last for a classic Blücher style may be significantly "tighter" at the ball than the same maker's last for a loafer or other slip-on shoe, in the same size, even to the point that your man might really need that AAA in a slip-on style, but find an oxford by the same maker "tight" in width, in the same size. So, it pays to take shoe style, construction, and use into account, as well as size, when shopping, especially considering that many, if not most, U.S. manufacturer's sizing matrix stops at AA as their narrowest width, even they have extensive last profiles..

And as an ex-salesman/shoe fitter, I'll tell you that 90% of Americans haven't had their feet actually measured in more than 5 years. Feet change throughout your life, in response to weight, activity, general health, and types of footwear worn. Ideally, and especially for people with feet at the size extremes of the standard sizing system, folks should have their feet measured annually. Fitters using the Brannock device may need to make some adjustment to the Brannock device indication if they observe particularly "fleshy" feet (greater "width" in fit than indicated by Brannock device) or "bony" feet (narrower "width" in fit than indicated by Brannock device), since "width" is really intended as a measure of circumference near the ball of the foot. As Americans are generally getting heavier, shoe widths in the general public are trending to a wider average. And the fact is that old shoes often "break down" in wear, coming to conform in wear, slowly, to feet that have changed substantially since the shoes were first fitted and bought, so that people can continue to believe that they wear a certain size, long after their feet have actually changed measureably.

Thus, using a Brannock device properly requires some experience, although it is not rocket science, and a good fitter may probe your foot in the heel, instep, and ball with some thumb pressure to ascertain your real sizing needs, beyond the initial numbers generated by the Brannock device. He/she is looking for "fleshiness," ligament spread, bone spurs, arch deformations, bunions, hammertoes, and other foot idiosyncrasies which call for adjustment of Brannock device findings. A good fitter may also look at your old footwear to see if it is broken down, or obviously worn in patterns which indicate poor fit, and may ask you to walk about a bit, to observe stride mechanics and general gait. Some athletic shoe store even have treadmills and force strike platforms to further analyze your walking and running stride, to further assist in understanding your fit needs. In extreme cases, such as when the left and right feet differ by more than a full size in standard sizing, it may be recommended that you have custom shoes made, or buy separate sizes for left and right feet.

Many specialty shoe retailers provide a fair amount of training time for their employees in fit measurement and training, and it would be worth your man's time to seek out a local shoe store for an experienced fitting/foot measurement, whether you buy shoes at that retailer, or not. If your man really is an 11 AAA in styles appropriate for the activities you describe, it'll definitely be a snipe hunt finding footwear that fits him. But it is really worth checking that he still is that shoe size, before jumping through hoops for such a hard to find size, when he may have a lot of other options, based on better measurement of his feet.
posted by paulsc at 2:55 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oops. Link for "how shoe sizing really works" in the first paragraph above should have gone this article and "their feet measured carefully" in the first paragraph above should have gone to this video. My apologies for hitting post too quickly.
posted by paulsc at 3:13 AM on December 9, 2010

I don't know if you intended these to be a surprise, but given his size, you would probably be best off actually taking him to a physical store, one with a wide selection and knowledgeable sales staff. If you have a Nordstrom nearby, it is a great place to find men's shoes.
posted by rtimmel at 11:54 AM on December 9, 2010

Response by poster: The Nordstrom salesman lied to me (yes, lied to me!) when I queried him about finding some ladies 9 AA shoes for myself, told me, "Nobody makes a ladies 9 AA anymore." So, while I trust Nordies for a lot, they are no longer my go to location for stellar customer service.

I ended up ordering a pair of boring New Balance men's AA shoes from Zappos.com, and we'll cross our fingers hoping they're perfect, but for sure they'll be better than the too wide 10.5 standards he's been wearing.

Thanks for all the suggestions.
posted by bilabial at 5:56 AM on December 10, 2010

I think you should invest in a brillant pair or British brogue shoes. My husband also an engineer by the way, wears Grenson Rose shoes. They are pricey but can be re-soled over and over and get better with wear - if you cost it by price per wear and comfort these are the bee's knees and the cat's pyjamas.
posted by nineteenthirty at 2:34 PM on December 14, 2010

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