I can’t begin to count how many men have told me they haven’t had their feet measured since they were kids. Not really surprising considering these days you’re lucky just to find someone to get a pair of shoes for you in most shoe departments
I would venture to say that many stores don’t even have devices to properly measure your feet. The Brannock Device is the standard foot measuring tool for the world’s footwear industry. But few people are able to call the device by name, much less identify its inventor, Charles Brannock.
Brannock was born into the shoe business. His father, Otis Brannock, joined with Ernest Parks in 1906 to found the downtown Park-Brannock Shoe Co. in Syracuse, New York. As a Syracuse University student, young Brannock wanted to find the best way to measure the foot. He played around with the idea for a couple of years and finally built a prototype using an Erector set. In 1926 and 1927, Brannock patented the device and created a company to build it.
Prior to inventing the device that bares his name the most common foot-sizer in the 1920s was the Ritz Stick, made by the American Automatic Device Company of Chicago. A wooden ruler, the Ritz could measure a foot’s width and its length from heel to toe, but not at the same time. The Ritz stick is still a very common device for measuring feet in the U.K. and Europe.
In a day and age when so many high tech gadgets constantly bombard us it’s comforting to know such a low tech devise withstands the test of time and quietly provides a valuable service.
We all know how important it is that shoes fit comfortably, but how do you determine what the “proper” fit is? That’s a highly subjective question, and can be asked of anything we wear such as a suit or a shirt although they probably won’t cause extreme pain or permanent damage if they aren’t right. A shoe is felt with each movement of your foot, so it’s crucial that they’re comfortable.
I always start by measuring the feet with a Brannock Devise. It’s important to point out here that this is a starting point, or guide since each manufacturer has their own size scale on top of which each last and style fits differently. It’s a combination of all these factors that goes into fitting a pair of shoes. Once the approximate size is tried on it then becomes a question of how you like your shoes to feel, meaning snugger, looser or just comfortable. This is where it really becomes a matter of individual preference.
I can usually tell from the sound a shoe makes going on the foot, that whoosh of air that this could be it. But I can only suggest, by feel, and sight what looks right or not. Ultimately each person has to make the determination how they feel. I’ve had customers buy shoes smaller, or larger than what I think is a proper fit but that’s the way they like them to feel, and I respect that. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve bought shoes that kill their feet because the person that sold them to them insisted it was the proper size, so I am sensitive to being insistent.
My advise is to ask questions if you’re not sure about how a shoe fits and what to expect it to feel like after you wear it a number of times. Ask as many questions as come to mind because the answers, plus your own sense of feel and experience will guide you to what will amount to the proper fit.