Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Custom shoes? I’m in!

By the time I was in 7th grade, my shoe size was 9.5 AAA. I was still wearing Stride Rites at that point, and there were only two choices in that size: regular old black and white/brown and white saddle shoes, and some type of black velvet/black leather saddle shoes. I mostly wore the latter through 8th grade. They were cute. Not embarrassing. And they fit.

By freshman year in high school, I no longer wanted to wear Stride Rites. Unfortunately, my foot had grown a bit longer, and narrowed along the way. I now wore a 10 AAAA, with a AAAAAAA heel. The only 10 AAAA shoes available in Worcester Massachusetts were sold at a high-end women’s store, Marcus. They carried 10 AAAA shoes because that was the size worn by the wife of the owner. Unfortunately, they were the sort of shoes that a middle aged woman would want to wear, not a 13 year old kid.

But they did carry a loafer.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the Bass Weejun loafer that every other girl in my high school wore. It was a tan suede Old Maine Trotter. What they lacked in style, they made up for in comfort.

But I didn’t want comfort. I wanted the same Bass Weejun penny loafers everyone else wore. So I contorted my feet a bit, pushing them in to a 9 or 9.5 AA – whatever I could find -  that was at once to short and too wide. As a result, I had a lot of blisters.

For my other shoes – the heels I wore to church – I also went with whatever near size was available

My senior year in high school, saddle shoes were suddenly back in. And Stride Rites came in 10 AAAA.

In college, I wore loafers for a year or so. Then clogs, Dr. Scholl’s, work boots, sandals.I don’t remembering size mattering much.

By the time I was out in the work world, and I had to have decent shoes, I mostly wore 9.5 AA. Suboptimal – lots of blisters and slipping out of the shoe. Occasionally, I’d fine a shoe in my size. There was a place in Boston that sold shoes that fit. Mostly ugly, but they fit.

And then I discovered catalogue shoe shopping, and started to get most of my 10 AAAA shoes from catalogue.

And then, blessedly, there was Zappo’s.

In the last couple of years, my foot grew again, length and width. After a brief stop at 10.5 AA,  I now wear an 11 AA.

Not exactly common – and if I see something I like and click on it, I can be about 99.99% sure that it won’t be available in my size. Still, there’s a lot more choice than I had when I was in high school.

And most of what I wear is of the sneaker variety. (Thank you Asics, thank you Brooks, for the variety of colors that you make, even in my giant size. Not all the color combos, but enough that I’m not stuck with boring old white.)

What I’ve long longed for for my long foot, however, is a custom-made shoe.

Now, technologies including 3-D scanning are bringing consumer product companies closer to developing custom-fit versions of mass-produced goods. But despite the futuristic promise in the field, few products have yet broken through to a broad audience.

“It’s something everybody’s chasing in different ways,” said Bill McInnis, who leads Reebok Future, a division working on manufacturing advances for the Boston company.

Reebok recently opened a South Boston store that allows visitors to design features for their shoes. But like many in the footwear industry, the company is looking for ways to custom-make shoes that fit each customer’s foot. (Source: Boston Globe)

Get that 3-D scanner in there.Maybe it’ll be like the weird glowing fitting “machines”, the fluoroscopes of my youth. Maybe it’ll be like the MRI I just had of my ankle. (Nothing serious, just a few small tears in the tendons and ligaments. Occasional low-level pain. Occasional Grandpappy Amos McCoy limping) Whatever it is, I’m heading to Southie. I’ll be first in line to get a pair of custom-sized Reeboks. Can’t wait!

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