A shoes guide for those with abnormally big or small feet

Footwear, shoes, C&J

As a man who has struggled with slightly larger feet for my frame, I fully understand the frustrations and tribulations that go with having a few extra centimetres than necessary on your toes. Socks consistently have holes from the strain, many brands don’t go up to my size, and holding up a pair of shoes that are larger than my head has never seemed quite right.

There are pictures of when I was a kid, playing in the street, and it looks like I’ve borrowed a pair of my dad’s shoes. Naturally, they’re not so horrifically out of proportion anymore, but over the years I’ve had to abandon buying certain pairs of shoes because, quite frankly, they really made my flipper feet stand out.

With this in mind, I enlisted the experts from some of the country’s biggest and best names in the shoes business on how to style out the too big or too small shoe size conundrum.

For large feet

The style counts — details make the difference

“Larger sizes can look very extreme in the vamp (front section to toe) to the point of looking less stylish and too long, so you can combat this by buying styles such as full brogues or semi brogues that feature either a wing cap or a straight cap with punch detailing. Having more detail on the style will break up the pattern, making it look less elongated…”

….says James Fox, marketing manager at Crockett & Jones. A sentiment echoed by Herring’s Jason Simmonds:

“For large feet, go for an Oxford closed lacing as it makes the side-on profile of the shoe less bulky, so stay away from Derbys for a formal look. However, if you have a high instep or want to maximise your height, them a chunky commando soled Derby could be perfect.”

Beware of pointy toes

This is the advice of Grenson’s owner and creative director Tim Little:

“Most importantly, choose a shoe on a round toe as it will be shorter. Pointier shoes are a lot longer as the point extends well beyond the toes.”

Watch out for the welt

Little also advises paying attention to the thickness of the welt, the welt being that strip of leather which is sewn around the bottom edge of a shoe:

“If you feel your feet are big for someone of your height, the best thing to do is to buy a shoe with a closer trimmed welt as opposed to one with a wide protruding welt.”

Consider colour

The Grenson owner’s final nugget of wisdom is on the impact of colour:

“Darker colours make the shoe look smaller too, so a dark chocolate brown instead of a bright tan will make a big difference.”

It may be all in your head

Finally, Sepand Oboudiyat, the founder of Sons of London, makes a good point in that your feet may not actually be as out of proportion as you think they are:

“Firstly I would say, ‘It’s in your head. Don’t worry about it’ — there’s only about 2.5cm between a size 8 and a size 12. So if you are a size 12 but think you should be an 8 (or vice versa), chances are your feet don’t look as big or small to others as they do to you… If your shoes are easy on the eye, people will be complimenting you on your impeccable taste rather than noticing any size irregularities.”

Recommended buys:

For small feet

Much of the advice above applies, although in reverse, obviously. More specifically:

The style still counts — chunky soles and keeping it simple

“For a smaller person, the chunky shoe can also be a good idea. Chunky Derbys with a thick commando sole can add a little height and volume to a look, but be wary of elongated styles again as they may look out of proportion. They usually look better on the taller gent…”

…says Herring’s Simmonds. And James Fox from Crockett reckons less broguing is called for when it comes to making feet look a little larger:

“To perceivably elongate the front (or vamp) of a shoe, buy more simplistic patterns such as whole-cuts or whole-vamps.”

Pointier toes and lighter colours

In reverse to his advice above, Grenson’s Little recommends those with smaller feet give pointy toes a chance:

“For people who feel their feet look too small, you can do the opposite of the above – pointy toes will add length and lighter colours will help give this illusion.”

Recommended buys:

(Main image: Crockett & Jones)

Further Reading