This week has been a busy one of fittings and adjustments for a client with enlarged big toe joints and a nerve problem in his right foot, but not his left. This means that both lasts have prominent fittings to accommodate the joints and the right shoe needs to be wider than the left at the vamp to ensure that the toes are not cramped.
Naturally the shoes still need to look like a pair, so we have used felt to pad out the left shoe, between the lining and the upper, so that they look similar.
It has also been an exercise in fine tuning the fit, to create the room needed at the toes and at the big toe joint, without inadvertently creating bad break. Break - where leather folds and creases against itself - is a vital consideration in footwear where the vamp folds and creases as you walk.
Bad break is where there is too much leather in the vamp, creating deep creases which dig into the foot when it flexes or where the shoe is not the right length for the foot; too short and the vamp will break too far forward, too long a shoe and the vamp will break too close to the quarters and laces. Good break is tight, shallow creasing across the vamp behind the toes.
To make good break on this client's shoes, we lowered the fore part of the last diagonally from the big toe joint across to the outside feather and at the toes. We also soaked the uppers and lasted them mellow, so that they shrunk down onto the lasts. The result, tight creases and a good looking and accommodating fit.
Obviously well fitting shoe trees are also an important part of the picture. They help to smooth out the creases in the vamp when the shoes are not being worn and prevent dirt and moisture from building up in the creases.
There is a great post on the Horween blog if you would like to find out more about leather properties and 'break'. Until next week happy shoe making!