Most people know about removable insoles, heel grips, tongue pads etc. to fix various fit issues, what some might not think about though is that if you go to a good cobbler you can have fix the same issues in an even nicer looking and better way. Here I highlight a number of fit modifications that cobblers can do. It’s very common that RTW shoes does not fit perfectly, but in many cases the modifications below can make it really good.

Read an article about the even simpler, self-adhesive fit correction solutions here.


Heel lining

Heel slippage is a common complaint on shoes that are a bit too long or have a heel that is too wide. So-called heel grips can help, but a good cobbler can attach a proper heel liner that is both better looking, more comfortable and more durable. The shoemaker simply puts in a thicker piece of leather which is skived towards the edges for a smooth transition. In the event that a lot needs to be added, one can use two leather pieces. This is not something that cost too much, usually between €30-50.

Nicely made lining in the heel, which reduce the size at the back by about half a size.

A skilled cobbler does this kind of work so that it is virtually impossible to tell that the shoe has been modified. Here the upper seam at the back is made by the cobbler, but you really have to study the shoes closely to discover that it’s not the original seam.

Previously, these had a bit of heel slippage, and didn’t close completely tight around the ankle either. After the procedure, they fit really nicely. I later put some shoe cream on the edge of the heel lining to hide it a bit more, although it’s not immediately visible when the pants are covering (the extreme fold-up is for the fit of the shoe to be visible).


Tongue lining

This is basically the same type of work as above, only that it’s done on the tongue instead. This is to correct if the instep of the shoe is too high. In this case, the lacing on the derby closed almost completely before, and there was also a bit of slack around the ankles. A piece of leather was not enough to fill in the space needed, as they were too thin, so the cobbler took a piece of natural rubber and put it under the leather to build-up more. This also usually costs around €20-50.

Apart from the fact that the tongue is now a bit stiffer than before, this procedure is hardly noticeable at all, except then that the shoe fits better.

The work on the stitches is not as nicely done by the cobbler who did this, but still it is nothing that is particularly noticeable.

With the tongue distance, the gap at the lacing was just fine, and the gap around the ankles was better, albeit not perfect.


Adding a permanent insole

Having removable insoles, especially if they’re all leather or leather and a natural material like cork, generally works pretty well if you need to fill out the volume a bit. Insoles can sometimes if they don’t match the shoes completely slide around a bit in the shoes, and sometimes you can even feel the edge a bit somewhere. All these small issues can be avoided if you have a cobbler attach a permanent leather insole. Also, you can make more specific modifications here, such as having a thicker layer at the back half if needed but you still want more room in the front, or similar.

A thin leather insole glued in can adjust the volume to perfection, without looking or feeling any different.

Adding in a filler just in a specific area, or extra in a specific area along with a full insole, is also an underrated way to get that last bit right for a perfect RTW fit.


Stretch shoes

To stretch shoes is a well-known intervention to make shoes that are a bit too small still workable. In fact, it’s possible to enlarge a pair of shoes quite substantially, up to a full width size. In particular, the width and to some extent the height can be changed, but not the length, as the stiffeners prevent this. The shoes are treated with a leather softener and then put in a machine that can put heavy pressure on large parts of the shoes or just a very specific area. These Crockett & Jones Connaught below were, for some reason way too small, despite being a size UK10 in the standard width that I knew would fit me in the 236 last. However, with two rounds of stretching, they then fitted nicely. The price range is generally between €15-30.

A good stretching of shoes should barely show at all. Many people think that seams have a hard time stretching, but in fact they can do it without a problem, it’s the leather that you have to be most careful with.

Here you can see the only clear sign that these shoes have been stretched out, the slightly diagonal creases just behind the toe cap seam above the sole edge. If you look closely, you can also see that the side extends a little extra over the sole edge.