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.
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.
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.
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.
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.