Have you ever found that you’re a particular size in one type of footwear, then need to go up or down in another? Ever been a size 7 at work, then inexplicably an 8 and a half on the sports field? Well if you have, you wouldn't be alone. In this piece, we’re going to explore the subject of whether you ever truly know your shoe size, and why size and shape can vary across footwear brands and types. We’re also going to show you V12’s innovative approach to providing our wearers with the best possible fit – and you might get a free mini shoe-making lesson too.
THE BIRTH OF A BOOT - WHAT IS A LAST?To explore this topic fully we need to talk about the last. All footwear starts with the last - in fact, the more you learn about how integral it is in the formation of a boot, it really should be called the ‘first.’ The last is a mould that's used to shape a boot when it's being constructed. It’s a solid foot-like shape that the rest of the shoe is built around.
DID YOU KNOW?
The word ‘last’ comes from the Old English word ‘Laeste,’ meaning the mark or print left by a foot. Appropriate really, because the last leaves a major mark on how the shoe or boot ends up looking and feeling, because it’s the starting point for footwear production.
A boot that causes you discomfort, rubs or blisters your feet or just doesn’t fit well won’t always be because of the leather or safety features – it'll generally be because they were built on a last shape that doesn’t suit your foot shape.
SO HOW AND WHY ARE SOME SHOES AND BOOTs SHAPED DIFFERENTLY?
This is a common question in the world of footwear. Many people say that Nike trainers feel wider than Adidas, and similarly, a lot of wearers notice that trainers like Vans and Converse feel narrower than others. This is because the lasts that these footwear manufacturers have used to make their shoes and boots are different in shape.
Some wearers say that they notice a difference between the fit of a V12 boot compared to safety boots from some of the other brands on the market - and so they should! There’s a very important reason for this difference, and like everything we do at V12, it’s specifically to provide maximum comfort for you.
A huge amount of the world’s footwear is manufactured in Asian countries. According to Statista, China was the world’s leading producer of footwear in 2020, making approximately 11 billion pairs of shoes. Furthermore, along with China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia were responsible for 75% of the entire world’s footwear production.
Aren’t all feet the same shape? Well actually, no they’re not. Feet are different, and not just in terms of size: they can also vary depending on what part of the world you’re from. This is because environmental factors such as nutrition, temperature and levels of urbanization mean that people have ended up with particular or unique physical traits such as height, hair type - and foot shape.
A recent scientific report which analysed 1.2 million foot scans showed clear differences in foot length between Asian and European men and women. The report revealed that the average foot length for a European man was 270 mm, while the average length for an Asian man was a significantly smaller 255 mm. Similarly, there was a difference in the women's data: the average length of a European woman's foot was 245 mm, whereas an average Asian woman's foot length was 235 mm.
Asian lasts are often based on Asian foot shapes, but problems arise when those shoes or boots are shipped to Europe for predominantly European wearers with bigger and specifically wider feet. This means that a lot of people in nations such as the UK can end up wearing footwear built with lasts based on the narrower Asian foot shape. Or, due to the lack of comfort, they are often driven to going up a size of safety boot, which might feel roomier, but inevitably ends up being too long. And in safety critical industries, a poorly-fitting boot is a dangerous boot.
In other words, many of us have got used to wearing a slimmer shoe or boot than our foot actually requires. And this is where our last is different.
WHEN TECH MEETS TRADITION: THE V12 LAST
Combining technology and tradition, we worked with the only remaining British lastmakers to create a last made specifically for a European foot shape, allowing our wearers the most universally comfortable experience when they use one of our safety boots. To produce the V12 last, we analysed the latest market research on foot shape and size and used data created from scans of over 4,000 European feet.
The V12 last is also industry specific, made to accommodate safety features like toe caps and midsoles, and we ensure our last reflects our wearers needs by reviewing the latest industry trends and variations in foot shapes and sizes across regions and ethnicities. We used the same attention to technical detail to create the last for our women’s safety range. Male and female feet are differently shaped, and our women’s last reflects these anatomical differences comprehensively.
Above left is an image of two different female lasts. On the right in green is a generic last, while on the left in blue is a V12 last. Notice, how much more contoured the V12 last is, designed with comfort at the forefront.
Our last is the basis for all IGSTM and STSTM footwear. Find out more about IGSTM and STSTM tread by heading over to our Innovations page.
Our expertly designed last is why V12 boots can often feel different from other safety boot brands, because it’s made to fit the wider European foot shape rather than those of an Asian foot shape. Our customers feet may well have gotten used to footwear produced by other manufacturers based on a narrower foreign last. Ours feel different because they fit properly – resulting in a cushioned and supported fit.
When it comes to footwear fit, most people know about shoe length, but shoe width is something of a lesser-known measurement. Foot width is calculated by assessing the foot at its widest point, which is the ball of your foot. Unlike shoe size which is measured in numbers, shoe width is gauged in the letters A-I, A indicating the narrowest feet, I being the widest. A medium foot width therefore would be F. The width fitting on the V12 last has been designed as an H plus, highlighting its specifically wide construction. When our insole is added, the width becomes a G fitting, allowing for a more standard width measurement.
When wearing a V12 boot, it’s important to bear this in mind and allow your foot time to get used to the perfect dimensions of its new home! Therefore, before you reach the conclusion that you're in the wrong sized boot - while this might often be the case - our safety boots may feel wide and roomy because our specifically developed and bespoke last is doing its job properly.
ONE MORE THING...
Sometimes when we hear from customers that their safety boot feels wide and ‘roomy,’ the solution turns out to be less about the boot, and more about the sock. We strongly recommend that when you wear a safety boot, you avoid wearing standard dress socks which are thinner, and opt for work socks which are thicker, offer more cushioning, and most importantly compliment the work boot you’re wearing by creating a more snug and complete fit.
Our high-quality work socks are the perfect companion for V12 Footwear safety boots. Explore the range here.
Find out your V12 boot size by with our free foot measuring guide below.