Early in the COVID pandemic a post discussed how more time at home was changing your customer’s expectations of shoe comfort. Now that we are returning to social activities, working from an office, and travelling, what are your customers looking for in shoe fit?
- Fashion/Dress: After years of less testing of high heels, dress flats, oxfords, and wedges (related to reduced sales at retail!), we are seeing a massive influx of fashion and dress shoes for fit testing at Heeluxe in the first half of 2022. Our data shows that our testers that frequently wear dress shoes do expect a looser, more comfortable fit from these styles. This is influenced by their “pandemic footwear” being looser, more casual footwear and that they don’t wear dress shoes as many days of the week as pre-pandemic.
- Widths: Every category (high heels to hiking boots) is embracing the increased comfort that comes from a wider width. Many brands that were making all of their women’s shoes on a B last are moving to a B/C of C width last. Brands are also beginning to sample more true “wide width” shoes in response to increased customer demand. Also driving this change is the acceptance of different geographic regions having wider feet relative to their length compared to European feet.
- Stretch and Adjustability: Uppers with more adjustments or an upper material with greater stretch are becoming more common in Heeluxe’s lab and on retail shelves. Hiking boots and occupational shoes are now being made with stretch meshes instead of stiff leathers and waterproof materials. Sandals and casual shoes are being produced with buckles for adjustment or stretch materials for a sock like fit. One bonus: toe box depth isn’t as important to customer’s when a stretchy upper is used!
- Return to Group Sports: Many of your customers changed their workouts to be socially distant during the pandemic, picking up running, hiking, golf or indoor workout videos. With restrictions being lifted, there are many returning to group activities and there is excitement around these footwear categories. In late 2021 we began seeing new materials being tested for Soccer/Futbol uppers that are more comfortable, longer lasting, and offer better ball control. Performance basketball is also launching new technologies and, more importantly, a focus on women’s product with Under Armour launching their women’s specific Flow 2, Puma launching a pro model for WNBA Star Breanna Stewart, and start-up Moolah focusing specifically on women’s basketball.
As always, there are 2 constants for fit: It’s the #1 influence on customer comfort and your customer’s preferences are always going to change. When you need guidance on how to fit your customer reach out to email@example.com.