Shoe Fit

How Long Should Your Shoes Be?

March 11, 2020

How Long Should Your Shoes Be?

In footwear little things make a big difference in comfort. The difference between a good fitting shoe and an uncomfortable one is often less than a few millimeters. Many footwear brands and retailers are unsure how long their shoes should be for optimal comfort. So, how long should your shoes be? Luckily, shoe length is like a hand grenade—you just have to be close in order for it to work. Read on to learn how to make the best fitting shoes.

The amount of space in front of the toes in a shoe—the “wiggle room” if prefer—used to be impossible to measure. Placing the side of your thumb in front of the big toe may identify if there is some room in the toes, but it can’t tell you how much longer or shorter the shoe needs to be for optimum comfort. When SmartLast was being developed, a sensor was added to measure how much space is in front of the toes in a shoe. It turns out that this measurement is vital to understanding a consumer’s perception of a shoe.

Length is a Gatekeeper

Shoe length is the first thing a person perceives when they try on a shoe. If shoe length is good, then they will analyze the width of a shoe and other areas of comfort. If the shoe length is too long or short, they think the shoe does not fit well and provides less than optimal comfort. In this way, length is a gate keeper for comfort: is has to be good for the consumer to accurately interpret the other areas of the shoe.

That leads us to the big question: how long should your shoes be?

Testing 1000s of shoes from every product category allows us to collect a lot of information on what people find comfortable on their feet. Comparing perceived comfort with SmartLast toe box length measurements has uncovered what your customers think about the ideal shoe length. Interestingly, customers don’t want every shoe to have the same length! For example, they prefer longer work boots and short casual shoes. The like very short soccer cleats but cycling shoes should be a little longer.  For this reason, there are different ideal ranges for each footwear category. This also led us to the biggest discovery in footwear length:

Length is a Hand Grenade

When assessing footwear length, there is a range of what consumer say is normal. For instance, the ideal length for running shoes is 4-16mm past the toes. This is a very large range, a 1 ½ size range in US sizes based on length. Continuing with running shoes, if there were 2 shoes that were equal except one has 6 mm of space in front of the toes and the other has 12mm, the average consumer would say they both fit “Normal”. The 6mm is no better or worse than 12mm to your customers. As long as your shoe is in the ideal range, you’re good! This is why length is a hand grenade, you just have to get it in the right range. Width is very different—2 shoes might have ideal width, but customers will still identify which one is tighter and which one is looser.

Fixing Your Length

Our research has also found major trends in what customers don’t like about shoe length in the most popular shoes. Most running shoes have good length, with 78% of all styles in our database meeting customer standards. However, casual shoes are too long as 28% of shoes are longer than customers prefer. One of the worst categories for shoe length are work boots where 80% of tested products are shorter than customers prefer. Footwear brands are using the SmartLast data to modify their lasts and upper patterns to match customer preference, then test their samples with SmartLast to confirm their new styles have optimal comfort. Contact to learn more about testing your footwear with SmartLast.