Anyone that spends their time working with feet will tell you that men and women have different proportions to their foot shape. But how does this impact shoe fit? And shoe brands design shoes different for women and men?
In 2015 Heeluxe began using sensors to quantify shoe fit. During our validation testing we observed major differences in fit for a single shoe style if it was on a male or female foot. Women’s feet tended to have tighter fit in the ball of foot and toes and were looser in the heel. This makes sense compared to data on gender differences in foot shape in published research articles dating back to 2001.
Our database shows that this is not an isolated occurrence: in every shoe category women’s shoes fit worse then men’s.
The differences in fit pressures are not small. Heel fit is up to 30% looser on a woman’s foot and Ball of foot fit is up to 70% tighter on a woman’s foot compared to a man’s in the same shoe style.
Whenever we present these data points women in the room start nodding their heads. This is why they’re more likely to get heel blisters or be limited by ball of foot pain. It all makes sense, but few if any brands were making changes to their women’s shoes.
Path to Greatness: Let’s not stop by identifying the problem, let’s work together to make better shoes. First, let’s reduce “unisex” styles, then move onto bigger ideas:

  • Creating different lasts for men and women is not easy but it is a critical step towards creating great fitting shoes for both women and men. The opportunity for improvement is massive and isn’t limited to lasts. Different materials and patterns can help men and women have equally comfortable shoes.
  • Using mobile scanning to grow a larger database of foot shapes will improve our understanding of how gender, age, and geography impact assumptions about feet.
  • Test all genders!  Measure shoe fit on shoe fit on men and women (and lots of them!) to ensure your brand offers the most comfortable fit.

Want to know more about gender differences in fit? Heeluxe has you covered. Email us: [email protected]