How to choose the perfect sneaker

Words by: Tony Bercow

Everyone wants the perfect sneaker: a sneaker that you can wear comfortably all day, every day, without fretting about whether you look good or appropriate for any occasion. This article provides you with three important factors to consider when shopping for new sneakers. The shape, materials, and comfort of the shoe are pivotal in deciding on the perfect sneaker.

Shape

One of the most important factors in picking the right sneaker is determining your desired shape. A sneaker’s shape is mainly determined by the last used during production. A last is a mechanical, wooden or plastic form that has a similar shape to a foot. The exact shape of the last varies from one producer to another and makes a huge difference in how a shoe fits on a foot. The shape of the last is based on up to 35 distinct measurements, including tread, flare, toe spring, and four separate measurements of girth at the ball, waist, instep, and heel of the foot. An experienced last-maker can create a shoe that feels like it was custom-made for your foot. Italian shoes are renowned for their comfort and custom feel, and this can largely be attributed to the fact that the last making process has been refined and perfected over decades from generation to generation, resulting in shoe-makers who can create the consummate last for a shoe.

The perfect shoe varies by personal preference — there is no right answer. You can prefer high-tops to low-tops, chunky soles to thinner soles, or narrow, square, or wide toe boxes. These preferences can even change depending on the season: a high-top can provide more heat insulation than a low-top in the winter, and low-tops can provide more breathability in the summer. However, for a sneaker to be perfect, objectively, the shape must be perfect for your specific foot.  

Materials

The next factor to take into consideration when selecting the best sneaker for you is the materials and details present in the finished product. If you want the best sneaker, you want premium materials and extreme attention to detail. Knowing the region where the sneakers were produced is easy, but not comprehensive way to know what to expect without having to ask tons of questions about the product that customer service or a sales associate may not know the answer to. Italy is known for having talented craftsmen and women who have decades of experience, as shoe-making dates back centuries and is often passed down from generation to generation within families. 

However, “made in Italy” doesn’t always mean that the product is 100% Italian, from the materials to the assembly to the finishing touches. Many producers can claim their shoes are made in Italy by outsourcing elements of their manufacturing process to low-wage countries, where most of the shoe is assembled and stitched together, and then sent back to Italy for final labeling as “Made in Italy.” 100% Italian shoes will have high-quality calf leather without a synthetic layer topping sourced from Italian tanneries — this kind of leather doesn’t wrinkle or crease as easily and stays new-looking longer.

Comfort

A sneaker can’t be perfect if it’s not comfortable. The best sneakers are the ones that you can wear all day, every day without having to sit down and give your feet a rest. A shoe’s comfort level can depend largely on the materials used to create the shoe. Look for sneakers with high-quality leather lining and/or padding, so that you can wear them with no-show socks, or no socks at all. Also look for sneakers with hand-painted edges, as the paint acts as a sealant for the leather, locking it into place and preventing wear and tear and exposed edges. Furthermore, look for shoes with light soles — lighter soles means less strain on your feet, ankles and knees, resulting in maximum comfort.

At the end of the day, only you can decide which sneaker is perfect for you. However, by being vigilant regarding the shoe’s shape, the materials used, the manufacturing location, and how the shoe feels on your foot, you should be able to make the most informed decision possible — thus reducing the chance you’ll have to return the sneakers in the future.

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