(Or the Evolution of Kitty Paws, Part 3)
There must be a name for the phenomenon in which making a tiny change to one part of a system results in a multitude of unpredictable and seemingly unrelated changes to occur elsewhere in the system. You know, Somebody’s Law or the Principle of Something. Does anyone know what it’s actually called?
Last time, we were at the point of fitting a preliminary design to the foot. Kitty’s foot, to be specific – narrow at the heel, wide at the ball of the foot, shorter in the toes, and quite muscular (yes, toe length and muscle density really do make a difference in shoe fitting).
If you feel like your shoes always pinch at the front of your foot but the heel still keeps slipping off when you walk, you may have this general foot shape (or you may just have poorly designed shoes. We’ll get to that, eventually, though not in this blog).
So I made multiple versions of the test shoes until the fit was right, or as right as I could get it without smashing my own head in with my rubber mallet. Take it from your Aunt Kitty: fitting is the most frustrating part of making anything you intend to wear on your body, wherever you intend to wear it. Here’s the latest version:
These shoes were comfortable, nothing felt too loose or too squeezy or raspy or weird, and I could break into a jog without losing them. However, my feet did keep sliding to the rear, so I ended up walking ON the back of the shoe. This was because they did not have a “counter.” A counter, in the shoe world, is a piece of stiff material that acts the way boning does in your corset; it keeps the centre back standing up, so it doesn’t flatten into an extension of the sole when your heel slides back against it. Most of your shoes have one, even if you can’t always see it.
Anyhow, I asked Felix, who has tools and deals with any leather too heavy for my sewing scissors to cut, to make and insert counters. This is what the counter looked like, once we put one in there:
He put an outsole on it, too, so I could technically wear this outdoors now, if we didn’t have a five-foot snow pile in the driveway.
Once the counters were in, my feet stayed put and stopped sliding backward. BUT….
I swear, that big gap at the back was not there pre-counter! Somehow, inserting the counter made the shoes go from lovingly clutching my ankle to creating a space big enough to keep a hamster. It was flabbergasting. Adding stuff to a space isn’t supposed to make it looser.
But now my heels are flip-flopping out the back with every step, which drives me barmy (that’s British for crazy, if you were wondering), so probably I won’t…. Or maybe I will, because these things are STILL more comfy than any store-bought shoes I ever owned that weren’t huge baggy athletic sneakers.
There WILL be another version – just as soon as talk myself into believing that I can come up with something genuinely wearable, oh, say, the very next try.
Felix, the former engineer, thinks he can fix the gap via architectural design, using stiffened and custom-shaped leather as scaffolding (or magic, which is fine by me). Upon reflection, I think that maybe the glove-soft leather I’ve chosen to use makes the mouth of the shoe stretch rapidly – but that stretch is essential to making future shoes comfortable for as many people’s feet as possible, because realistically, I can’t make sixteen pairs of prototype shoes per size per colour to carry around for you to try. Stretch is comfort, which is why you’d rather be wearing your yoga pants right now and not suit trousers.
So next on the agenda: Felix does something magic with the counter problem, and Kitty finds a way to stabilize the shoe opening while retaining stretch in the toe box area. And someone will tell us the correct technical name for the Whatever Effect.