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The shoe must go on

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If the shoemaker's son goes barefoot, maybe the kid knows a thing or two about the shoemaker's work.

Which is to say the No. 1 consideration in any shoe -- comfort -- is also what can make a good shoe so hard to shop for. You can have the flashiest style in the hottest colour, but it will stay in your closet if it makes your feet scream out in agony.

The foot is an incredibly complex appendage, with 26 bones, 33 joints and more than a hundred ligaments, tendons and muscles. It can come with high arches and low arches, high insteps and low insteps, wide balls and narrow balls.

"The best way to know if your choice of shoe is working with what you're wearing is if you're comfortable," said Erin Grafenauer, inside sales co-ordinator at shoe giant Allen Edmonds.

That comfort isn't just with how it pairs, Grafenauer said, although that's an important consideration, too. At Allen Edmonds, shoemakers have two lace styles and a dozen different lasts -- mechanical representations of feet used to form shoes -- to help customers get the perfect fit.

'We have several models that are better for a long, narrow foot or for a wider foot. We make recommendations for the lasts based on the look and feel of the shoe the customer would like to have," she said.

The bale cut uses a V-shaped lace opening that works well with lower insteps, she said. "It helps snug up the fit for better support. The blucher cut is a more rectangular opening. "This cut is optimal if you have a high instep or high arched foot. The lacing is open all the way down allowing more room to slide your foot in and out more easily."

Allen Edmonds' cork bed -- between the insole and outsole -- is an important consideration for ensuring a custom fit, she said.

Once you know which shoe works for you, it's time to talk fashion, and here's where it can get fun. Colours are all the rage, Grafenauer said, from walnut brown to black to more adventuresome choices as bourbon, red, navy and olive.

"Black is still a solid go-to for dress, but trends are more toned down and office-casual," she said. "Specifically, walnut is great with every colour except black, too great a contrast. But we did come out with a new brown last season called bourbon that is a great match for every colour out there, black included."

Creativity in contrasts is also a new trend. Grafenauer pointed to Allen Edmonds' Neumok, which in navy and brown are two of the company's best-sellers. As a custom shoe, the Neumok can also be had with contrasting eyestays, tongue, vamp, foxing and stitching for a truly customized look.

Accessories will always complete the look. Pairing shoes with clothing isn't difficult, but an eye for detail can make the entire combination pop.

"The best accessory to complement your shoes is a great matching belt," Grafenauer said. "If you do not have an exact match, we recommend to stay within a shade or two of the shoe itself."

Allen Edmonds shoes, manufactured in North America, are available in Winnipeg at Harry Rosen and Vittorio Rossi Clothiers.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 28, 2014 D13

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