Extra Narrow Sizes and Combination Lasts, Finding Shoes that Fit in the 21st Century

Greetings Ms. Shoe Lady,

Please ASAP your response as the few pairs of shoes I have left are wearing out and I don’t know if or when I will be able to replace them.

My Situation: About 20 years ago I bought my first pair of Easy Spirit Motion (see link for image) http://www.easyspirit.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-easyspirit-Site/default/Search-Show?SearchSource=Simple+Search&q=motion I have since worn a hole in one, only to find out they stopped making my size : 7  2A/4A – that is, a size seven with a double A in the front and a quadruple A in the heel. (Easy Spirit does still make the 7 2A but not in a combination size. Also, I have read it no longer has a steel shank.) I then tried Soft Spots which made a similar oxford (see link for image)  http://www.onlineshoes.com/womens-softspots-jocelyn-bone-p_id127775. My size in that shoe being a 7S. Unfortunately, I found out they stopped making this style of shoe altogether and have no plans to replace it with a similar style. Questions : 1. Where can I find a shoe almost identical to the ones pictured in the links in my size? 2. I read on another website some manufacturers still make combination lasts but none were cited in the post. Do you know of them? 3. Ideas to save money on shoes purchased (if I find some). This would be most helpful as I am on a rather tight budget right now. 4. The colors I am looking for are basic black and dark brown in a kid not a patent finish. Please Note: I use  custom orthotic inserts by Ideal Feet to address pronation. Since I began composing this letter, I located a shoe repair shop willing to repair my Soft Spots. No warranty was given and unfortunately, after about a year they are coming apart again. Please help. Thank you. ~cdv

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Dear cdv-

I have a dear friend who is a huge fan shoes from the early years of Easy Spirit (remember the ladies playing basketball in their heels?).  She has been asking me for 15 years, ever since I became the Shoe Lady, where she can get shoes like those original laceup styles she loved.  I will tell you what I tell her whenever she asks.  The shoes do not exist any longer.  Easy Spirit exists in a market economy.  They developed a great brand reputation and they took the brand name, sold the name and stopped the manufacturing.  I’m not sure how many times the Easy Spirit brand name has been sold since you first bought your Easy Spirit’s 20 years ago.  But I assure you, each new owner has brought their own sense of what manufacturing standards should be in order to sustain their market.  These decisions, unfortunately, have excluded many of the features that you liked so much in the original shoes.
Ros Hommerson Nancy Black Combo Laceup

Ros Hommerson Nancy Black Combo Laceup

Next up:  what ever happened to combination lasts?   America is a wonderful place.  Up through the mid 1960’s we owned shoe manufacturing for the world and did an excellent job making shoes not only in different sizes and half sizes, not only in 6-7 different widths per size but also in different widths for the front and the back of each shoe!  What a country!  Think about it.  A woman wanting a size 7 could get that shoe in about 40 different combinations of widths!  Alas, as the shoe industry discovered, such attention to customer needs could not be sustained once tariffs dropped and foreign competition came into the shoe industry.  About 15 years ago there were one or two brands that still offered combination lasts but those have closed.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that many brands that care about comfort (and there are many) took a lesson from the days of combination lasts and realized that traditional lasting had not taken into consideration that women’s feet do tend to be disproportionately narrower at the heel than those old lasts had assumed.  So these comfort brands developed lasts that kept the width measurements across the ball of the foot but were narrower in the heel.  Euro sizing also assumes a narrower heel.  But they have one basic width for the forefoot which would be too wide for your slim feet.
I suggest you give up on the quest for a combination last but focus instead on brands that offer you a laceup style in a size 7S (AAA, Slim).  Even this will be a challenge as many of the comfort brands are focusing more on wider feet than on narrower feet as the wider footed population (you’ll excuse me here!) grows.  There are fewer styles offered in the slim (AAA) widths.  There are a few brands I can suggest to you that should offer the quality you want and accommodate your orthotics.  But each has some limitations.
1.  Propet:  They have some laceup styles but they only make widths to size 7 narrow. Every shoe is built with removable orthotics.
2.  Ros Hommerson:  They have been off the market for about a year but are back this fall and there is a style, the Nancy, that should work well for you.  In order to accommodate the market and financing of their lasts, they have skipped over the “slim” width and offer their laceups in narrow and “extra slim”.
3.  Softwalk:  They do make 7 slim but I don’t see any laceups yet this Fall.
4.  Trotters:  Several nice flats but no laceups yet.

Propet Firefly Black Laceup

Propet Firefly Black Laceup

As for some of your remaining questions:
For saving money on shoes, I definitely recommend that you sign up here: http://www.admail.net/form/2696/28/   to receive the weekly SHOENEWS email which regularly includes discount coupon codes for shoes at DesignerShoes.com.
For shoe repair, if you can find a good shoe repair place, go back regularly and have them maintain your shoes.  The shoe repair shops are a dying breed and we will miss them when they are gone, especially those of us with hard to fit feet who have limited choices and need to make our shoes last a long time because, as you have discovered, who knows when we will find shoes that fit us again!
Best to you,
The Shoe Lady

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