I Like Loafers, but…

Loafers, boat shoes, slip-ons, driving shoes, and moccasins, etc. are pleasurable to wear.

They’re like Chelsea boots – easy and low maintenance.

However, they are structurally less sound and this post explains why. For convenience I am lumping all of these shoes as “loafers.”

1. They don’t have a lacing system

This is a source of most problems. Because loafers don’t have laces, you cannot tighten your shoe to your foot.

These loafers have string laces, but they’re more decorative than functional

Compared to lace-up shoes like oxfords or derbies, your feet are not held as securely.

I’ve briefly touched on this issue in a former eyelet post.

2. Loafer designs offer less support.

During pattern making, a loafer’s topline is usually cut lower.

An oxford shoe pattern. The green dashes drawn represents a lowered top line typical of a loafer

Lower toplines create a casual look and allows the shoe to easily slip on and off. However, this flexibility sacrifices all-around support. Opera pumps, flats, and house slippers are more obvious examples.

The vamp – the leather which covers the top of the foot – is almost always lower in a loafer. Each model varies. For more security, you want a higher vamp.

A women’s Mary Jane shoe with a gradually lowering topline and a low vamp

3. Loafers don’t protect pronating feet (i.e. fallen arches).

Falling arches and movement stretches the leather. Without laces, you may end up with a loose shoe.

This happened with my navy Rancourt moccasins, which overly stretched and no longer supported my foot. They eventually became so loose I could’ve shaken the shoes off my feet.

A shoe feeling too loose created another issue. My toes started clenching in order to compensate and gain stability.

This issue may take years to realize as you wear your shoe. It’s not really specific to any brand, but to loafers in general.

Loafers typically aren’t built with arch support. Many are made as light-weight as possible (using light leathers and without lining).

4. People with low-instep feet may struggle with loafers

Low instep feet look more appealing, visually.

But they don’t fit loafers as well as feet with high insteps.

If you have low instep feet (like mine), there is usually excess space between the top of your foot and the vamp. That gap can make you feel as if your feet are floating, loose.

High instep feet will more likely contact the vamp. By filling in this space, their feet will be more secure.

“But!”, you say. What if I really want a loafer and the odds are stacked against me? Keep in mind that some models offer more support than others.

You can:

– For RTW & Bespoke: Seek a loafer with a higher vamp
– RTW & Bespoke: Seek a loafer with higher top-line
– Bespoke: Request a supportive in-waist insole
– Bespoke: Request that your loafer have a long inside stiffener (it provides more structure).
– Bespoke: Request heel stiffeners (to cup your ankles)

This higher vamp bespoke model by Yuigo Hayano looks promising, though I’m unsure about the elastic instep

Most of the extra support I like can only be requested through bespoke.

So far, I don’t know any brands with RTW loafers I can recommend. I do wish brands made loafers with higher vamps and more support.

I’d personally go with bespoke. But if you choose RTW, do your homework and test the shoes in person.

4 thoughts on “I Like Loafers, but…

  1. I love loafers design wise but completely agree with your view on them. I will never get them RTW. Only mtm or bespoke. I hope you do a separate post about foot anatomy in the future about arches/pronation and how that should influence the lasts and brands you should choose when purchasing RTW

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    1. Agreed. Have you checked out the article about flat feet? The last actually has little to do with supporting fallen arches.

      Good support has to do with the shoe’s construction (i.e. adding supportive insoles and long stiffeners that give structure). RTW shoes usually never have built-in insoles for arch support. It’s an extra step in the shoemaking process, plus it can look slightly visible on the shoe.

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      1. That was fascinating. I had always thought/heard that if you have a particular type of foot (Flat vs high arch) certain lasts from RTW makers are not well suited for it. For example if you have a wide foot don’t wear the Simpson last from Carmina.

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        1. Yes, knowing that you have a flat or high arch can help you pick certain models/lasts from RTW makers.

          For example some lasts have more room built on the vamp. If you have slim feet and flat arches, it probably won’t be a very good fit because you have too much room on the top of your foot.

          Fit does has everything to do with lasts. Arch support has more to do with design and construction. And to some extent lasts when it comes to the vamp.

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