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Men's dress shoe toe shapes

A brief description of the most common toe shapes used in men’s formal footwear.

by Stuart Morgan

Being located at the front of a shoe, the toe is normally the first part of a man’s footwear to be noticed. In fact, the appearance of the toe is perhaps the most important aesthetic element in this type of footwear, and its construction can affect the level of comfort provided to the wearer.

While there are many subtle variations in the shape of toes in men’s formal shoes, these can be collected together into a few basic designs. Ever-changing fashions within the footwear industry mean that some toe shapes which were popular in past decades are no longer made in any great numbers. Of course, what is currently out of fashion may be back in again one day. It must be noted, however, that there is no standard naming protocol when it comes to toe shapes – what will be described as a ‘square toe’ in one shoemaker’s catalogue will be a ‘straight almond toe’ in another.

The round toe

The rounded toe is the most basic and commonly-used shape in use among shoemakers today. This design, in which the edges of the toe have a softly rounded shape, can be quite spacious and comfortable – especially if the wearer has wide feet. Because the shape is simple, it is often viewed as ‘safe’ rather than ‘stylish’. While this toe shape can work on virtually any shoe, and some examples featuring a round toe on an elongated design are available, a truly rounded toe on a ‘normal’ length shoe is probably most aesthetically correct on structured and heavier footwear, such as trainers, boots or other ‘chunky’ styles. The reason for this is that the semi-circular shape of the toe gives the foot a visually snubbed appearance rather than elongating it. The bulk of a heavier shoe is therefore often necessary in order to compensate for the shortening effect.

Chiselled toes

‘Chiselling’ is a concept used to describe a toe with angular-shaped sides. One dictionary defines ‘chiselled’ as ‘sharply or clearly shaped’. When a chiselled toe is seen from the side, it appears to have sharp and angular edges rather than soft lines.

Courtesy of Loake

A chiselled-toe shoe

An almond shape

An ‘almond’ toe is so-called because of its resemblance to the shape of this kind of nut. Almond toes are more elongated than round toes and with a slightly more pointed appearance. In profile, the typical almond toe becomes quite low towards the front. From above, it appears as a tapered oval and, while providing added length, the design is not extreme. Some almond-shaped toes can be chiselled.

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Shoes with almond toes are more elongated than round-toed footwear

Men with smaller feet are often recommended to avoid rounded toes and to wear an elongated shoe instead, in order to balance their proportions.

Squared off

The ‘square’ toe is another angular variety. When seen from above, it has a sharp shape with a reasonably straight front. In profile, it is generally low at the front, as a high box toe can look quite strange. Some high-end manufacturers use a chiselled almond toe with a straighter front face and call it a ‘square toe’ style. As with the round toe, designers may make use of squared toes on an elongated shoe.

 

Square-toed boots

The bump toe

Shoes with ‘bump’ toes were popular in the 1970s. They featured a deep, rounded toe which curved upwards at the tip of the shoes before entering into a straight near-vertical drop.

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A pair of 'winklepickers'

Pointed toes

This is the narrowest and most acute shape of toe used in footwear construction. It tapers sharply towards the front end and usually has a round, narrow toe. A shoe with a pointed toe must always be elongated to a degree to make room for the wearer’s toes, thus introducing distance between the longest toe and the front of the shoe. Again, a chiselled style is often used by designers of pointed men’s shoes.

The original pointed shoes, which were very popular in 15th-century Europe, went to absurd extremes of length, and this shape made a comeback in the ‘winklepickers’ of the 1950s. Today, however, truly pointed men’s dress shoes are not often made.

Toe decoration

As well as its actual shape, the decoration (or lack of it) on a toe also makes a considerable contribution to the overall appearance of footwear. The simplest toe is completely plain, and a ‘cap toe’ has a line or two of straight stitching to separate the toe area from the rest of the upper.

Broguing – the addition of holes and serrations – can be done in a number of fashions (see the article ‘Brogue shoes – no longer simply practical footwear’ for an overview of this style of decoration).

The toe may also be in a different material or colour than the rest of the upper, to create what are termed ‘spectators’. For a more subtle variation, some coloured dress shoes are burnished during production with darker tones at the tip of the toe. This finish has been seen to work well with a number of colours, including merlot, grey, brown, tan, green and blue.

How can we help?

Please contact SATRA’s footwear testing team (footwear@satra.com) for assistance with the testing of shoe constructions.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 30 of the April 2020 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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