Did you know there’s actually quite a bit of science which goes into crafting even common tennis shoes?

Studies about the human foot tell us things about it, like the proper size for shoes based on foot size, or that support built into certain parts of a shoe can have great positive effects on the balance of the wearer, not to mention how long they can wear and work in a set of shoes before getting sore feet.

To better understand the science of shoes, it’s crucial to first understand the layout of a typical shoe. With that said, let’s take a moment to cover that.

Most shoes follow the same basic layout. There is a heel in the back where the wearer’s heel sits while moving or stationary, as well as a toe cap in the front which keeps the wearer’s toes together and provides some protection to them.

The tongue of the shoe lies across the top of the foot and the laces, fed through eyelets, keep everything tight and compact around the foot to provide a snug fit. The vamp of a shoe is towards the center and usually right around the widest part of the shoe; it is one of the first points on any shoe to show signs of wear once a shoe has been worn out.

So what does all this really mean for you, the one wearing the shoe? There are a few things to consider. First, by leaving the laces loosely tied or not tying them at all, a shoe which appears to be too small can actually be comfortably worn in some cases.

In cases where a shoe is too long, adding more support to the heel in the back and the toes in the front can make the shoe wearable. Similarly, in shoes with insoles which are thin are otherwise inadequate, using gel inserts can provide the cushion needed to keep feet feeling fine. You can check out Nicer Shoes for more on the layout of a typical shoe.

Perhaps the most important thing to take away from this piece is that the science of shoes isn’t exact. Anyone with a large and or wide foot or other special shoe needs already knows this though. It’s a lot like shopping for clothes – just because something says it is a certain size doesn’t mean it actually is.

If you fit into a size 12 E US, that doesn’t mean you’ll fit into every US shoe sized 12 E. This can be incredibly annoying and it’s the one point which makes shopping for shoes online such a hassle. Even with your correct size, who knows if those comfortable zumba shoes you see will really fit you?

There are a number of factors which can turn an average shoe into a great one. Ventilation to allow extra heat to escape and prevent sweating is one, and non-skid soles which don’t stick to dry floors or slip on wet ones is another.

As for the perfect shoe, well, with the very specific needs of every person wearing a pair, it’s hard to really designate any kind of shoe as the best, or perfect.