The fact that how shoes fit affects how shoes crease is sort of common knowledge among shoe interested. However, it’s common to see misconceptions where people confuse excess creasing due to fit issues with pronounced creasing due to the properties of the leather or because of bad leather quality. Here I try to pin out the differences.
Whenever I write about the topic of creasing, I try to mention that it’s been addressed in many articles through the years, with two main ones explaining a lot of it which is this article on how shoes crease, and this one explaining the difference between leather quality and leather properties also in relations to how the shoes crease. I can in a way understand why it can be confusing, since we who know shoes often talk about how fit do affect how shoes crease, but it’s counter-productive when it’s nowadays almost standard, especially in social media and on forums, that when someone show shoes with heavy creases the standard comment, or answer, is that “they fit bad” (the other standard answer is “loose grain”, which has its own misconceptions, but that’s for another article).
To try to explain it as simply as possible, creases due to shoes not fitting perfectly are very common among RTW shoes, but most of these usually appear on the inside of the shoes where RTW lasts in general have more excess space to accommodate as many feet as possible. Sometimes you can also see that there’s excess space over the vamp, often in the long run resulting in the vamp sort of collapsing a bit creating a larger dip over the ball (the widest part of the foot). But these types of creases can look fine or very pronounced, depending on the leather. Now, even if one have a shoe that fits excellent over the vamp, and with little excess space in other areas of the shoe, they will still crease. Sometimes a lot, if the leather is of that character and/or is of lesser quality, sometimes relatively little if it’s of that character and of good quality. Of course, a good fitting shoe will always have less creases than a bad fitting shoe, if they are of the exact same leather, but one shouldn’t really compare apples with oranges here.
Best example to make the above clear is to look at bespoke shoes. Given that they’ve been done properly by a good maker, there should be very little excess space all over the entire shoe, which is one part of an excellent personalised fit, the others of course not being too tight creating discomfort anywhere, plus offering proper support. This aim to minimise any excess material is what makes a bespoke shoe in a way more difficult to fit than a RTW shoe, since with the latter you more aim for a fit that mainly offers no discomfort rather than having no excess space or give proper support. But if fit was the most prominent factor of how shoes crease, bespoke shoes would be virtually creaseless, which obviously isn’t the case. And for bespoke one rarely see bad leathers used, so here if pronounced creases it’s usually due to the properties of the leathers. However, one should know that since comfort always is the leading factor when doing bespoke, which can lead to the need of areas with more space for example around bunions, usually leading to creases that one can’t really get away with.
Worth noting here, both for bespoke shoes and RTW shoes, is that type of foot affect creasing a lot. Those with fleshy feet can in general wear their shoes tighter, which means that there will be less excess space, ergo less creasing. Bony feet are usually more sensitive and need more space, plus of course slimmer bony feet have more protruding areas, and these things will mean more space inside the shoes which results in some more areas that can crease. So shoes made by the same bespoke shoemakers of the same material, with equally happy customers who feel that they have really comfortable well-fitting shoes, would crease very differently due to fitting differently. None would be bad or wrong, not the pair with more creases either. Shoes are complicated things.