Moulded Shoe in New York is a charming shop. A family-run business now in its third generation, It’s narrow and tall, with shoe boxes stacked way up to a double-height ceiling.
There are newspaper cuttings, customer photos and a Japanese cartoon on the walls. It’s from the old fashioned - and delightfully so - ‘more is more’ school of retailing.
Still, as a clothes lover it’s unlikely you’d think there’s much here for you. They clearly sell Alden, but surely the Alden store on Madison will have everything this retailer could have?
Not so. For this is one of the very few shops where you can get the modified last.
The modified last from Alden creates a particular shape of shoe, with a slim waist, wide front and slightly bent inwards at the toes, following the shape of the foot (below).
It’s a shape that’s more orthopaedic, perhaps prioritising comfort and functionality a little over aesthetics - unlike most dress shoes. It suits men with a narrow heel, wide joints (sometimes called a ‘spade’ shape) and high arches, which is a fairly large minority.
The modified last is not sold widely because it is considered to be slightly odd, even ugly. Certainly, no shoe designer who was focused on design would make a shoe like this.
However, this reputation might be exaggerated by the fact that the other shop known for selling the modified last, Antomica in Paris, puts men in rather large sizes. Pierre and Charles tend to insist on it.
Anatomica is a wonderful menswear shop - one of those places that still remains a true destination - and should be celebrated and frequently visited. But it is rather frustrating that you can’t buy the modified last in the size you want.
Hence my visit to Moulded Shoe in New York, and hence the conversation I’m having with the owner Ronnie.
“Pierre first saw the modified last here,” he says, unlacing a boot for me to try. “He came in here and loved the shape, so he talked to Alden about offering it in his stores.”
I inquire about the preferences for sizing.
“Yes, they tend to prefer more of a ‘fashion’ fit - longer and narrower. He thinks it’s flattering,” he says.
I’m not sure about whether it’s more a fashion thing or not - certainly there’s more fashion going on at Anatomica than Moulded Shoe, but it’s not exactly French couture either.
Still, the difference in sizing was dramatic. After a quick measurement on the American-specific (‘Brannock’) scale, Maurice suggested a size 9D. Anatomica had recommended a 10.5C.
The fit felt very good: close through the arch and ankle, but with plenty of room to wiggle the toes. A better fit than most ready-to-wear I have, and in some ways better than some bespoke.
On that original article about the modified last, reader ‘Plop’ got it pretty much spot on. In his experience, he said he’d recommend sizing down a half size on the modified, and perhaps a size narrower. I tend to wear a 9E in wider Alden lasts and a 9.5E in narrower ones.
I bought a pair of half-brogue boots in snuff suede (D8814), driven by the fit and the fact it would be my only chance to shop at Moulded Shoe (Alden don’t allow them to ship outside the US).
I think the last shape works well in a boot because its idiosyncrasies are a little obscured by the design. But still, it’s the smaller size that makes the difference: when you’re not wearing a shoe that’s a full size bigger than you’d normally wear, the curved shape is a lot less obvious.
The last works particularly well on me because I have that 'spade' shape described earlier. (If you have flat feet or are wider in the heel, the Berrie or Trubalance lasts from Alden are better.)
But I know many other men do too - you only have to read the number of comments from readers asking about sizing in loafers, saying their heel always slips out. Chatting to Tony Gaziano a few weeks ago, he estimated that perhaps 20% of Gaziano & Girling customers fall into that bracket. Perhaps enough to justify a dedicated loafer last for some brands.
It's in that context that the remark above about the fit of bespoke shoes should be taken. This one last works particularly well on me, and bespoke makers are often trying to create it from scratch.
Of course, it's also not a fair comparison because those makers are trying to create a very visually attractive show at the same time.
But it feels significant that while we were in the store, a reader did come in (pictured top) that had tried bespoke makers, been unsatisfied, and been recommended to try the modified last as an alternative. From a purely fit point of view, it can clearly fill a niche.
I'll take some photos of my boots in a few weeks to show how they look. I'll probably have a better idea of how I feel about them by then as well.
Moulded Shoe sell other shoe brands, though not at the same level as Alden, and they make bespoke shoes, costing $1500-$2500 - but real orthopaedics.
They don't make bespoke loafers full stop, because they think a laced shoe will always fit a customer better.
Photography: Christopher Fenimore
Hi Simon, how useful are you finding these boots in Alden’s snuff colour? I guess best at home with chinos and jeans i.e. workwear, not with flannels?
I am considering a pair of Alden boots in the same snuff suede from Clutch, but am unsure whether its best to stick with a standard dark brown boot instead.
Yes, the colour is useful with more casual clothing, given there is less need for the more elegant look of shoes darker than the trousers, and it’s great with most jeans as well as green fatigues and beige chinos. But not so good with smarter trousers and looks.
I really only wear them with the former
Gaziano & Girling would, I’m sure be able to modify any of their lasts,even on their RTW and certainly on their MTO which they’re doing on mine, albeit on their own shoes as they don’t stock an outside brand as does Moulded Shoe with the Alden shoes.
A very interesting post here.
Thats ridiculous that you state Anitomica ‘wont sell you a shoe in the size you want’? Surely that cant be right? If it is, it speaks of an arrogance on the part of the proprietor that would surely mean i will not visit them. I can see no justification for this and i would be interested to hear someone try and explain to me how this is acceptable?
It is, and it’s unusual. I agree I don’t think it’s what they should be doing. The only thing I would say on the other side that it shows a faith for a particular style and way of wearing clothes that is very rare today. Most shops would sell you absolutely anything, in any size, no matter how silly it looked. There is always going to be a bit of respect for people that take these kinds of stances, even if I think they’re wrong.
Im afraid i don’t respect it. I have relatively large feet for my height. I note Simon that your are perhaps the opposite which is a blessing as shoes always look better in smaller sizes. For this reason i am always conscious of the size and length of the shoes that i wear. I have to avoid an elongated toe and i always seek to purchase the smallest size possible without giving up on comfort. The thought of being told that in spite of this – a shop owner would know better than i – and insist i go for a size bigger and then refuse to sell me the size that actually fits and is more appropriate for my stature at large speaks of a fundamentalist approach that i cannot get on board with. I don’t see how one can view the feet without taking into account the overall impression of a persons stature. Its like the sunk cost fallacy of footwear.
As a salesguy myself, there seems to be a rather obvious solution: When I think that the customer should buy another size, I make sure to tell them, politely and clearly…once. If they still prefer the size that seems off to me, I let them buy it. I don’t see why a salesperson would have to be either the “sell anything just to make a sale”-kind, or some pushy dictator who acts like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld.
Ha! Love it.
Yeah I know what you mean, that’s a much more reasonable approach and places the emphasis firmly on the customer making an informed decision, whatever it may be.
It is right. Trying going into Anatomica and saying “I shop at Molded shoe and I am an 11 D, what do we have in 11D?”
It will not be a frictionless conversation.
By the way, I do have shoes from Anatomica. Some super cool blue suede boots. Love ’em. They will yield. But it’s a process.
Happy to see I wasn’t far off sizing-wise 😉
Two things I’d like to add:
Also, Anatomica aren’t the only ones selling the Modified last in Europe. For EU customers who know their size and will ‘accept no substitute’, Cappelletto shop in Treviso sells some models online (at a premium price), and Upper Shoes in Lyon has one model still on offer (a saddle derby in black cordovan, admittedly not the most versatile model imaginable).
For something similar to the Modified, look to Alden’s 379x or ‘Military’ last, which is somewhat less of a unicorn. Less aggressively shaped than the Modified, but still with a distinctly narrow waist and heel, and an endearing rounded toe shape.
Thanks Maurice. I guess it would be hard to order such an unusual shape without trying them on, with no possibility of exchange?
I agree. Both the Modified and the 379x are too particularly shaped for any kind of guesswork, even based on other Alden lasts. Knowing about these retailers is potentially useful, but only if you’re, as I said, certain of your size (or have an opportunity to visit in person). And even then, take extra care when trying on models in cordovan; most shops will consider these unreturnable if even slightly creased.
The issue with these other shops : they do not offer a choice of widths. Which, at that price point, is not acceptable in my book.
As for the 379X: you’re right, it’s easier to find. But alas, Alden only offers that last in D and E widths — even on special orders.
I’d say that illustration on the wall is by Hiroshi Watatani – a popular men’s fashion illustrator in Japan.
Thank you Adrian
Very interesting article. Is the Alden modified last available in wide fits, e,g. EEE? Some information on pricing would be very useful.
I never allow any retailer to force me to buy a bigger shoe size than necessary (several have tried) so I’d stay clear of Anatomica.
Have a look on the Moulded Shoe website for both availability and prices Gary
Yes it is, although, as with every other “extreme” widths, you usually would have to order it and then be ready to wait 2 or 3 years for delivery.
If you have really wide feet, though, I’d consider having a look at the Trubalance last. It’s much easier to find compared to the Modified.
Moulded Shoe isn’t the sort of place one would expect to go for the atmosphere, but it’s a genuine piece of old New York that has so far survived gentrification.
I wonder how much this reputation for a particular type of shoe has helped keep it going. Without it, they’d be dealing largely with a lower end of the market and specialist orthopaedic work
I don’t know this for certain, but whenever I see one of old surviving New York shops, I assume that the owner of the business owns the building too, or at least has a soft spot for it; otherwise market rents would have driven the shop out long ago.
In London, entire neighborhoods are often owned by a single landowner that curates the businesses to whom they let. Outside of a few very large developers, that’s rarer in New York, where a landlord might own a single building.
Ah yes, good point. Interestingly in London it can have different effects – in most areas it’s led to a takeover by designer brands as every estate tries to maximise commercial rent, but in Marylebone the Portman Estate has tried to create more of a neighbourhood feel in order to charge high residential rates. It does mean areas can feel quite cohesive, if the estate manages it well
I suspect I’m blind to how London and New York are similar in that respect because New York has nothing like the Portman, Cadogan, or Bedford Estates. At best there are small-ish to medium-sized landowners in Brooklyn or Queens, and even there old shops like Moulded Shoe are making way for yoga studios and third wave coffee.
Sorry, my point was that they’re different, not the same. But that London’s dominance by different estates can sometimes make an area bland and commercial, sometimes interesting yet cohesive
Cheers Simon, this is in my view the best piece on American style I’ve yet seen on your site. You captured the ambiance and experience perfectly. Hope you enjoy those boots and can’t wait to hear your thoughts as you experience them this winter. They helped me with a perfect fit in the chromexcel D8816H boot and I happened to be wearing them today when I saw this article. I used to think the Barrie was the last for me, but no more. Your article may help more folks walk easier than even your prescient sense might have anticipated. Well done.
Love the look of a “proper” shop, with tons of stock, knowledgeable staff, hard-to-find products. Long may they prosper.
Argh I was just staying for a week on Bryant Park on a business trip and could easily have visited. I didn’t find anything that fitted at Alden on Madison. Next time!
Sliding tongues drive me crazy with Alden boots. Cannot understand they have never been able to fix this on such expensive shoes. Never had this problem with any of the European brands in the same category. I have always ended up asking a cobbler to stitch the tongue…
Hi Simon, you say that the modified last is good for the spade-shaped foot, and Berrie or Trubalance for flat feet or wider heel. What if one has a flat-footed spade? 🙂
There isn’t going to be a last for every foot shape unfortunately… As far as I know there’s no Alden last that specifically fits that shape, but a reader may chip in if I’ve missed one
Why no shout out to the Crisis sale Simon?
I was waiting til I was in town and could show some pictures. They’re on IG stories today
Aside from all the technical and sales discussions, I just wanted to add that I love places like this and that they still exist. They exude a certain effortless (arguably shabby chic) charm and old school customer service. Hopefully long may they continue. Thanks for telling us about them.
Couldn’t agree more. Thanks Stephen
great shoes and lovely story. What’s your Brannock size/measurement?
I assume it’s not 9 B as this is the suggested size in the reform last?
I measure a 9.5 and a 9 on the left and right foot respectively. Cant’ remember the width off the top of my head
Just checked the width – it was D, so one down from my normal E
I’ve been intrigued by Alden for a long time, but when I’ve seen a pair in person – in Trunk and elsewhere – they’ve always seemed very heavy and clunky when compared with brands I’m more familiar with like Grenson or Trickers. Is this unfair? Perhaps they pair well with an old-school sack-suit? On the subject of the modified last, I thought all Indy boots were made to it – or is that not the case? I have to say as well that my perception of Alden took a bit of knock when I saw the recent Rose Anvil video where a pair were cut in two to reveal what looked like quite shoddy workmanship. I’m no cobbler, but would someone with greater knowledge be able to pass judgement on the quality of their products? The prices, while not quite at Edward Green levels are a definite step up from Trickers and the like…
In terms of the styles, there is a big range and they vary quite a lot between last shapes. Compare my Aberdeen-last loafers here, for instance, to the ones you have likely seen in Trunk. It’s a broader range than a Grenson or Tricker’s.
The Indy boots are not made on the modified last, no, it’s more usually on the Trubalance last.
The make of Alden is fine, and probably better than a Grenson for example, but it’s not at a level of Edward Green and perhaps not Crocketts handgrade either – the reason most people love them is their styles, and their longevity, rather than the fineness of make. They’re expensive in the US but not too bad compared to those English makers once exported. But very expensive outside the US.
Bingo. Alden is crazy overpriced, but they do not have any competitors when it comes to their specific style and their wide range of lasts
For some reason, European shoemakers that try to copy Alden’s offering always get it wrong. My guess is that European factories have a certain way of doing things (especially with regards to welts) which leads to European-looking shoes.
Grant Stone is possibly the only alternative that gets the styling right, but buying their made-in-PRC shoes requires a certain leniency towards genocidal regimes that I do not have.
At least with the two 20 years old cordovan shell derbies I own the original double soles were rather shoddy (been after few years replaced by Rendenbach oak tanned double soles that are still going strong).
And the heels were made of bonded leather (except the surface one) which when exposed for a longer time to wet paving collapsed and bulged outward convexly. None of my other shoes’ heels ever did that, though they get similarly exposed to rain.
So, with the additional investment in proper soles, they do make excellent shoes ;).
Great write up. Is there a reason why the modified last is under represented in the market? Do Moulded and Anatomica have contractual rights to it? I’m curious to see what the results would look like on more fashion leaning models, especially the collaborations done by other shops like Brogue California, Britck+Morter, etc. I fall under the 20% and would purchase multiple modified pairs if they were available in certain other models.
It’s partly because it is an unusual shape and not seen as that commercial. And partly because Alden is not an easy company to get agreements with to hold stock and take different models. They’re always at capacity on production
Alden’s official reason is that it’s a last that can easily mess up with your feet and should therefore only be sold by qualified resellers.
I find the argument dubious, considering a) that you can buy it online without ever having your feet measured by a shopkeeper, and b) that the two main stores for it give vastly different sizing advice. But it’s Alden’s line.
My suspicion is that, as Simon says, Alden doesn’t really care. The company sells every single pair of shoes that it manages to produce, so why bother with a weird last?
Just to mention again that Munich based Ed Meier has the Peduform last, which is a somewhat similar banana-shaped last. As far as I know, they are made by Crockett and Jones (https://edmeier-shop.com/collections/all/herrenschuhe). Its probably better to go there in person (the online shop is remarkably shitty but also kind of authentic for a company founded in 1596), but they are very comfortable.
Thank you Felix. Does it have the same combination of slimmer waist but wider joints?
Yes indeed, yet it doesn’t have that spade shape but looks more elegant. You might get a better impression from a video like this, the online shop, as mentioned, is horrible:
Thinking about it again, first time customers should definitely go there in person. They have ca. 100x more shoes on display than online and measure each customer’s feet very thoroughly.
Simon, great content as usual. Uncovering these under the radar stories is interesting and useful. I’ve purchased a half dozen pairs of Alden’s over the years and been frustrated trying to find a good fit. It’s disappointing that in working with Alden directly and with other Alden retailers, I never became aware of the modified last. I was going to give up on Alden but now would like to try the modified last. For those of us who won’t be in Paris or New York anytime soon, can you uncover where else in the U.S. to find the modified last?
See above in the comments Robert – there isn’t anywhere else as far as I know, but at least you can ship to you from Moulded Shoe
Wonderful article. One thing I’m confused about is the “ugliness” of the last. I own several pairs of Alden boots in Trubalance and Barrie lasts and from what I can tell, the modified last doesn’t look a hell of a lot different. I’m not an expert in footwear, but I am fairly well versed in style, and to me the footwear from the Moulded Shoe don’t seem any more ugly than any other dress shoes/boots. Curious if anyone else had a similar thought.
I think a large part of it is the slight banana shape, Vig – the way the shoe bends slightly inwards towards the toes, which no designer would shape a shoe like if they were really only interested in aesthetics.
Then there is the width in the joints, which is a little exaggerated by the slim waist. That can look a little ugly to some people, but then I also think a factor here is that some people don’t like the wider Alden styles in general, as let’s face it they are not aiming for a fine elegance in their looks
Thanks for the explanation, Simon. I’m intrigued by this last and will visit the shop next time I’m in nyc. I’m really curious what these shoes look and feel like in person.
Oh good. It’s definitely worth trying, in case it works for your foot
The guys at Moulded Shoe have been taking excellent care of me for almost 20 years. The modified last is the only dress shoe I can wear comfortably. I had excellent luck with a bespoke maker (Balint in Vienna); alas they are no more, and I am back to the boys at Moulded. This place is an absolute gem.