How to choose the correct shoe size

What should you keep in mind when you buy a new pair of shoes and how do you find the correct shoe size? We guide you and give some practical tips on what is important to think about when it comes to footwear and feet measurements.

Our shoes

Most people have different ideas about how a pair of shoes should sit on their feet. Some prefer tight-fitting shoes, others appreciate extra space. Not everyone knows how to measure their feet correctly. The length of feet can vary, it is not uncommon for one foot to be longer than the other. Many people have medical problems or previous injuries that also affect the choice of shoe sizes. So, what do you as a consumer do?

What is a shoe size?

As a rule, a shoe size means the length of the last of a shoe, measured from heel to toe. Understanding your shoe size can be challenging. Not only do different countries use their own units of measurement, many manufacturers have their own perceptions of shoes last dimensions. Also, you need to know how to measure your feet, especially if you are buying a pair of shoes online. Many times a shoe size, or rather a fit, is a matter of taste.

There is more to a well-fitting shoe than a correct length of the shoe last.

Different units of length

European shoe sizes are based on Paris Point (PP), a unit of length where a size corresponds to 2/3 cm or about 6.66 mm. Another well-known unit of length used in footwear industry is Barleycorn. Barleycorn is the cornerstone of both British and American shoe charts. A size in Barleycorn corresponds to about 8.46 mm or 1/3 inch (the length of a grain).

Since the actual length in millimeters varies between different units of length, switching between American and European shoe size charts can be challenging. A person who has size EU 43 can theoretically have both shoe size 8.5 and 9, according to American/British size charts. With that said, keep in mind that conversion tables are not completely accurate.

Most people buy wrong size shoes

Four different studies from the National Library of Medicine showed that up to 72 percent of participants wore the wrong shoe size. One of the studies also reported that 68 percent of the participants chose wrong sizes even though the parameters such as length, width and depth of shoes were available.

Many people buy shoes that are too small, out of pure habit.

Leave room for toes

Buying well-fitting shoes is not just about choosing the right size. The key behing a great fit of a shoe is finding a suitable last that gives your feet full mobility and bets comfort.

A guideline, often mentioned in footwear stores, is to leave a room of about 1 cm in the toe area of a shoe. Shoes should never be too tight. This is to reduce the risk of disturbing the blood circulation in the feet. To prevent abrasions due to the shoe rubbing against the foot, the shoe should sit close to the foot at its widest part. Make sure that shoe does not press anywhere against the foot. Slightly wiggle your toes, if the shoe feels too tight, pick another shoes or size.

Your feet

A foot has 250,000 sweat glands which makes it swell extra when it gets warmer. A foot can swell up to 10 percent, due to heat factors, alcohol consumption or sitting still for a longer period of time.

The skin on the foot is about 1.4 mm thick and is the thickest part of the body. For comparison, the top of eyelids is only 0.2 mm.

How to choose your shoe size?

Many manufacturers use different lasts for different shoes models, something you can figure by choosing smaller or larger size. Unfortunately, this often results in a bad fit. The best advice is to try different models and find one that suits you best.

When you buy shoes online

  • Measure your feet correctly, so you know your exact measurements
  • Remember to leave some space for toes (approx. 1 cm)
  • Use a brand´s own measurement table (size Guide, size chart)
  • Read about the shoes’ fit – many shoe brands describe it in detail on their product pages
  • Use digital sizing software and other digital tools if possible, like our Size Helper
  • If you have questions about the fit, the width, shoe lasts or footwear features etc. – try to contact the support before placing an order.

When you try shoes in a store or at home

  • Feet swell when they get warm and after consuming alcohol, remember that
  • Try going up or down a half or full size from your regular size, just to understand the difference
  • Try both shoes, walk in them on solid stable surface

Material, construction, comfort

Material selection and construction can be crucial for the fit of shoes. Suede shoes are usually perceived as much softer than those of other types of leather. Shoes with no lining offer extra space for the feet, compared to the lined footwear.  Materials of higher quality usually shape after your feet much better.

Handmade shoes are always a great investment. They both look great and provide best comfort for the feet.