This is a difficult area – especially when it comes to width fitting. The ideal process is to try the shoes on. However, as many good shoes can only be bought online (ie you may not live near a proper-job shoe shop) it’s often necessary to get the best advice and measurements that you can and make sure that the retailer or manufacturer (some sell direct) is prepared to accept returns until you find a pair that fits. This size-and-fit page is based on my experience of Loake shoes. It works pretty well on their range and may well work on others’, but please be aware that it is, like the rest of this webpage, unashamedly Loake-centric … but please
Blame me, not Loake, if it doesn’t work for you.
I am, however, hoping to enlist the help of Loake’s Facebook friends to check and perhaps to improve my table and calculator. After that I may try to find out how well it works with Church, Cheaney, Barker, Crockett and Jones and Trickers shoes.
How size and fit work
Please read this and make length/width measurements before trying the table and/or calculator below!
You can have a reasonable shot at your shoe size quite easily, if you don’t know it already, by measuring the length of your foot – from the heel to the longest toe. This is best done my standing on a piece of paper and drawing around your feet – without shoes on, of course! Then choose the length of whichever foot is longer. Your size is then as shown in the table.
So far, so good. Unfortunately, the width measurement is more complex. “Width” is not simply the width of your foot as you see it from above. It actually refers to the distance around your foot (circumference or girth) at its widest point, using a tape measure and generally at the ball of the foot . See the nice image from Loake here – man with green socks measuring his own foot. I chose not to inflict a photograph of my own foot on you. So you may need a shoe that is wider or narrower than normal, as viewed from above. However, even if your foot is normal as viewed from above, your instep may also be high or low – which means that you may want a “normal” shoe with a high (or low) instep. These measurements are characteristics of the last that was used to make the shoe in question. To make matters worse, width increases with size. In other words, a size 7, normal-width (or F, in the UK) shoe will be narrower than a size 8, normal-width shoe, as well as being shorter in length. While this means that you can sometimes get a good fit by going up or down a size from your normal (if you have wide or narrow feet respectively) it makes it all slightly hit-and-miss.
You may already know that you have (for example) narrow feet. You may know that your instep is high (or low). This will help a shoe manufacturer to advise you toward a probable size and fitting for you, from within their range. If you contact the manufacturer of a shoe you’re considering, he/she may also ask you to make some measurements or even take photographs of your feet against a scale.
As good shoes don’t come cheap, it’s worth persevering with this to get a pair that feels really comfortable. Once you have that, you know where your feet are in that manufacturer’s size and width range. If you stick with that manufacturer, you should be able to have a discussion with them about other shoes in their range, as they know their lasts and shoes better than anyone else. At that stage, brand loyalty reaps benefits, as a good fit with subsequent pairs of shoes is more likely to be a hit than a miss! It’s also always worth remembering that your feet generally get larger (well, fatter!) as the day proceeds. You probably feel any shoe tighter after a hard day of work than it was when you put it on in the morning. Bear this in mind when trying on new shoes.
Historical Note from the Gurus at Loake …
The basis for current UK and US shoe sizes derives from old English times when a barleycorn was used as a unit of length measurement. These were widely available and consistently 1/3 of an inch long. Around 1305, Edward I, also known as Edward ‘Longshanks’, asked some trades to standardise sizing. The story goes that footwear sizing was based on Longshanks’ own foot, which was 12 inches long and a size 12. Size 11 is one barleycorn shorter than a 12, a size 10 is two barleycorns shorter and so on.