Don’t get off on the wrong foot when trying to buy shoes that fit. The key is knowing your real size and that’s why I’ve written this article on how to measure your foot and shoe size at home. This is especially important since some surveys show between 86 percent and 92 percent of Americans buy their shoes online.
Maybe you grew up like I did, going to a traditional shoe store. I even did this with my own Millennial and Gen Z daughters. There, the staff used one of those measuring doohickey things. Technically, they’re called a Brannock device. Here’s what they look like.
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The idea is to be able to measure a left foot or a right foot, plus the width of your foot so you know what your correct shoe size is. This thing can measure for women’s sizes as well as men’s shoe sizes. And, of course, children’s sizes. They have a separate Brannock for kids’ shoe sizes.
However, as I mentioned, so many of us buy shoes online these days. And chances are we don’t have a Brannock Device lying around. Thus, that’s why you need to know how to measure your foot or shoe size at home.
How to Measure Your Foot and Shoe Size at Home
So, if you’re like me, then you get most of your shoes from places like Zappos and Amazon. You guess your size, make your purchase, receive your shipment, try them on and, if you’re lucky, keep your new shoes. Maybe you even buy them in bulk like I do with discontinued shoes that I love.
However, if you don’t like them, then it’s time to box them up and send them back. Ideally, you’ve purchased shoes from a place that does not charge for return shipping. That’s a retail red line for me. If you charge me a restocking fee or say free returns but the free part doesn’t include shipping, then I don’t want to be your customer.
To cut down on the chances that shoes don’t fit, it’s a good idea to learn how to measure your foot and shoe size from the comfort of your home. You can even do this for your family members, including your children.
Measuring your foot for shoe size
While you can find some shoe size charts that tell you how many inches long different size feet are, you can’t just hold a tape measure up and tell what size you are. For starters, there are more nuances in measuring feet.
For example, when measuring a foot for length and shoe size, you’re not just measuring front to back. Here are two ways you measure a foot.
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One, you can place a wooden or metal ruler on the floor, against a wall, and then step on it. You want to make sure that your heel is against the wall and your longest toe is on or next to the ruler. Obviously, if your foot is longer than 12 inches or longer than a standard ruler, you can use a yardstick or try the method below.
Or, you can make a drawing of your foot. Stand in your socks on a piece of paper. You want to trace it all the way around the heels and all of the toes. Then, you’ll take a ruler or tape measure and start at the longest part of the heel and go to the tip of the longest toe. That will be your foot’s length. You may have to measure on a diagonal.
I tried both methods and I think that the drawing-your-foot measuring tool works better. Because when I stood on the ruler, I think it said my foot was 9.75-inches long but it was hard to say because I was looking down at it. However, when I measured from the back of my heel to the longest toe tip based on the foot tracing, it was easy to see that it measured 9.5 inches.
Different size feet
If you discover that your feet are two different lengths, guess what? You’re human. Many people have feet of different sizes. To ensure that the shoes fit, buy the size that corresponds best with the larger foot size.
If you find that your left foot is bigger than your right foot — or vice versa — by a full size, it might be a good idea to look into buying single shoes in these different shoe sizes. Did you know you could even do that? Nordstrom offers something called the Single & Split-Shoe Service.
How to measure shoe width at home
Measuring your foot’s width is a bit easier. You can use the drawing we made above and measure across the widest part using a tape measure.
Or, you can step on a ruler or yardstick in your stocking feet. You want the widest part of your foot on the ruler. Note the distance between each side of your feet. That will be the width measurement.
Again, I tried this on myself. Interestingly, when measuring the width, it came out about the same. And it was much easier to see.
Drawing your child’s foot
Since it might be impossible to get a child to stand still on a rule, definitely use the drawing method to capture their foot shape and size.
Again, start with a piece of paper on the floor or another flat surface. Have your child stand on it in stocking feet. Grab a pencil and start tracing your child’s foot. You want to make sure you go all the way around the back of the heel as well as capture the tip of the longest toe.
Be sure you do this separately for both the left and the right feet. Now, draw a straight line, using a ruler, from the longest part of the heel just past the tip of that longest toe. Next, get out a measuring tape to see how many inches or centimeters your child’s foot is.
Same length feet wear different shoe sizes
A foot measuring one length may be different shoe sizes depending on the manufacturer or brand. Let’s take a foot, any foot, that measures nine inches. Here’s what size that nine-inch foot would be in Uggs, Nike and Adidas.
In Uggs, it’s a perfect women’s size 6. However, in Nike, a size 6 measures slightly longer than nine inches. And in Adidas? A size 6 is smaller than nine inches.
Also, some brands measure in centimeters instead of inches. For instance, that’s how Clarks shoes does things. So that nine-inch foot is 22.86 centimeters. Let’s call it 23 centimeters to make the math easier. In Clarks, 23 centimeters (or nine inches) is a size 6.5.
No wonder it’s so hard to find shoes that fit. In other words, there is no industry standard that says a foot measuring X inches is Y size.
Shoe widths in inches
It’s the same with widths. Different brands may have measurements for widths.
Also, widths change as feet get bigger. For example, according to a Nordstrom foot measurement chart, a woman’s size 5 shoe measures the following in widths:
- Narrow: 2.8 inches
- Medium: 3.2 inches
- Wide: 3.5 inches
Compare that with a women’s size 8 shoe. Here are the width measurements in inches:
- Narrow: 3.2
- Medium: 3.6
- Wide: 3.9
FYI, when I drew and measured my foot, it was four inches across at the widest portion. Even stepping on the ruler also ruled four inches — maybe even a hair wider than that.
No wonder I tend to wear a double-wide or extra-wide width in women’s shoes. And no wonder they’re so hard to find since places like Nordstrom only measure for regular wide feet, not extra wide women’s feet like my own.
Now that you know how many inches — or centimeters — long and wide your feet are, you should be able to have an easier time buying shoes online. This is assuming that the brands or retailers offer foot length and width measurements and not just sizes. If they don’t, then make sure you shop only at stores that offer excellent return policies.