Have you ever had this experience? You want to buy a beautifully designed footwear displayed at your local shoe store only to end up discovering there’s no available shoe size for you? It was so disappointing that they didn’t have the right size. Or, how about shopping for shoes online and finding out that the limited shoe sizes they offer provide only a small number of shoes to choose from?
You may be asking yourself, so where did these shoe size measurements originate anyway? Did you know shoe sizes aren’t the same across the world? If you do any international traveling, and shop for shoes on your travels, you will find that shoe sizes definitely differ by region of the world.
Different regions around the globe follow certain measuring standards when determining shoe sizes. Historically during the Roman civilization, shoemakers at that time used a “barleycorn” to measure feet when making a sandal. An inch as we know it would be made up of the total length of three barleycorns. During the reign of King Edward of England, he signed a royal decree in 1324 making barleycorn as a unit of measurement in making sizes of shoes. He proclaimed that three barleycorns were in fact equivalent to an inch!
From then on in England, sizes of shoes where derived from the length of barleycorns. For example a 39 barleycorn size would be equivalent to our size 13 shoe and was the average shoe size for English Men. Infants shoe sizes started at 0 and children shoes were generally 1 to 13 barleycorns. The ‘barleycorn’ system is still in use today and is the basis for shoe measurement in United Kingdom and Ireland.
Different shoe measurement in different places
In the United States, the same concept of ‘barleycorn measurement’ was also in use but varies from the traditional English size when it comes to the starting point of measurement which is 1 rather than zero. A size 12 in UK has an equivalent of size 13 in the US which is also the same for Canada. It is also worth mentioning that the FIA (Footwear Industries of America) scale adds 1 to every male size to make women’s sizes such that a man’s size of 10 is a size 11 to women.
In some parts of Europe such as France, Italy, Germany, and Spain, they used ‘Paris points’ in their shoe sizes which is equivalent to 2/3 of a centimeter. Another system worth mentioning is the ‘Mondopoint System’ which means world-point system that is based on mean foot length and foot width and is measured in millimeters. This unit of measurement also takes into account the width of the shoe as well as the length. This system of shoe sizing is used for ski boots and military shoes because it allows the shoes to be fit better than other sizing systems.
Asian countries, on the other hand, used the metric system when measuring shoe size which takes into account the foot length measured in centimeters. There is also a 5mm increase for every size and girth designated by letters A to G.
Most US shoe stores today use the Brannock device to come up with an accurate measurement for feet when buying shoes. This device was invented by Charles Brannock in 1925. It measures not only the length of the feet but also the width and then converts the foot directly to a shoe size. One tip on determining your shoe size is to make sure measure your feet during the day and after standing or walking. The reason for this is because the foot expands somewhat during the day which will affect the shoe size.
Shoe Size Conversion Tables for Men, Women, Boys and Girls