How Much Bigger is a Half Size in Shoes?

Interestingly the original measuring method for shoes were barleycorns, I kid you not.  The Romans decided three barleycorns were one unit of measurement, and therefore one shoe size and this was formalised in England in 1324 by King Edward as one inch.  The sizing system is taken differently in the US as the starting point for measurement was taken as 0 rather than 1 which it was in England.  So, the original answer would be that a half a shoe size is one and a half barleycorns.  Things have changed a little since then though and become a little more precise.

Shoe sizing varies worldwide, and like many things, there is still no globally recognised standard.  The three main sizing guides that you will see indicated on shoes for sale in your store, or online, would be; US, Europe, and UK sizing.  This is not an indicator of the location of manufacture, but simply the measurements according to the various systems of measurement. In the US a women’s half size is now a standard 0.5cm, and a man’s 0.4cm.

The US Sizing System

Women’s sizes in the US range, in the majority of cases, from 4 to 12 and men’s sizes from 6 to 16, although as in everything there are exceptions and larger shoes can be obtained.  Again, to speak generally, women’s shoes tend to be manufactured slightly narrower than men’s shoes that are given a slightly wider cut.  The US children’s sizes are distinct from the US shoe sizing.

One criteria for any shoe to be federally recognised as ‘medical’, or ‘diabetic’ is that the shoe must be available in a range of widths.  US shoes are likely to be available in narrow, medium, wide and extra wide widths, and the same cannot be said for European shoes.  The size of the shoe though does not vary, increasing 0.5cm and 0.4cm respectively, regardless of width.

The European Shoe Sizing System

Unlike the US system, there are no separate sizing systems for adults and children in Europe.  Instead, the range goes from small shoe sizes, mainly worn by children through to the larger shoe sizes mainly worn by men.  The shoe sizing system in Europe is a unisex system, unlike the system in the US, covering all shoes.  This means that a woman measuring a 39 could wear a 39 women’s shoe as readily as a 39 men’s shoe, the design and detailing would be the difference, not the sizing.  Shoes in Europe do not go up in half sizes, but use whole numbers.

It is always surprising how many adults are wearing shoes which are incorrectly fitted.

Whilst most of us have had the same size – within a half-size or so for most of our adult life – different manufacturers will have a slightly different fit – a narrower shoe will feel very different from a wider one.  It is vitally important that good support is maintained for the foot at all times.

Have a think about when you last had your foot measured, or discussed the fit of your shoe with a professional?  With so many conditions linked to correctly fitting footwear and the bio-mechanics of walking I would encourage everyone who reads this to take the time when next purchasing a new pair of shoes to take advice, to get their feet measured again.  You may be in for a surprise!

Feet are not symmetrical – for most of us, one foot is slightly larger than the other, usually only by half or one American size.  Although, in extreme cases, people can be three or four sizes different from one foot to another.  Again, to save future problems it is very important to ensure that correctly sizing shoes are worn.

If the difference is slight then an inner sole worn only under the smaller foot will take up sufficient space to prevent movement, and therefore rubbing and blisters.

A raised and supportive sole inside the shoe will correspondingly shorten the length of the foot slightly – and, as they get older, many people will benefit from an orthotic insole supporting the arch of the foot.  As the arch slackens, the foot rolls inwards, putting pressure on the inside of the ankle, this then puts uneven pressure through the knee and can even affect the back – giving pain in an apparently unrelated area.

Sizing for shoes as they are sold is;

Women’s Shoe Size Chart

US EU UK FOOT LENGTH (approximate)
6 36-37 4 ~8.75 in / 22.5 cm
6.5 37 4.5 ~9 in / 23 cm
7 37-38 5 ~9.25 in / 23.5 cm
7.5 38 5.5 ~9.375 in / 23.8 cm
8 38-39 6 ~9.5 in / 24 cm
8.5 39 6.5 ~9.75 in / 24.6 cm
9 39-40 7 ~9.875 in / 25 cm
9.5 40 7.5 ~10 in / 25.4 cm
10 40-41 8 ~10.2 in / 25.9 cm
10.5 41 8.5 ~10.35 in / 26.2 cm
11 41-42 9 ~10.5 in / 26.7 cm

Men’s Shoe Size Chart

US EU UK FOOT LENGTH (approximate)
7 40 6 ~9.6 in / 24.4 cm
7.5 40-41 6.5 ~9.75 in / 24.8 cm
8 41 7 ~9.9 in / 25.2 cm
8.5 41-42 7.5 ~10.125 in / 25.7 cm
9 42 8 ~10.25 in ~26 cm
9.5 42-43 8.5 ~10.4 in / 26.5 cm
10 43 9 ~10.6 in / 26.8 cm
10.5 43-44 9.5 ~10.75 in / 27.3 cm
11 44 10 ~10.9 in / 27.8 cm
11.5 44-45 10.5 ~11.125 in / 28.3 cm
12 45 11 ~11.25 in / 28.6 cm
13 46 12 ~11.6 in / 29.4 cm

How to Measure your Shoe Size Yourself

If you cannot get along to a professional to have your shoe size measured then you can review the size you are purchasing.  To find out current shoe size at home, follow the instructions;

  • You will need a ruler, a pen or pencil, and a piece of paper larger than your foot.
  • Use a flat surface on the floor.
  • Stand on the piece of paper, make sure your foot is flat and you are comfortable with your weight on your foot.
  • Mark the paper behind your foot, and then also in front of your longest toe.
  • Repeat the exercise with the other foot.
  • Measure between the two marks on both feet in inches or centimeters.
  • Use the longest of the two measurements. If you are not sure then repeat the exercise.
  • Look at the above chart and find the correct sizing for the measurements you have taken.
  • If your measurements are not on the chart round up and use the larger shoe size.

 

 

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