There’s a reason shoe stores have those strange little feet-measuring contraptions. Finding the right men’s shoe fit isn’t easy. Human feet are like fingerprints, and for a shoe to fit properly there are technically dozens of factors at play (length, width, shape, arch support, materials, stretch and so on – it’s a minefield). And it’s doubly tricky online, where you have to deal with international sizing standards, different brands, and the obvious problem of not even trying the shoes on first. It’s one of the reasons we offer a robust returns policy – even with a size guide, getting the perfect fit is more art than science.
In this article we’re going to run through the differences between EU, UK and US sizing, and how to measure your shoe size (properly). Grab your tape measure and let’s get started.
What’s the difference between UK, US and European sizing?
This is the first thing you notice when you go to buy men’s shoes online. There are three simultaneous global sizing systems: UK, US and EU. Different brands will use different systems (here at Aquila, we use trusty old European sizing). You can find conversion charts online easily enough, and most retailers will do that work for you at checkout, but the main thing to remember is that US and UK shoe sizes grow in the same increments – the UK is just one step behind. So a 10 US is a 9 UK and so on. These two systems also go in half increments, so you can find shoes in 8½, 11½ etc. European measurements run from 29 to 48 instead, and don’t use half sizes.
Unfortunately, this is only the beginning. You also have to consider…
Shoe type and fit
The type of shoe will also affect the fit, and this is mostly down to materials and sock choice. A pair of winter boots, for example, should be tried on with thick socks, since that’s how you’ll be wearing them day to day. Leather dress shoes, on the other hand, only need slim cotton socks, so you might be a size smaller. Some people are 10 in a sneaker, but only 9 in a dress shoe.
Also give some thought to materials. Leather in particular will expand and become more comfortable with age, so try and fit your leather shoes snug (not tight!). There shouldn’t be any real wiggle room or ‘play’ inside the shoe. Going too large will not only give you blisters and hurt your foot with extended wear, it’ll also mess up the leather over time, wearing out the heel and the lining as your foot cannonballs around.
Shoe brand and fit
Another factor is brand. Despite being technically the same ‘size’, different shoe brands will wear very differently. A size 8 sneaker might be 9.3 inches long for one brand, and 10.2 inches for another. Some brands also tend to wear quite narrow or broad across the ball of your foot. Unfortunately this is just the nature of the beast – there’s no standardization in the industry, and brands protect their idiosyncratic shoe molds (known as ‘shoe lasts’) because they give the brand its shape. Literally. The best tip? Try on your shoes first, if possible. And if not, only buy shoes online from brands with a good returns policy.
How to measure shoe size
We’ve written a more comprehensive guide on our sizing chart, but here are the basics:
1. Measure the length of your foot. Stand on a piece of paper and mark the tip of your big toe and the back of your heal. Grab that measurement (in inches and centimetres). Do this with both feet, in case they’re different sizes.
2. Measure the width at the widest point. This is usually horizontally across the ball of your foot. This measurement isn’t reflected in the ‘shoe size’ you see online (that only refers to length), but it’s a good one to know all the same.
3. Refer to our sizing chart to find your correct size. If your feet are slightly different, always go with the bigger size.
Again, the best way to find your fit is to visit a shoe store and have a professional do it for you. But if you’d like to measure your shoe size at home, here are some tips.
- Wear socks. Specifically the socks you’ll most likely wear with that shoe. This will definitely affect the sizing.
- Measure at the end of the day. Your feet swell and grow a little over the course of the day, so measure them in the evening, when they’re at their largest.
- Stand up. When trying on shoes, don’t do it sitting down. Standing up will change how the shoe fits and wears. There should be about a finger-width of space between your big toe and the end of the shoe.
- Don’t rely only on size. As we’ve said, shape and brand idiosyncrasies play just as big a part as shoe size. If possibly, try before you buy.