Everyone’s feet are different. Some are petite, some are robust. Some are wide, others are narrow. And some people’s feet seem out of proportion with their bodies because they’re long!
This is the reason that shoe manufacturers introduced half sizes in shoes. To accommodate everyone, every foot shape, size, and level of comfort.
But do half sizes in shoes make a difference, or should you just size up anyway? Let’s look at the various shoe sizing systems, why choosing the wrong shoe size can be detrimental, and whether or not half sizes matter.
Shoe Sizing Systems Across the World
Did you know that the original measuring system was based on the size of a barley kernel? Three barley kernels laid end-to-end made an inch, and 12 kernels laid end-to-end made a foot.
As you can imagine, this isn’t the most stable measuring method. So as time passed, the various countries began to adapt this method into their own ways of measuring and labeling lengths.
This resulted in different size values being placed in shoes in different countries, which is why a US size 9 is equivalent to a UK size 7, and so on.
US Shoe Sizing
Interestingly, the US was the first country to use both half sizes—around 1887—and varying widths, both of which were quickly adopted by the UK.
Adult shoes range from size 6 to size 16 for men in the US. For women, they start at size 4 and end around size 12. Children’s shoes have a separate system.
Men’s shoes are wider than women’s, but most come in regular, narrow, wide, and extra wide, so there’s plenty of choices.
UK Shoe Sizing
The UK shoe sizing system was actually introduced by an American businessman in the year 1880. It was around for about 10 years before the US started using it too!
Their system is quite similar to the US but uses different numbers. For example, a size 4 in UK ladies would be equivalent to about a 6 ½ in US size.
Like the US, the UK shoe sizing system uses half sizes and varying widths to offer something for everyone and every kind of foot.
European Shoe Sizing
The biggest difference with the European shoe sizing system is it’s unisex. There’s also no separation between adult and children’s shoe sizes, with all sizes and genders fitting into their system.
It also doesn’t feature half sizes at all. However, some shoes come in a slightly narrower fit for ladies with petite feet.
Asian Shoe Sizing
Japan, China, and other Asian countries use a system called the Mondopoint system. This was developed to try and create a unified measurement system, but instead of replacing the US and UK systems, it ended up being used in Asia.
The numbering system here works on the length of the foot in either millimeters or centimeters. For example, for a foot of 250 millimeters in length, the shoe size would be either 250 or 25.
To add to the confusion, different shoe sizes come in different fits. For example, Hoka shoes are known to run wider than average, while Nike shoes usually run narrow.
This can make it even more tricky to find the right size, especially if you’re a half-size! However, all you need to do is measure your own foot properly and ensure the size you’re getting is adequate for your feet, whatever width the shoe is.
Does a Half Size in Shoes Make a Difference?
The truth is, it really depends on two things: your particular feet and what you’re doing while wearing the shoe.
For some, an extra ⅛-inch can make you feel like you’re wearing clown shoes! But for others, that added space may just be your toes’ breathing space.
On the other hand, a shoe that feels half a size too small can create constant discomfort, or it may feel comfortably snug.
If you wear full-size shoes, you may never have to worry about this question. But if you wear a half size, it’s worth trying both and seeing which one feels better to you.
How to Measure Your Shoe Size Correctly
Measuring your own shoe size is the key to getting the right fit. It’s hard to believe, but research suggests that 80 percent of people wear the wrong shoe sizes!
For many, the difference could actually be in a half-size rather than a full-size. But how do you know? Here’s how to measure your shoe size correctly so you can choose shoes that suit your feet.
In A Store
Getting your feet measured in-store is more accurate and much easier! The assistant will use something called a Brannock device, which is like an adjustable ruler that you stand on, and they’ll adjust it to your exact size.
As well as the length of your foot this handy device measures the width of your foot and arch length. Knowing these measurements can help you to find the perfect shoe for your foot, so it’s worth getting your feet measured in-store.
If you can’t get your feet measured in a store for any reason, you can do it at home. You’ll need two sheets of paper, a pen or pencil, and your feet.
Place the paper on a flat surface. Then stand with one foot on one sheet and the other on the other sheet of paper. Make sure you’re standing naturally and distributing your weight evenly as you would normally do.
Lean down and make a mark where your toes are and behind your heel. You can get someone else to do this for you if necessary. Then step off the paper and measure the distance between the two marks.
It’s important to do this for both feet, as one foot is usually naturally bigger than the other. Once you have your measurements, you should choose the larger of the two.
Using the measurement of your foot length, you should be able to find out which shoe size suits you best in any of the sizing systems.
Should You Go Up or Down a Size If There Are No Half Sizes?
What if you’re a half-size, but the shoe you want to buy doesn’t come in half-sizes? You can choose to size up or to size down.
Which one you choose depends on a few things. Comfort is important for any shoe, and if you’re choosing an athletic shoe, performance will be important too.
Size Down If
We recommend choosing the smaller size if you prefer a snug-fitting shoe. This means your toes will be close to the front of the shoe, but the fit will be tight and not sloppy.
You can also choose to size down if you won’t be wearing the shoe or standing/walking for long periods of time. For example, dress shoes that you may wear to a function where you’ll be sitting most of the time.
Size Up If
Sizing up is usually recommended. This allows space for your feet to swell during the day without becoming cramped, which is a consideration, especially in warmer weather.
Choosing a bigger size if you’re shopping for boots or other inflexible shoes is also a better idea. You can always double up on socks if you feel that there’s too much space, but you can’t stretch a pair that’s too small.
Going half-size up may also be a good idea if you’re planning on exercising in the shoe. When you’re performing the high-impact shoe activity, your foot will likely move forward as you land. Extra space in the toe box may prevent black toenails and painful toes.
However, you must ensure that your shoes get a good lockdown on your foot. Otherwise, there may be too much space for your feet to slide around if they aren’t secured.