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Holabird Sports

Running Tech Center

Finding Your Correct Shoe Size (No Matter Where You Are)

If you’ve done a quick search on Google for shoe size conversion charts you may feel even more confused than before you started. There are so many shoe size conversion charts out there, how do you know which is the right one? Furthermore, different countries have different ways of converting sizes. It’s also important to realize that shoe manufacturers don’t even use the same units around the world. Shoe size is usually indicated by numbers and letters and indicates the fitting size of a shoe. Often it is only denoted by a number because many shoe manufacturers only provide one shoe width.

One thing you can do is find out what your shoe size is in a standard unit of measurement, such as millimeters, centimeters or inches. In fact, there are shoe manufacturers such as Vibram Five Fingers which are now using inches for all of their measurements.

How to Measure Your Feet

The length of your foot is from your heel to your toe. To measure your foot length stand barefoot, keeping the weight of your body equally distributed on both feet. Measure both feet from toe to heel—it’s vital that you measure and try the shoes on both feet. Many people have one foot that’s larger than the other. Additionally, your feet can grow as you get older making it a good idea to measure your feet at least once a year.

The width of a shoe is designated by a combination of letters like AA, B, D, EE, EEEE, or EEEEEE. The actual definition of the width (whether it’s extra wide, wide, medium, or narrow) depends upon whether the shoe in question is for men or women. For example, a D width is medium for men and a B width is medium for women. Please refer to the chart below for a definition of each width designation:

Men Extra Narrow Narrow Medium Wide Extra Wide Extra Extra Wide
Women Narrow Medium Wide Extra Wide

If your feet are different sizes then you should always go with the larger size. There is nothing worse than having shoes that are too small! In fact, when shopping for running shoes it’s often recommended to go up half a size if you are experiencing foot cramps or any pain.

What if you only have a Men’s Shoe Size Chart or a Women’s Shoe Size Chart?

Don’t worry! While some places provide both men’s and women’s size charts you can easily convert them yourself. The difference in length between a men’s size and a women’s size is between a size and a size-and-a-half. So a women’s size 8.5 will be roughly equivalent to a men’s size 7 or 7.5. The exact fit will depend upon the shoe, as each shoe is cut a little differently.

It is also important to note that a men’s medium width is wider than a women’s medium width. While some women can convert their size and wear a men’s shoe comfortably, many others can’t because the men’s shoe will be too wide. The same holds true in the other direction—a man may be able to convert their size and comfortably wear a women’s shoe; however, many will not because the women’s shoe will be too narrow.

Helpful Conversions & Units of Measurement

1 centimeter = 10 millimeters
1 inch = 2.54 centimeters
Some International Shoe Systems use unique units of measurement. For example:
Paris point = 2/3 cm = 6.67 mm
Barleycorn = 1/3 inch = 8.47 mm

U.S. & Canada Shoe Scales

In the United States and Canada two different shoe scales are used:
  • The "FIA" Scale - This is the Footwear Industries of America scale and supposedly the standard scale; although, it’s not the most commonly used.
  • Common Scale - As the name suggests this scaled is more commonly used.

Both scales start at size one and there is 1/2 size difference between the two scales.

Using the common scale, women’s sizes are equal to men’s sizes plus 1.5.

Common Scale Formula:
  • male shoe size = 3 * last length in inches - 24
  • female shoe size (common) = 3 * last length in inches - 22.5

Standard or or "FIA" (Footwear Industries of America) Scale, women's sizes are men's sizes plus 1 (so a men's 10.5 is a women's 11.5).

Standard Scale Formula:
  • male shoe size = 3 * last length in inches - 24
  • female shoe size (FIA) = 3 * last length in inches - 23

Children's sizes are equal to men's sizes plus 12.33. Children’s shoe size formula: child shoe size = 3 * last length in inches - 11.67

International Shoe Size Systems

Throughout the world there are dozens of different shoe-size systems. They use different units of measurement, and, to make things even more confusing, they start with the zero or one in different places. Some even measure the width. And, some use different shoe-size systems depending on the type of shoe. For example, you might use one scale for a sports shoe and an entirely different scale for a work-safety shoe.

However, just like there is an international language, there is also an international standard in shoe sizes. The International Standard is ISO 9407:1991and it uses the Mondopoint system of sizing and marking.

Mondopoint. The International Standard System is based on the mean foot length and width measured in millimeters. A Mondopoint label can also specify the width of the foot, also in millimeters. It is used by NATO and other military services.

Continental European also called the French System. This is the most common system used worldwide. It’s used throughout Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, other continental European countries and China. It measures using Paris Points. They use this formula:
shoe size = (foot length + 20 mm) / 6.67 mm

English System. In Britain they use barleycorns (1/3 inch).

  • Children’s shoes start with size zero and go up to 13 1/2 (8 1/2”). A child’s size 0 is 12 barleycorns or 4”. The formula for children’s shoes is: child shoe size = 3 * last length in inches - 12
  • Adult sizes start at 8 2/3” and continue in barleycorns. The calculation for an adult shoe size is: adult shoe size = 3 * last length in inches - 25

Australia. Down Under they use this formula to determine shoe size:
male shoe size = 3 * last length - 22.5cm
female shoe size = 3 * last length - 20.5 cm

Japan & Mexico. Both Japan and Mexico designate shoe sizes in centimeters. In Japan men’s shoe sizes typically range from 24 - 28 cm and women’s shoe sizes typically range from 23 - 25 cm.

Korea. Korean shoe sizes do not vary depending on gender. They are in millimeters and are available in multiples of five.

Brazil and other Latin America Countries. Most Latin America countries use this formula:
shoe size = length of foot (cm) / 0.65

Brannock Device

If you’ve been in a shoe store you have probably had your feet measured with a Brannock Device. You stood on something roughly shoe shaped while a guide was moved to the top of your foot and either left or right to measure the width of your foot. Brannock’s shoe size system is also based on a formula, you measure your foot in inches then you multiply that by 3 and men subtract 22, women subtract 21:
foot length x 3 - 22
foot length x 3 - 21

For example: If my foot is 10 inches.
3 x 10 = 30 - 21 = 9. I wear a size 9.

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