Shoe sizes, like clothing sizes, vary around the world. There is no universally recognised shoe sizing standard or protocol, so if you are buying international brands, then you need to be able to understand and convert the sizing to ensure the best fit for you.
In the US and the UK, shoe measurements come in half sizes. Dancers will often size up or down a half size to find a more comfortable fit.
However, the wrong sizing could lead to an imperfect fit. Too loose, and you risk injury. Too tight, and your feet will suffer from cramping.
Learn how much bigger a half size is in shoes to find the perfect fit for dancing, clubbing, or everyday walking.
Shoe Sizes Around the World
Most people in the UK are familiar with other shoe sizing systems without perhaps even realising it. This is because shoes in the UK also carry European and US sizes.
The US Shoe Sizing System
The standard range of shoes in the US is from 6 to 16 for men’s shoes and 4 to 12 for women’s footwear. Children’s sizing has its distinct system.
In the US, men’s shoes tend to have a slightly wider cut than women’s. Shoes for both genders are commonly available in narrow, medium, wide and extra-wide choices.
The European Shoe Sizing System
In Europe, there is no separate sizing system between adult and children’s shoes. The European shoe range stretches from mini sizes for small children to the largest shoe sizes, usually for men.
The European shoe sizing system is unisex, so it does not differentiate between men and women, but it does feature a slightly narrower cut for the ladies, rather like shoes in the US.
For example, a woman who wears a 39 could wear a lady's or a gentleman’s shoe, and each pair would be the same size. The universal measurement system is handy with some styles like trainers and loafers which are often unisex in design.
The European shoe sizing system does not feature half sizes like the UK and the US.
Japan sizes are in centimetres so we recommend using these for reference, as measuring guides.
How to Measure Your Shoe Size At Home?
Because so much purchasing is now online, ascertaining your correct shoe size is essential to secure a good and comfortable fit, especially if you can’t try the shoes on at the point of purchase.
It is also important to re-check your foot measurements because different manufacturers will cut the shoes slightly differently, so the same size will vary from brand to brand.
The College of Podiatry in the UK revealed in a recent study that around two-thirds of British men and more than half of British women have worn or are wearing shoes that simply don’t fit properly.
Comfortable and correctly fitting shoes are essential to avoid foot problems and damage. Plus, incorrect footwear can also impact your hip and knee joints and spine.
Here is a simple process to measure your feet at home:
- 1. Find two pieces of blank paper that are larger than your feet.
- 2. Place one piece of paper on a flat floor surface.
- 3. Stand on the piece of paper, ensuring that you are comfortable and your weight is distributed evenly across the foot.
- 4. Mark the paper in front of your longest toe and behind your foot, flush with the heel.
- 5. Measure between the two marks.
- 6. Find the correct sizing using a foot chart that correlates shoe sizes with foot lengths.
- 7. Repeat for the other foot. Feet are not symmetrical, so you must measure both feet. One foot is likely to be slightly larger than the other. Suppose there is enough difference between the two feet. In that case, you should always favour the larger foot when selecting your shoe size
Next time you are in a shoe shop, ask an assistant to measure your feet using a Brannock device, a dedicated and accurate foot assessment system. You can compare the results with your home measurements.
A Brannock device will also be able to measure the width of your feet accurately.
Is It Okay to Wear a Half-Size Bigger Shoe?
Wearing a half size bigger shoe probably just reflects that shoe sizing across the world is not standardised rather than a change in your foot size.
Sometimes it is necessary to go up half a size if you buy from a manufacturer who tends to cut shoes slightly smaller. Your usual size may just feel a little too snug and uncomfortable. If you go up half a size, the fit will be more comfortable.
There are occasions where you may deliberately want to opt for half a size up, for instance, if you are buying sports footwear where the feet are working hard and getting hot.
The extra length will keep you comfortable and accommodate a thick pair of sports socks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Half Size in Shoes a Big Difference?
A half-size represents a 1/8” difference. It may not seem significant but is enough to distinguish between comfort and discomfort.
Because there is no standardisation for shoe sizing, a half size difference will also depend on the brand of shoe. With some makes, a half size will be more significant than others.
Is It Better to Wear a Shoe Half Size Bigger or Smaller?
The answer depends on the circumstances, the type of shoe, and your purpose.
If a woman is buying a pair of court or dress shoes, half a size too big could make it quite difficult to walk as the shoe will slip. A loose fit could put you at risk for injury. If you are between sizes, sizing down is a better option in this situation.
It is always better to go half a size up for running shoes or trainers. Vigorous exercise will increase the blood supply to the feet and cause them to swell. Plus, you will be wearing sports socks which are generally thicker than regular socks or tights.
If you find that half a size up is too big, you can add inserts to take up that extra unwanted space.
An extra half size can be an excellent option for children whose feet are constantly growing. It allows that bit of space without going up a whole shoe size, which may be too big and negatively impact how they walk.
What Is the Difference Between Each Measurement of Half-Size Shoes?
There are no half-size options in European shoes, but in the US and UK, the half-size difference is about ⅛” or 4.23 mm.
The differences in the US also break down by gender so that a half size in women’s shoes will be 0.5 cm while it is 0.4 cm for men’s.
Are Half-Size Shoes Wider?
Half-size shoes are not wider; they are slightly longer than the full size below. Shoe sizing does not deal with width fittings, which are an entirely different measurement.
Width fittings also allow for added comfort. Each full size and half size should come in a range of width fittings to accommodate both narrow and broad feet. There are four width classifications in the US: wide, extra-wide, medium and narrow.
You cannot manage different widths of feet by changing shoe size without adversely affecting the fit. Going up half a shoe size will not make that shoe any wider.
Because there is no such thing as standard shoe sizing, it is surprisingly easy to buy the wrong pair of shoes even if you think you know the size of your feet.
Understanding your unique foot conformation, i.e. wide or narrow, and taking stock of the shape of your feet is just as important as size when it comes to choosing a correctly designed and comfortable pair of shoes.