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Shoe sizes explained

Pivotal Motion Podiatry often has patients that attend the clinic complaining of sore feet. Upon inspection, it will often become apparent that their shoes are an inappropriate size for them. When we as podiatrist approach this problem with them, we will sometimes be greeted with outrage.

“But I’ve ALWAYS been a size 7!”, they will insist.

After a bit of research, it’s all not as simple as meets the eye.

The length of the foot is the main indicator for shoe size, and we define the length of the foot to be from the furthermost point of the heel to the tip of the longest toe (usually the 1st or 2nd toe).

Most people will have two slightly different sized feet. It is recommended to buy shoes according to the longer foot. As a general rule, the inside of a shoe should have between 1.5-2cm of additional length.

There are a number of different shoe sizing scales used to indicate the size of a shoe. In Australia, the most common ones we see are the UK system, the European system, and the US system.

The UK system was initially set up by King Edward II. His foot measured 12 inches in length, and so that size was determined as size 12. From there, any smaller sizes were based on the length of a grain of barleycorn, which is approximately 1/3rd of an inch in length. And so a size 11 shoe is 1/3rd inch shorter than 12 inches, and so on. ½ sizes are 1/6th inch longer than their full size. UK children’s sizes start from 0, up to 13.5. Then the sizes become an adult size 1.

European sizing uses the Paris point system. A Paris point is approximately 2/3rd centimetre. The size is determined by how many Paris point measurements are in the length of the foot, plus the required additional length for the shoe.