Getting your shoe size right, especially when you purchase footwear online, seems like a task that is impossible to get right.
The high return rates or exchanges of footwear e-commerce shops confirm it. Both shoppers and footwear professionals still rely on size charts to find out their size. But these traditional tools are simply generic sizing tables suitable for orientation, not to be taken as a strict rule. It’s even more confusing when one has to deal with multiple size scales, each with their own conversion table, for various markets. This outdated, confusing method that spans, quite literally, the entire globe from Japan to the UK, is because footwear professionals still associate identifying the right shoe size with a person’s foot length.
traditional shoe size scales
Whichever sizing scale you take, from the English system, to the US or Japanese size scale, they all rely on the length of the foot in different measurement scales. Whether you take centimetres or inches, these historic ways of solving the shoe size issue certainly don’t work in most cases. A proof are the reports that state that half of the British women wear the wrong size or that 80% of men wear the wrong size shoe.
The question is: wrong compared to what? Compared to a generic system, a traditional inch-based or even older barleycorn-based size? These are two-dimensional rigid sizing tools used on a three-dimensional model, the human foot.
There must be a better way to solve the sizing issue and let shoppers purchase the right shoes.
The right shoe size is all about wearing habits
We believe getting the right pair of shoes has very little to do with your foot length.
A human foot is as subjective in what feels right as any other part of the human body. Everybody has their personal preference on what they perceive as comfortable and fit. For example, there are people who like to wear their shoes tight. Others like them looser, due to local injuries or just habit. Or maybe they usually wear thicker socks or are highly sensitive to pain. Some people like their feet to look smaller and put up with a smaller fit until they perceive it as the normal fit.
Sizing is much more about one’s personal wearing habit than about a number of centimetres one’s foot length measures.
Another important factor is also the foot width. People with wide feet tend to buy larger size shoes so that the width doesn’t squeeze their feet. The opposite is valid for shoppers with narrow feet.
Two people will never have the same feet characteristics, even if we take say a pair of twins. Each of the twins will have a personal preference, unique width, past injuries, sensitivity and multiple other factors that will determine the ‘right’ size, not a generic size chart. And not necessarily the same size for both twins just because they are ‘identical’ individuals.
Using intelligent technology to determine the right shoe size
A more effective way of determining the right size and fit for a shoe model is to compare it with another model the shopper wears well.
It is more practical to “match” two models with unique shapes and materials as they are prefered by a particular customer, than to rely on generic size charts. Because the human foot is not a rigid machine which can be placed into a box of a certain size, but a living organism with unique needs and preferences when moving.
This method of determining the right size for a specific shoe shopper is what traditional footwear sellers used in stores across the world, and what we now have brought online, and structured in an intelligent technology.
When looking for a size recommendation, a shopper indicates a pair of shoes they already wear well in a specific size, regardless of the international scale used. The technology pulls data from customer transactions who bought the same two models of shoes and returns the size recommendation, based on the right fit of real shoppers.
Because, ultimately, even if a shopper knows their ‘right’ shoe size is 42 for example, if a certain model or footwear brand doesn’t fit them well in size 42, they will simply not purchase it.
The right size is not about a number in a chart associated to a specific foot length, but about fit and personal wearing habits. So all the studies about people wearing the wrong shoe size could be reframed as customers using irrelevant size recommendation tools to find out which size they should wear for each shoe model.
Find out more about how big data can help you sell the right size shoes.