The Surprising Reason Why Shoe Sizes Change in Countries — And How to Convert

Making sure your shoes fit right is important — and that can be difficult when buying them from outside of your home country, especially if you’re looking at shoes online and won’t have a chance to try them on before making the purchase.

The easiest way to figure out how your shoe size stacks up? Look at a sizing chart. Find your size and look across the chart to see how it compares with another system’s sizing. While there may be some variation from brand to brand — try the shoes on or read reviews to see whether the brand’s products have a standard fit — a conversion chart will usually do the trick.


The U.K.’s shoe-sizing metric, based on the size of a barleycorn, has the most storied history: It was developed by King Edward II in 1324. The American system developed in the 1800s, with sizing based on 1/3-inch intervals for whole sizes. In the European Union, your shoe size is the length of your foot plus two centimeters for comfort. The twist? The length is measured in Paris points, which equal 2/3 of a centimeter.

The Japanese system is perhaps the most straightforward of them all — in this system, all shoe sizes are measured in centimeters, with no difference between men’s, women’s and children’s sizing.

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