What’s your shoe size? I’m a 3/4/5/whatever…

As you’d probably expect for someone who writes about shoes for a living, I get a lot of questions every day about shoe sizing: how well do they fit, how does this brand compare to that one, how comfortable are they, etc. I always really struggle to answer those questions, and a couple of days ago I got to thinking about why that is. Here’s my answer:

The numbers above each shoe represents the UK size. As you can see, I’m a UK size Who-Knows. I’ve always considered myself to be a size 4, but while the 4s are in the majority here (and the Louboutins in the middle of the bottom row should really count as a 4 here too, because although I bought them in a 5, that was purely because it was the only size left, and they’re too big: the size 4 would’ve been perfect…) there are also a good number of size 5s and a smattering of 3s in there too. The other shoe shelves tell a similar story.

What this photo also proves is that you can’t necessarily judge by brand either: there are several pairs of New Look shoes on those shelves, some of which are size 4 and some of which are size 5. There are two pairs of shoes from Matalan – one is a 4, one is a 5. And the most comfortable pair out of all of them? The size 3 Prada peep toes, which fit as if they were made for me, and are super-comfortable to walk in. Go figure.

What we can conclude from this, then, is that shoe sizing is completely and utterly random. Has it always been like this? I’m not sure. It seems to me that a few years ago I used to be able to walk into almost any shoe store (or order online), pick up a pair of size 4s and know that they’d fit me. These days I could walk away in anything from a size 3 to a size 5, and it’s almost impossible to guess what the lucky number will be this time. Now, it could just be that my feet have changed, of course, and that’s very possible – feet do change through time, so perhaps that’s what’s going on with me. Or maybe shoe sizing really is that unpredictable: who knows?

What I do know, however, is this: you need to try before you buy. No one else can tell you how well a shoe will fit, or how comfortable it will be to wear. The latter point is particularly important, because comfort is such a subjective thing, and what I find relatively comfortable may leave you in agony. It all comes down to what you’re used to, and what shape your feet are. All size 4s, for instance, are not created equal. Some of us have wide feet and some have narrow ones. Some of us have bunions, or narrow toes, or low or high arches. Some of us live in flats, and some will have to have our 5″ stilettos prised off our cold, dead feet. In other words, you may wear the same shoe size as the woman next to you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can wear the same shoes, because what she finds comfortable may make you want to cut your feet off to end the torture.

And what if you can’t try before you buy? Obviously if you’re shopping online, you’re not going to be able to try the shoes on before handing over your cash, so all you can do is be careful to check the retailer’s return policy to make sure you’ll be able to return the shoes if they don’t fit. I’ve never ordered from any store that didn’t allow you to do this, and the UK’s distance selling regulations also offer some protection when you’re ordering something on the Internet. My experience is that most stores make it very easy (and often free) to return something if it doesn’t fit and exchange it for another size: sure, it can be a bit of a pain to have to return something, but at least it makes it possible to try the shoes on at home and decide whether or not they’ll work for you.

What’s everyone else’s experience of shoe sizing? Are you the same size in every store, or do you, like me, have lots of different numbers on the soles of your shoes?


  • I’m a 4 or a 5, I think. Like you, I find it hard to say definitively. I learned after buying a pair of size 5 Irregular Choice heels that were far too big for me that either their idea of a size 5 is big, or that I’m closer to a size 4. Their 4s fit me fine in all but a few styles (the pair I’ve on me now are IC 5s, and they fit perfectly, but others have fallen off my feet) The Vivienne Westwood Melissa shoes are a 4 and they fit me like they were made for me. So there is definitely a lot of inconsistency across the industry and even within individual brands. I do think that wearing heels changes your feet as well – two pairs of size 5 heels I bought a few years ago when I mainly wore flats fitted me fine then, but now that I wear heels all the time they’re too big (and I’ve given them away) It is a frustrating gamble when you’re buying online, especially as even the same style can be different in terms of sizing. I have two pairs of Bertie shoes, the exact same but different colours and the nude ones fit me better than the black ones, possibly because the black ones are patent and have slightly less give in them.
    It’s tough generally to get the right size and even half sizes don’t always help – the 4.5s in Marks and Spencers are always too small, even though this should be my ideal size. It’s harder to tell fit with shoes than it is with clothes because you only have such a short time to try them on in the shop.

    • Irregular Choice shoes tend to be on the big side, I’ve found. I think I have mostly 5s from them. And I think I’ve only tried on one of their styles which fitted better in a 6. And even though I’m often a 5 the Vivienne Westwood Melissa shoes are too small on the left foot (my bigger foot, nearly half a size, I’d say.) the right one does fit very well, but could also do with a tad more room; yet everyone else has found the smaller size fits them perfectly! I really wish more shops did do half sizes, there have been so many times when I’ve really wanted a pair of shoes but the 5 is too small and the 6 is too big so I’ve had to give them upupupup.upupgetgetgeininsoles/blister

        • I think that the thing with Irregular Choice is that their shoes are quite wide, so that’s why they come up big and why I need to go a size down in them. And maybe with the Vivienne Westwood Melissas it’s as much about the fact that they are slingbacks, I don’t know. I’m sorry that the Lady Dragons don’t fit you that well 🙁

          • Well the right Lady Dragon is perfect fit. And the left one is definitely wearable! They’re not massively wrong at all. I do love slingbacks, definitely help with sizing issues. I haven’t found my Irregular Choices to be particularly wide, but I can see that some of the styles probably would be.

          • well, y’know, a little bit more room wouldn’t hurt, but its one of the best fitting shoes I’ve had.

      • I find Irregular Choice really variable, which is a pain – I’m a 6 normally but I’ve had 6’s from them that are perfect, and others (like the icecream courtesan ones I had for my birthday lately) which I can’t even fit on my left foot at all (which is slightly bigger than the right, being a pain).

        I’m better off in 6.5 a lot of the time – bless Marks & Spencer for doing half sizes, and lately, a fair few cute shoes in their Limited Collection 🙂

  • Not just me then! I was ALWAYS a size 7. Textbook 7. As you say could buy shoes blind and know they’d fit. Nowadays that’s a whole other story. I could be anything from a 6-8. It’s a pure guessing game.
    If I buy shoes online I always check they do refunds and buy a 6 & 7, obviously returning the one that doesn’t fit. Lately it’s been size 6s all the way.

  • Usually a 7, sometimes an 8, never a 6!

    I think I’m probably a 7.5 to be honest, but so few brands do half sizes 🙁 I’ve had to stop buying shoes from office and dune, because with both brands the 7 is too small, and the 8 is just too big, no matter what sorts of clever things I do with heel grips and half insoles! I have just the one pair of office shoes now, which are a size 7 and a bit too small but I get away with them as they are a peep toe.

    Topshop size 7 fit like a glove every time,Schuh own brand I’m always an 8, whereas KG/Carvela/Kurt Geiger I seem to be a different size depending on the style.

    I always thought I must have strange feet but it seems I’m not the only one!

  • 8.5/9/10 US. Haven’t found a good 9.5 ever. But it depends a lot on width, cut, and overall style. I almost always take a larger boot than shoe, hence the 10. But ‘try it on’ is the rule.

  • I’m a 5, but I suspect I’m closer to 5.5. Some 5s are a little too tight but 6s are much too big. I’ve got narrow feet as well, which makes it harder. I find it hard to get shoes that fit properly – no matter how comfy they are in the shop, the road test is often completely different. No wonder I live in my Converse!

  • I don’t have a particular size either but one thing i do know.
    No matter where i go, almost every single time it has to be the smallest size available for me. I have teene tiny feet and that is a huge problem for me when buying shoes… because even when i buy a size 36 (Uk size 4) they slip from my heels and i rarely ever find a smaller size in the stores… and when I do they tend to be too tight.
    That is probably the main reason my shoe collection is still this small. good for my wallet though

    • I feel your pain. How many times have I been disappointed because the smallest size is too big for me… I usually go with 3 or 2.5, when I can find it. The downside is the limited availability. The upside, though, is that, when I manage to find 2.5, they’re usually discounted to a ridiculously small sum (I think the same happens with very large sizes). So, yeah.

  • I am a 6, well I think I am. I was before I had my twins, now I seem to be more of a 7. I have always struggled because I have THE narrowest feet on the planet. I have been known to go down to a 4 in peep toes to get the width! I also buy wrong size shoes just because I have to have them and they don’t have my size! 🙂

  • I think more than 90% of my shoes are a US size 8, but I have a few 7 1/2 and a few 8 1/2. Size 7 is universally too small for me, and size 9 universally too big.

    My biggest fit problem is that my feet are wide at the toes (I have bunions), but narrow in the heel. I usually end up with medium width, and try to only buy shoes online from brands I’ve tried a lot in person.

  • Luckily, I’m almost universally a size 6. I know of one brand where I always need a 6 1/2, but at least 90% of my collection is a size 6. But strangely, I’m still afraid of ordering online!

  • I’m a 4 or 3.5, but sometimes I could buy a size 5..hihihihi It depends about the toe, the lenght of the heel and about the shape of the upper, at the end…even if 90% of my shoes are sized 4.
    Uhm…It’s really difficult define my size! (I also bought a size 6. Really, from KG. O_O )


  • I usually wear 5(EU 38), but of course, depending on the shoe company it can be totally random. I have a pair of pumps that are 36 and a pair of other ballerina flats, which are 39.

    Lately I tend to shop only online, because it is simply easier (I live in a small town, which does not have a convenient public transport schedules)and because you can see everything that is available.

    Since my feet are a bit on the wider side, I avoid peep toes, they just kill my toes. What I noticed that for me the shoes that have a better chance of a proper fit – are round toes. Also, I have a rather high arch, so t-bar shoes or others that cover the arch in one way or another – raise suspicion.

    I also tend to rely on customer reviews, and I would strongly encourage ladies to do that for the sake of all of us – leave reviews as much detailed as possible. If you provide more info about the shoe, it is likely that other pairs will be sold and end up worn without cursing – for example you can write I have narrow feet and the shoe fits perfectly…it means that these shoes most likely will be a disaster buy for me. Also I tend to rely on reviews for sizing as well. I pick my regular size 5 as a standard, and if review says the shoes are on the bigger side, I will most likely order size 4. Also, I find that it often helps if the shoe in question is also photographed on a foot. It can give a pretty good idea if the shoe will fit me.

    When it comes to comfort – of course it is not possible to determine. You will know, only after you have them on your foot. But of course, there are companies, on which you can rely – I think that Clarks produce comfortable shoes, just are not always big on the design though..

  • I agree, I swear years ago sizing was more consistent but now I have sooo many different sized shoes in my wardrobe. I find I’m primarily an Australian 7 yet I have a pair of size 8.5 flats that fit me perfectly…go figure! So if I see a pair of shoes I like that are near my size, I try em…and if the shoe fits it’s gotta come home with me.

  • I’m mostly a German size 37 / UK size 4.5. Mostly. I also have some shoes in 38/5 because 37 was too small. On the other hand there are some sandals in my closet that are size 36 / 3.5. Generally if I’m going to wear the shoes without any socks or stockings I go for one size smaller than usual. In most cases it works.
    About ordering shoes: I’ve found that I can buy Adidas sneakers size 4.5 blindly. They are guaranteed to fit me. So do Chucks in 4.5. Everything else I have to try on.

    On a side note: Most German women tend to have bigger feet than I do (about size 6 or 7) and my feet are rather narrow, so I often get lucky and find shoes that fit nobody else and get them for bargain prices.
    The downside of having small feet is that the design range in the shops is very limited. In many cases there is only one rack of shoes in size 37 (or even a combined 36/37 one), but two in 38 and three in 39. 🙁

  • I’ve had the reverse problem (although I guess it isn’t much of a *problem* anymore). I used to go all over the place, from 5 through to 7, with nothing ever being the perfect fit. But shoes I’ve bought in the past two years or so have been absolutely perfect if a size 7. What’s even more odd is that the shoe-size measure thing in stores tells me I’m a size 6. It’s bizarre, and annoyingly inconsistent (I’m sure I’ll wake up one day and be back to the 5/6/7 palava).

  • I’m usually a 6, I did go through a spate of having to get 7s but then they started getting too big! I have 6.5s from Next and Clarks (go me…the height of fashion eh!? LOL!) in one style but then have to have the 6 in the next style. I once ended up in an 8 in New look which didn’t seem right so I didn’t buy them!

    I’ve also noticed that some shops say their size 6 is a 39 but in others a 39 is a 6.5!!

  • I’m usually a UK 9 but I’ve had 8s fit in the past and because my feet are so wide I can imagine needing a 10 in some things… Not that you can get 10s in womens shoes. You can barely get 9s.

    And European sizing is annoying as well, sometimes the size chart says 43 is UK 9 and sometimes it’s 42.

    I think all shoe production companies should get given a mould for each size so sizing can be universal.

  • I have a love/hate relationship with shoes. I love the way they can look, but I often hate the sizing or what they do to my poor feet.

    I’m an 8, generally – UK 8, that is. However I’ve bought lots in a 9 lately, to give my toes a little bit more wiggle room. Honestly, being at the top end of the women’s sizing scale is an absolute pain in the backside, no two ways about it. If an 8 doesn’t fit, I usually have to put the shoe back down and that’s that. Next are a godsend, as are Brantano. So, I know some of you have trouble, but spare a thought for those of us with massive clown feet!

  • I used to wear a size 10 US size, but since I lost over 40 pounds, my feet aren’t as wide as they used to be, and i can fit a size 9. I have a pair of 9.5 patent black pumps, but can’t wear them because they’re way too big. Though I find that wearing heels hurts my feet way too much lately anyways, so i’ve been going with either really short heels or flats.

  • My shoe size is all over the place. The only brand I have found where I wear the exact same size no matter what the shoe is Prada. Generally I’m a 41 though. I have big feet.

  • My shoes are size 8 and 1/2 US. It sucks because a lot of stores don’t carry half sizes. Often I have to settle for a size 9 (8’s usually pinch). My size seems to be quite consistent-while I can sometimes fit nicely into a 9 and, on rare occasions, an 8, I am almost always a size 8 and 1/2 no matter what the brand.

  • I vary between 8 and 8 1/2. Makes buying shoes online a pain in the butt. But luckily I generally buy from the same sellers and I’ve learned which size I am with which sellers. Although I’ve been known to fit into the occasional seven and a half and when I bought my first pair of Betsey Johnson shoes in a size 8 1/2 online, while they DO fit I think they may have been more comfortable in a nine.

  • Just like everyone, I thought I was a regular UK size 4, but in fact, when you see my shoes, It’s between size 3.5 and size 5.
    Strangely, I can wear the exact same model of shoes in sizes 3.5, 4 and 4.5, and always feel very comfortable, but only with Ferragamos (love this brand).

  • SIZE 10 BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! makes it easier for me to swim! but not shoe shop 🙁 my fave store only orders 1 pair of 10’s when they get new inventory!!!!! i can almost cry!!!!

  • What styles of the Irregular-Choice heels do you girls own. And what are some of your experiences with any particular style when it comes to fit? I was looking at the Pesky pirates myself, but am not sure about the fit. I’m from the mainland of Europe and always wear a size EU38.

    I’m also able to buy a a pair of Topshop Gabrielle heels from someone, but I’m not sure about the fit. Bc of the pointy nose and return-shipping form the NL-to-UK is pretty expensive.. About twice the costs of UK-royal mail. Anyone by chance have these and could comment on the fit, pretty please?

    In regards to US shoes, like the chinese cheap shoes from wild diva and, I used to be able wear a size7 which always fitted me fine. But the designers probably decided to match their US 7 more like a EU37 instead of EU38. Lord knows why. Italian Eu sizing are always like this US7=37. And Asos always seem to be a good fit for me. So is Dorothy Perkins, except for the flats

  • I’m somewhere between a size 2 and 5. Size 2 is usually the right lenght, but I prefer the width of size 4 or so. People say that I don’t have wide feet, though.

  • I’m a marks and spencer size 5, a rockport size 4.5 (although I can wear their 5 sneakers too as it’s a “manageable” loose) and NEXT size 4. Clarks I’m a 4 or 4.5 … Their UK5 start a little large and then get much bigger as the leather stretches. I can also just about pull off a foot glove 4.5 wide though i never buy wide for anything else. My US size is 6.5m in Corso como.

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