Have you ever heard the word, "Barleycorn?"
Shoe sizes were originally based on a small unit of length called a “barleycorn”.
One grain of barley, or one barleycorn, would equal approximately one-third of an inch. Since three barleycorns were only “approximately” an inch and not exactly an inch, this measuring unit was one of many factors that made it difficult to standardize shoe sizes.
Even though we use inches now in the United States as a more exact way to measure shoe sizes, how the shoe size is decided based on the measurement is still not standardized.
While a men’s shoe might be a size 12 in the US, it would be a size 11.5 in the UK and a size 45 in Europe- even though they’d all be the same length if measured.
Even within the same country, manufacturers can decide how they determine the size of their shoes which can lead to you being a size 10 in one style of shoes and a size 11 in another.
What About Shoe Widths?
With the lack of standardized shoe sizes just with the length of shoes, many companies don’t even bother with the width of shoes when it comes to sizing. As your feet grow longer, they also grow wider- and as you go up in shoe sizes, you also need a bit more width in your shoes.
While you could go up a size, a size 12 is a bit wider than a size 11, you then have to worry about adding extra length to your shoes that you don’t actually need.
This Presents Another Problem...
Shoes are designed to flex at certain places based on the length of your feet, so if you’re wearing a shoe that’s meant for a longer foot then your foot won’t flex at the same place the shoe is designed to flex.
Getting a shoe that is the proper length is important so that your arches line up properly with the shoes and the shoes flex at the same places as your feet when you’re walking around.
The solution is wide width shoes.
Getting a shoe that is also the proper width is important for more than just comfort.
The width of your foot is a volume measurement and not just a straight line across your forefoot and the width of your shoe also includes the depth of the shoe. If your shoes are too narrow for the width of your feet, then your shoes compress the bones in your feet (called metatarsals) and your feet won’t move the way they’re designed to which will lead to foot problems.
While bunions are often genetic, they are also widely attributed to wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow and corns develop when tight or narrow shoes put constant pressure on the skin.
Having narrow shoes also causes issues and even pain if you already have other foot problems such as hammertoe, crossover toe, or ingrown toenails. Diabetics also need to pay special consideration to make sure they have the proper length and width of shoes so that they don’t get any sores that can quickly become serious infections.
When choosing shoes, you want your foot to relax in the shoe with the proper toe and arch length, and the correct width in the forefoot. Some companies increase the width of the sole base under your foot as width sizes increase to help give you better support and prevent side ‘rollover’ where your foot rolls over the size of the sole.
There are different ways that shoe manufacturers size the width of their shoes.
You’ll see the width of a shoe sized as:
• Wides, Extra Wides, XX-Wides, Extra Extra Wides
• 2E (Two-E), 3E (Triple E), 4E, 6E
• W, WW, WWW (3W)
• E, EE (2E), EEE (3E), EEEE (4E)
• W, WW (Double Wide), XW (Extra Wides), XXW (Extra-Extra Wides)
Gimre’s carries a wide variety of wide sized shoes in both men’s and women’s brands to help you get shoes that have the proper length and width so that your feet flex with your shoes in the way that they were meant to.