Why Shoes Don’t Fit (And How to Get the Right Size)


– The MOVEMENT Movement with Steven Sashen Episode 124


Listen to this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement about finding your correct shoe size.


Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:

– How finding your shoe size isn’t as simple as measuring your feet.

– How there are as many as 54 different foot types that must be accounted for.

– How traditional shoes change shape over time, making you need a different size.

– Why pointy toe-boxes are a problem.


Connect with Steven:







Steven Sashen:

You want to get the right size for a shoe, so you measure your foot. You check the length and then you check the width and then you get the appropriate shoe. Simple, right? No, not really. I’m going to talk more about that in a little rant on today’s episode of the Movement Movement, the podcast for people who want to know the truth about what it takes to have a happy, healthy, strong body, starting feet first, because you know, those things are your foundation. We’re breaking down the propaganda, the mythology, sometimes the outright lies you’ve been told about what it takes to run, walk, hike, play, do yoga, CrossFit, whatever it is you like to do, and to do that enjoyably and efficiently and effectively. Did I mention enjoyably? I know I did. It’s a trick question because look, if you’re not having fun, do something different till you are, because you’re not going to keep it up if you’re not enjoying it.


I’m Steven Sashen, the host of the Movement Movement podcast, CEO, and co-founder of Xero Shoes. We call it the Movement Movement, because we’re creating a movement that involves you. It doesn’t cost anything. Really easy, about natural movement, letting your feet and body do what’s natural. So, the way you participate is simple. Go to www.jointhemovementmovement.com. You’ll find all the previous episodes of course, and all the ways that you can share this content, so like, share, give us a thumbs up, hit subscribe, the bell icon on YouTube if you’re there, so you can hear about new episodes. In short, if you want to be part of the tribe, please subscribe. Just spread the word. So, let’s talk about why shoe sizing is not as simple as we all want it to be, and often believe that it is. First things first, foot shape.


There are a lot of different foot shapes. In fact, for any given size there are between, well, one way of looking at is 54 different foot shapes. So, you can be narrow. You can be wide. You can be something in between. You can have a flat foot or a high arch or in between. You can have the curve like the angle from your big toe down to your little toe can be relatively straight across or a big angle. You can have Morton’s toe where your second toe is longer than your first toe, although technically it means your first toe is shorter than your second toe, is what that really is. You can yeah, yeah. You can have a higher volume foot or lower volume foot. You put all these combinations together and you end up with between 54 and 108 versions of what a size nine looks like.


So, what do you do with that information? Well, what most people do is they again, measure. Well actually what most people do is they’ll call us and say things like I’m a true size 9. I say, “Okay, do you have any 8.5s In your closet?” They go, “Yeah.” I go, “Any 9.5s in your closet? They go, “Yeah.” I say, “So, what you are is that you like being a size 9, and you have some of your favorite shoes that are size 9, and you think those other products are wrong,” but maybe that’s not the case. So, that’s one thing that happens. So, there is no true size 9, because of personal preference. I can take three people with identical feet put them in the exact same shoe, and they’ll have three opinions about whether it fits. It’s like Goldilocks for footwear. It’s all about personal preference.


So, let me address one of the first things about why you may not, not be a true size, whatever, or why different shoes are different, et cetera. Hold on. I got to reach for something over here. So, the first thing people do is they measure the length of their foot, and then they want to know, is this shoe going to fit? Is it going to be the right length? Well, one thing people like to do, is they say, “All right, the length of my foot is X, and then I need extra space in front of my toes,” quarter inch, half, whatever they’ve been told. Now what you’ve been told comes from shoes that look like this with a big, thick midsole full of foam. Here’s the problem. Think about bending a phone book, if you remember what a phone book is. With a phone book, the inside bends faster than the outside. The same thing happens with a shoe that has a big midsole.


So, effectively, as you’re walking or running, the shoe is getting shorter on the inside, so you need that extra length because the shoe is getting effectively shorter as you move. Well in a truly minimalist shoe, like Xero Shoes, without that midsole, that doesn’t happen, so you don’t need that extra length. I keep my toes right up against the edge of the shoe, because I like the feeling. I like the feedback. I also like to say it reminds me when it’s time to click my toenails, but that could be TMI, and a little too weird. Regardless, something to ponder. The next thing has to do with width. Oh, so again, personal preference on the length. The next thing is width. People will say, well I’m a 2E or a 4E or a D or whatever. Oh yeah, I’ll do this first, and then I’ll come back.


All right. That’s a meaningless number. It’s two-dimensional. Your foot is not two dimensional. Your foot is three- dimensional. A shoe is not two-dimensional. A sandal is, so you can step on a template for a sandal, and get a sense of whether your foot fits that template, and that’ll give you a good sense, but on a shoe completely different. The volume of your foot and the volume of the shoe are what’s relevant, and that’s impacted by of course the design of the product, but also the materials. If you’re using something that’s all welded and plastic, it doesn’t stretch much. If you’re using a natural material like hemp or canvas or leather, that’ll stretch and mold your foot over time. Even some synthetic products mold your foot over time as well. So, we had someone who came to a trade show and said, “I’m a 4E. Will I fit your shoes?”


I said, “I don’t know. Probably not.” Then he put them on and they fit fine, because he had a wide foot, if you measure just two dimensionally, but it was low volume. So, the shoe stretched, basically, it flattened out to match his foot shape. Now, people who want to find out, will this shoe fit me before they buy, and where they often ask for templates for a shoe, they’ll often ask to see what it’s like to look at the insole, the sock liner of a shoe. There’s this meme kind of thing that’s going around, where people step on the insole and if their foot goes over the edge, they go, “See, it’s not going to fit.” Completely not true. Well, not completely, but often not true, because A, what we just talked about, the difference between this and volume, width and volume, but also it is physically impossible for the insole, a thing that goes inside the shoe to be as wide as the shoe.


I mean, I’m going to show this on video. It’s hard to see, but it’s kind of tricky to see, but here’s the insole, how it fits in the shoe. You can see that the sole of the shoe alone is wider than the insole, and that doesn’t take into how the upper of the shoe can stretch. Let me show that too. The upper of the shoe can stretch, and make it effectively, even wider. There’s that. Now, last but not least… This is going to be a quick rant. One of the challenges that we have, and all footwear brands have, is that foot size and shape go on a bell curve. There’s people on either ends, people with really narrow and low -volume feet, people with really wide and high volume feet, and it’s not possible to make something that accommodates all of those. So, the goal for us, frankly, is to accommodate as much of that bell curve as possible.


We don’t have people … We can’t help people on the very far edge of either side with our shoes. Our sandals can be a slightly different story, but it’s something that we aspire to, something that as we get bigger, maybe there’s a there, there for doing that. But there’s one other thing that gets in the way of that. People say, “Well, why don’t you just make narrow and wide?” Aside from the financial and logistical consequences, basically, it would cost us twice as much money and we would need twice as much warehouse space, and it becomes very difficult to manage inventory. There is statistically, not practically, statistically significant differences between women’s feet and men’s feet, between feet of people in America and in Europe and in Asia. There’s so many, again, variations that there’s just not a, no one has found a way yet to accommodate all of those in one product. Many of the multi-billion dollar companies, they literally have different shapes that they make for the shoes for the Asian market, for the European market, for the American market.


There are some companies that do narrow and wide, but they still have pointy toe boxes, which is not really making narrow and wide. So, what’s the point of all this? The point of all of this is to say it ain’t as simple as we think. Oh wait. I’m going to give you one more fun one. People contact me all the time about doing virtual reality and augmented reality footwear sizing. So, basically you use an app on your phone, and you point your phone to your foot, and it’ll show the shoe on your foot. I said to these companies, “Well, what if someone’s foot is like way, way wide or way, way narrow?” They go, “Oh, we adjust the shape of the image to fit their foot.” I went, “But they can’t buy that product. What they’re going to get doesn’t match what they just saw in your virtual reality or augmented reality image,” so that’s horrible.


That’s a bad idea. Similar to that idea is, there’s a number of companies that are trying to do online footwear sizing, where you answer a bunch of questions. You maybe compare to shoes that you like, and it goes, “Ta da. Here’s the right size for you.” Again, personal preference. I’ve done that. I’ve actually tried some of those where I’ve gotten different results, different times that I’ve done it. Different results if I do it in European sizing versus American sizing and switch back and forth.” Again, like I said, that personal preference thing could get in the way. So, I guess what this is a plea for lenience, a plea for understanding that no one has gotten this perfectly, nobody ever will. We do the best that we can, based on customer feedback. When people tell us, “Hey, this shoe fits a little small or if fits a little big or “fits true to size,” we put that information in there.


But the best thing we can do is say, “Look, we’ll swap them out,” if that’s not the case. If we’re some, if we, if between we, both of us, the person buying and the person selling, get it wrong, I wish we could just send someone to your front door with all the different sizes of all the different styles. You pick what you want, and he goes away with all the things you don’t want. We’re not quite there yet, but suffices to say, I hope this gives you some insight into why this is challenging for you, and for us. Again, a little patience if we don’t get it right on the first try, and information that you can use at a party to impress your friends or annoy them with things that you know that are really arcane. So, anyway, thanks for listening to this rant.


Once again, go to www.jointhe movementmovement.com for more interviews with interesting people, rants about other things, places where you can find out all the previous episodes, where to get this podcast, all the places you normally get a podcast. If you have any recommendations or questions, drop me an email, [email protected] But most importantly, just go out, have fun, and live life feet first.




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