How to buy shoes online? It’s simple, right? Find a pair you like, click order, and you’re good to go. Well, not exactly. Shoes are one of the rare items where shopping online can be a bit harder than going in person, until you learn a few tips and tricks. On the other hand, once you get the hang of it, you get all the standard benefits of online shopping.
Essentially, you can easily check the fit and feel of shoes when you go in person, while you need to make a reasonable estimate when shopping online. Of course, you can always return an item, but why go through the hassle?
Imagine it’s October, you’ve got a nice trip planned for next month, you order a pair of winter boots you like, and once they arrive and you try them on they’re too small. Now it’s a few weeks more to return them and order a bigger size. Circumvent such annoyances by learning how to measure shoe size at home – which is the first step in online shoe shopping.
How to Measure Shoe Size at Home?
The biggest hang-up when buying shoes online is finding a good fit. Let’s say you are normally a size 9, so, logically, the next pair you buy should also be a size 9, correct? Not always. Unfortunately, there is no universal shoe size standard, so it will depend on the manufacturer. There are a few different standards they use, so the actual size can vary a bit.
The simplest way to get the right size is to buy from a shoe company whose shoes you already have and fit well. So, if you already have a pair of size 10 Thorogood boots, you can go to the Thorogood collection and order another pair without a second thought. Otherwise, you should take a bit of time and measure your feet, which we’ll explain how you can do in a little bit.
Your Shoe Size Can Change Over Time
Before we get to measuring your feet and explaining how to find the corresponding shoe size, you should know that your feet can change in size over time. This can be due to weight gain or weight loss, injuries, pregnancy, and a whole host of other factors. If you’ve been on your feet the whole day, they will swell up and can even change a bit by the time you get home.
So, if your feet are already borderline between sizes, it can seem like you’ve changed sizes from morning to evening. All of this means that if you were a certain size, you should still measure your feet to see if anything has changed before you order shoes online.
Measure Your Feet
When you want to measure your feet, you should take two measurements: the length and the width. How the shoes fit on the top of your foot is also important for comfort, but that’s not something you need to take into account when measuring, as a shoe that’s the proper length and width will also be comfortable on the top of your foot.
The shoe size corresponds to the length of your feet, so that’s what you should take the most care of when measuring. Imagine a straight line from the top of your toe to the bottom of your heel, parallel to the middle of your foot, and that’s the lengths of your foot. Take a look at the image if we’re not being clear enough.
The width of your foot is a straight line across the widest part of your foot, as you can see in the image. It’s less important than length and is only relevant for certain types of footwear, as most have only one standard size width-wise.
In general, it’s only relevant for certain work boots and shoes. If your shoes usually don’t feel tight when they are the right length, you have nothing to worry about. Otherwise, when you find the right length (which is what size refers to, as we’ve explained), just go for a wider model.
On the other hand, if you can’t be bothered to learn how to measure shoe size, you can always go to a professional shoe store and have them measure it for you. They probably have something called a Brannock Device that is used to measure your feet.
It’s a cool little device that was patented way back in the 1920s, so finding the correct fit is definitely not only a problem with online shopping. It’s kind of interesting to think that a dock worker in the 1920s was having similar practical problems to you, isn’t it? Anyway, ask them to measure your feet, write down the dimensions, and go back to order the correct size.
Order the Correct Size
This is where it gets a bit tricky. As we’ve mentioned, different manufacturers use different standards to determine which lengths correspond to which size. The size chart we give you is the customary sizing most US manufacturers use. When someone refers to shoes as “true to size”, this is probably what they are referencing.
We know it’s a terribly outdated method. Barleycorn (which is about 1/3 of an inch) is used as the basis for determining the size. In other words, you’re measuring sizes in kernels of barley. You can guess how old it is then.
That’s why we can’t say with 100% certainty that the length of your foot will correspond to the exact size on the chart. Check the product description and some reviews, and if it says runs big or runs small (or something to that nature), go half a size up or down. Otherwise, go with the size chart.
Wear Them For a Few Days
Finally, when you receive your shoes, don’t try to return them if they don’t fit perfectly as soon as you try them on. Good leather shoes and boots will stretch with wear and mold to your feet, so keep them on for a few days, and only return them if they still don’t fit properly afterward.
A Few Additional Tips for Buying Shoes Online
Once you find the correct shoe size, there are a few other things you should keep in mind when buying shoes online. First, how much you’re willing to spend. It’s a good idea to determine a budget and stick to it. Five or ten dollars more is not too much, but the same logic can be used indefinitely. So, it’s definitely a smart move to know your upper limit.
Then, decide what you need the shoes for before you start browsing. So, do you need them for summer or winter? Are you going to wear them to work or when you go out? Do you need walking shoes or dress shoes? Work boots for doing construction or going hunting? You probably have a rough idea already, but it’s best if you clearly define it in your mind.
And then consider the features you need to get the job done – the degree of insulation, whether you want them to be waterproof or not, do you need protective toes, a metatarsal guard, specific hazard protection, etc. Once you figure these things out, you can look for a model with a design you like.
You can go the other way around and find shoes or boots with a style you like, and see if they have the features you need. However, this will take you longer and you may end up not getting the best shoes you can. Knowing the features you want in your shoes allows you to zero in and get the best pair possible.
Finally, because you are buying shoes online, find a shop you trust. Scams are not that uncommon on the internet, so take five minutes and check them out. You don’t have to go into too much detail. Scams are usually taken down pretty quickly, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Browse their website a bit, see if they provide a physical address, a return policy, and contact information, and if they've been in business for more than a few weeks. If all of these things are check out, you’re probably good to go. Essentially, you don’t need to do an in-depth analysis, just see if they pass the eye-test for a legit business.
How to Buy Shoes Online – Simplified
Let’s do a quick summary of the steps you should take to successfully buy shoes online:
- measure your feet
- learn your shoe size
- stick to your budget
- research the shoes you’re getting
- order from a shop you trust
When it’s put like this, it really doesn’t seem too complicated, does it? If it’s your first time buying shoes online, it may take you a good half hour to get through the process, but each subsequent time will get quicker. And what’s half an hour compared to getting it right the first time? Do yourself a favor and take the time to do it right.