There are many things that factor into how a shoe ‘should’ fit. Personal preference is the primary consideration, as some people like a tighter fit than others. Design greatly affects fit as well. Heels fit differently than flats. Oxfords fit differently than pumps. The cut of the upper, even the material — you get the idea. The bottom line is whether or not the shoes are comfortable — that’s all that matters.
‘modern’ sizing (length)
Before we talk about your feet, let’s touch a little on the standards of the industry. If you’re familiar with vintage clothes but not vintage shoes, you’re probably thinking that modern sizes must vastly differ from vintage sizes. Happily, they are essentially the same since ‘modern’ shoe sizing was started around the 1880s!
Vintage sizes offer far more widths than modern shoes but a size 6 is a size 6. There’s still the finessing of sorting out if you’re really a 6 or a 6 ½ in this brand, but you’re used to that no matter what decade you choose to shop. The only constants in shoe sizing are the increments between sizes — and that you can never have too many shoes. NOTE: When we know a shoe runs large or small, we list them in the size that they actually fit and make note that the size on the box will be different.
speaking of widths
Shoes used to be made in 8 or more widths! To cut both the manufacturer’s cost of production and the retailer’s cost to carry more sizes, today most shoes are made as Medium width (women's B or men's D). If you’re unfamiliar with the widths in this women’s width chart, you’re not alone as many manufacturers stopped making widths as early as the late 1970s. As a rule of thumb, you can comfortably wear a size narrower or wider.
The actual ‘shoe size’ is the combination of its Length & Width. Given the wide range of widths in which vintage shoes were made, you can actually wear multiple sizes quite easily. See ‘magic of diagonal sizing’ to learn more.
Many vintage shoes used to address that annoying phenomenon where the heel of your shoe slipped on the back of your foot while you walk — especially in high heels. The trick was to build shoes over Combination Lasts. Shoes built on combination lasts (the form over which the shoe is made) have a heel measurement two-widths smaller than the ball of the shoe. This lets the shoe hold your foot as you walk. When you inspect the size marking on combination last shoes, you’ll see a marking that includes both the ball and heel width such as B/AA or AA/AAAA. No need to worry about walking out of your combination last shoes!
nobody wears just one size
You may be surprised to learn that nobody wears just one size — not just because manufacturers and styles differ, but because your feet actually change over time. Your feet (and the rest of you) will let you know when you need to change your size. Surprisingly it is rare to have two feet that actually match. One is usually a bit larger — so fit the larger foot.
To make it easier to find even more genuine vintage shoes that actually fit, when you’re done here read ‘magic of diagonal sizing.’ You’ll be amazed!
no need to guess
A shoe’s true size is based on the last on which it was built. Since all of our inventory is unworn, mint condition, and in original boxes — we know the exact size of each and every one of our shoes. Measuring a used shoe‘s length from heel to toe doesn’t really tell you much. Imagine the discrepancies between a hiking boot, a slipper, and a shoe with or without a Goodyear welt if you measured this way. If you know your current shoe size, you’re set!
not American you say?
With a very few exceptions, all of our genuine, unworn vintage inventory are made in America and all are sized using American Standard Sizing. Our friends at Brannock have provided what we think is the best Size Comparison chart in the industry. You can convert your UK, Euro, or Centimeter size (length) to the American size (or inches). If you need further assistance figuring out your shoe size, drop us a note at [email protected] We’re happy to help.