You know what they say about men with big feet…

I’ve got reasonably large feet.  Size 11s. However, I often buy size 12 shoes.  No, it’s not a deliberate attempt to make my feet appear larger. Rather it is in pursuit of comfort. Whilst I like my shoes to be smart I am even more keen that they be comfortable.

Most days I put on my shoes for work by 06.45 and often don’t get to kick them off until 21.45. I also walk to and from work. So do the maths, that’s a long time to be wearing shoes which aren’t super comfortable.

Going up a size means I have a just a little more wriggle room for my toes. Literally. Usually, I need to go up a size if the shoe is shaped on a narrow last. As I quite like the look of that shape of shoe this is a pretty common occurrence for me.

Bryant Brogue, Loake Shoemakers

Buying a slightly larger size is not without drawbacks. The upside is that the shoe is comfortable from day one. The downside is that all shoes mold to the feet of the wearer, leather shoes in particular. As the shoe molds around your foot and stretches a little it actually becomes slightly larger.

Have a look inside your shoe sometime and you should be able to see a perfect imprint of your foot on the insole. (If the scent virtually knocks you out when you try this it might be time for some cedar shoetrees.)

So if you’ve already gone up a size you could eventually end up with shoes that are a little too big once they’ve stretched a bit. They would be an incredibly comfortable place to put your feet but it would also mean that your feet move around inside the shoes as you walk.

I’ve got a pair of size 12 shoes which make a gentle, but nonetheless disconcerting, squelch as I walk because my feet now move around inside the shoe with every step. So getting the right size is important, especially if you plan to keep your shoes for a long period (which you absolutely should).

Good quality shoemakers make shoes in varying widths for each size, say 11F or 11G. They also offer half sizes. Most high street shops, in contrast, don’t offer half sizes above 10½ and virtually none offer varying widths. So if like me you need a slightly wider fit then going up a size is the only option available, apart from going to a shoemaker off the high street, where prices rise considerably.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed that some relatively narrow shoes fit me comfortably in size 11. Couldn’t quite work this out at first. I then realised that British shoe retailers can’t seem to decide precisely what size UK11 is.

Some shoemakers appear to think that UK size 11 is the equivalent of EU size 45. Others appear to think that it is equivalent to EU46. I have UK12 shoes which claim to be EU46 and UK11 shoes which also claim to be EU46.

The reality, of course, is that UK11 falls somewhere between EU45 and 46 and some shoe retailers round down whilst other round up.

So a UK11 shoe could in fact be EU45 which would make it around UK10½, it could be a proper UK11 (EU45.5), or it could be EU46 (UK11½). In other words, one UK11 shoe could in fact be a full size larger than another. Even from the same retailer.

It used to be the case that the EU size was an approximation of the UK size.  I suspect that somewhere along the line this has been switched round so that shoes are manufactured to an EU size and the UK size in an approximation.  If true, it means that you can’t easily get a true size UK 11 and might explain why retailers can’t seem to agree what UK size an EU46 is. I shall investigate further but would be interested to know whether  anyone has had similar experiences.  Maybe it’s just me….

Just about now some of you are thinking who gives a toss? Some of us anoraks do. It matters if you want a shoe to fit properly. If buying shoes in a shop then it is simply a matter of trying a range of sizes and deciding which is the best fit, allowing for some stretching with leather shoes. However, if buying online, it is more tricky to know precisely the size of the shoe.

Melvin & Hamilton Navy Brogue

Many online shoe retailers have a size comparison chart. So they tell you whether they think UK11 is EU45 or 46. I’ve worked out that EU46 is often a good fit for me as it is around halfway between UK11 and 12. So it gives me a little extra wriggle room but won’t get too big once the shoe stretches.

So if buying online I tend to go for EU46 irrespective of what UK size the retailer claims it to be. I then have the best chance of getting a comfortable fit for my feet.

You know what they say about men with big feet…

They wear big shoes.


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