Q & Answer: How Do You Pick the Right Shoe Size Online?

Zack writes to us to ask: I’m interested in buying a pair of shoes online, but am having trouble figuring out if they’d fit. I emailed the manufacturer and they gave me the length and width measurements in millimeters. The problem is, I don’t know whether the longest part of my foot aligns with the longest part of the shoe. Do you have any suggestions for what measurements I should ask for, so I can make an educated guess?

I’m not a big fan of measurements for shoes. Like you, I never know what I’m supposed to do with them. 

The length of a shoe can vary depending on a few factors.

  • Size, most obviously. But you’d be surprised how little changes from size to size. The difference can be as small as an eighth of an inch.
  • Welting technique. By welting technique, I mean how the sole was attached to the uppers. The length of your shoes — as measured from the bottom of your soles — can vary depending on the welting technique, as well as within the same kind of construction. Check out the two shoes above, for example. One is from Allen Edmonds, the other from Edward Green. Both are made with Goodyear welts, but the heel on the Allen Edmonds sticks out a bit more from the heel cup, while the heel of the Edward Greens hugs the shoe. 
  • Heel design. Although not as common, some shoes will have what’s known as a canted or Cuban heel, such as these from Saint Crispin’s. Again, compare them to the straight-down heel of the Allen Edmonds shoe above, and you can see how this would affect the measurement of the shoes at the bottom of the sole. 
  • Most importantly, the last. The last is the wooden form on which the leather is pulled over so that it can take a certain shape. You can have lasts in all sorts of shapes. Some shoes can be round and stubby (like Alden); some can be very long and pointy (like Gaziano & Girling). This will affect the length of a shoe more than anything else. You can have two perfectly fitting shoes, but one might be slightly longer simply because the toes were designed to look sleeker. 

In the end, it’s not even the length of your shoes that matter, but rather the heel-to-ball measurement. Critical to your fit is where the heel and ball of your feet sit in your shoes, not whether the ends of your shoe come within a certain distance to your toes.

There’s really only one way to figure out your size online, assuming you can’t try stuff on first.

  • Figure out your Brannock size. Go to a place like Nordstrom and ask someone to measure you. It’s sometimes good to get both feet measured, as few people have the same sized feet. 
  • Ask the store or manufacturer for advice. Not all salespeople will know what they’re talking about, so take their advice with a grain of salt. That said, there are few better places to get sizing advice than from the store or manufacturer you’re buying from. They’re the ones who are likely to be most knowledgeable. Tell them your Brannock size, and if you have other high-end shoes, your size in other brands and models. I don’t mean sneakers like Nike, but rather dress shoes from companies such as Allen Edmonds, Alden, Crockett & Jones, etc. 
  • Check this advice against the forum threads. Styleforum has the biggest archive of all clothing forums, but depending on what kind of shoes you’re buying, Superfuture and Ask Andy About Clothes can be useful as well. Iron Heart and Denimbro are also good for workwear type stuff. The key here is to search the archives before posting anything, as there’s usually a wealth of information you can mine. 

Finally, once you get your shoes, you can check to see if they fit according to this post.

Long story short: measurements are good for clothes, but bad for shoes. To find your size, you have to do some other stuff.

(Photos via Leffot, The Shoe Buff, and Bengal Stripe)

The Old Penny Trick

Ray Ban makes some of my favorite sunglasses, but I hate that little logo they put on every one of their frames. It’s small, to be sure, but being a white print against a dark lens, and positioned so that it’s right at your temple when worn, it feels like the most conspicuous logo in the world. And conspicuous logos are the worst logos in my book.

Luckily, when I bought a pair of Clubmasters two weeks ago, I remembered a little trick I learned from Mister Crew (who in turn learned it from The Trad, who in turn learned it from a few guys at Ask Andy). Apparently, back in the day, you could take off this logo with a bit of rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip. That doesn’t work anymore (as The Trad noted), but you can scratch it off with the edge of a penny. It’s a bit harder as you near the edge of the lens, but with a little persistence, you can get the whole thing off. Thirty seconds later, your Ray Bans look a ton better and you no longer have to wear a logo on your face. 

A Tale of Two Shoes

StyleForum has a great thread titled "A Tale of Two Shoes." In it, a member named Demeter shows a pair of Bruno Maglis that he picked up at a thrift store. The things look like garbage. The outsole is peeling away from the shoe, there are salt stains on the leather, and the uppers look like they haven’t been cared for even once in their entire life. 

Demeter brought these to a local cobbler to have them repaired, and the results are nothing short of magnificent. Through a series of steps that Demeter documents in the thread, the cobbler turned the pair you see in the top picture to the pair you see on the bottom. It’s as though he made them brand new again. 

If you’re on a tight budget, you can use the same trick to score a pair of decent, workhorse shoes. Pairs as beat up as those Maglis can be had for as little as $5 at your local Goodwill store or thrift shop. Depending on who you go to for the repair, and what kind of work needs to be done, the recrafting service should run you anywhere between $90 and $150. The key is to just make sure the uppers, liners, and insole are still intact when you buy your shoes. They don’t have to be beautiful (as Demeter has demonstrated); they just have to be intact. The shoes should of course also be Goodyear welted or Blake stitched

If you happen to pick up a pair of Allen Edmonds of Aldens, the original manufacturer can recraft the shoes for you, as well as reshape the uppers on the original last. You can also take your shoes to B. Nelson or Cobblestone, two of the most frequently recommended shoe repair shops on sites such as Ask Andy and StyleForum. If you’d like to use someone local, try looking up your city on the Shoe Service Institute of America’s website. Finding someone shouldn’t be difficult, though you may get more expert service from some of the previously mentioned operations. 

To read more about recrafting shoes, check out this thread at Ask Andy

PTO Cities: What Others Have to Say
So with the first round settled for PTO Cities, we surveyed some friends of Put This On to see what they had to say about the bracket going into the second round. Who did they think was going to win? How do they feel about the field? Could there be any upsets? Here’s what they had to say:

Christian Barker from The Rake: At the risk of starting a sartorial version of the Shakur/Smalls feud, I’ve my doubts Los Angeles – a city where everyone’s seemingly terrified of being seen as a ‘suit’ - will provide rich pickings for a site dedicated to ‘dressing like a grownup’. I’ve only visited once, but wearing a suit in LA, I felt like the proverbial Wookiee on Endor
Will Boehlke from A Suitable Wardrobe: It will be the third round before there is serious competition, in my opinion. The principal second round interest looks to me to be a pairing where neither city deserves to win, namely San Francisco and Hong Kong. But since that is also the bracket where the winner is likely to face Tokyo, not generally considered a center of world class menswear despite its appreciation for great shoes, we could be looking at a completely unexpected competitor in the finals with London, New York, and Milan.  And that is how upsets happen.
Stephen Pulvirent from Simply Refined: Well no huge upsets yet except Chicago getting tossed over for Buenos Aires.  Maybe I’ll get over it by the time Season 3 rolls around…maybe.  I was sorry to see Melbourne and Havana go too, though not surprised.  I’m guessing the big questions will be Paris or London, Hong Kong or Tokyo, and New York or Naples, but I’m actually hoping the usual suspects will get knocked out in favor of some less-talked-about cities  No denying New York and Naples bring their A-game every time, but wouldn’t you rather see Vienna or Montreal for a change?  
Chris Callis from Men of Habit: Just coming back from London last week, I may be a bit biased. With all of the history it’s difficult to beat. Everyone knows about Savile Row, but the amount of cool spots there goes well beyond that. Drake’s, Trunk, and Rubinacci to name a few. Probably the most international city in the world. Italy is great for Italian, but you can find the best from all over the world in London. That’s why it has my vote.
Andy Gilchrist from Ask Andy About Clothes: I feel like I’ve been asked to update the classic Ian Fleming book Thrilling Cities. I’m a little prejudiced since I live in Los Angeles, but I don’t regard it as a shining example of style. Also, while I’ve never visited Tokyo, I haven’t been impressed with the Japanese tourists I’ve seen come visit Los Angeles. Thus, I’m discounting both of those cities from winning this contest. Hong Kong, on the other hand, is a world class city for shopping, atmosphere, tailoring, and manufacturing.  Two of my favorite tailors have shops there and the city has an incredible luxury goods market. As well, I’ve always been jealous of San Francisco’s excellent sense of style. So, although my preference is Hong Kong, I’m going with San Francisco because it’s closer to me!  

We’d love to hear from you as well. If you have a favorite for the second round, and would like to say why, email your thoughts to us at contact@putthison.com. I’ll select some of the best ones and publish them here. 
(pictured above: Tokyo)

PTO Cities: What Others Have to Say

So with the first round settled for PTO Cities, we surveyed some friends of Put This On to see what they had to say about the bracket going into the second round. Who did they think was going to win? How do they feel about the field? Could there be any upsets? Here’s what they had to say:

Christian Barker from The RakeAt the risk of starting a sartorial version of the Shakur/Smalls feud, I’ve my doubts Los Angeles – a city where everyone’s seemingly terrified of being seen as a ‘suit’ - will provide rich pickings for a site dedicated to ‘dressing like a grownup’. I’ve only visited once, but wearing a suit in LA, I felt like the proverbial Wookiee on Endor

Will Boehlke from A Suitable Wardrobe: It will be the third round before there is serious competition, in my opinion. The principal second round interest looks to me to be a pairing where neither city deserves to win, namely San Francisco and Hong Kong. But since that is also the bracket where the winner is likely to face Tokyo, not generally considered a center of world class menswear despite its appreciation for great shoes, we could be looking at a completely unexpected competitor in the finals with London, New York, and Milan.  And that is how upsets happen.

Stephen Pulvirent from Simply Refined: Well no huge upsets yet except Chicago getting tossed over for Buenos Aires.  Maybe I’ll get over it by the time Season 3 rolls around…maybe.  I was sorry to see Melbourne and Havana go too, though not surprised.  I’m guessing the big questions will be Paris or London, Hong Kong or Tokyo, and New York or Naples, but I’m actually hoping the usual suspects will get knocked out in favor of some less-talked-about cities  No denying New York and Naples bring their A-game every time, but wouldn’t you rather see Vienna or Montreal for a change?  

Chris Callis from Men of HabitJust coming back from London last week, I may be a bit biased. With all of the history it’s difficult to beat. Everyone knows about Savile Row, but the amount of cool spots there goes well beyond that. Drake’s, Trunk, and Rubinacci to name a few. Probably the most international city in the world. Italy is great for Italian, but you can find the best from all over the world in London. That’s why it has my vote.

Andy Gilchrist from Ask Andy About Clothes: I feel like I’ve been asked to update the classic Ian Fleming book Thrilling Cities. I’m a little prejudiced since I live in Los Angeles, but I don’t regard it as a shining example of style. Also, while I’ve never visited Tokyo, I haven’t been impressed with the Japanese tourists I’ve seen come visit Los Angeles. Thus, I’m discounting both of those cities from winning this contest. Hong Kong, on the other hand, is a world class city for shopping, atmosphere, tailoring, and manufacturing.  Two of my favorite tailors have shops there and the city has an incredible luxury goods market. As well, I’ve always been jealous of San Francisco’s excellent sense of style. So, although my preference is Hong Kong, I’m going with San Francisco because it’s closer to me!  

We’d love to hear from you as well. If you have a favorite for the second round, and would like to say why, email your thoughts to us at contact@putthison.com. I’ll select some of the best ones and publish them here. 

(pictured above: Tokyo)