The most common system ofsizing in the United States is the American System, in which we have 3 full sizes for every inch and, therefore, 1/3 inch difference between full sizes. It also means a 1/6 inch difference between half sizes. Remember that these are last/shoe size graduations and would be standard for each size made on a particular last. However, they are not standardized from last to last, shoe style to shoe style, or manufacturer to manufacturer.
The other sizing system you will encounter most frequently is the French or European system, Dr. Marten’s work boots and shoes use this type of sizing. The French system’s increments are 2/3 centimeter to each size. This equals about 4 sizes to an inch. With the smaller increments to each size, the need for half sizes is virtually eliminated, which simplifies the process offitting. Often, with shoes sized according to the French system, there is limited width selection, and most often only one width is available. In addition, the sizes do not have genders. The size is based on the length ofthe foot, which is another step in simplifying the fitting process and drastically reducing the inventory.
There is, however, a trade-off for the simplification. The precise fit discussed in this course is much harder to accomplish. The French or European system of sizing has a special place with comfort shoes and sandals.
While we would be lost trying to fit shoes without size numbers and letters in the shoes and on measuring devices, the numbers are just a guide. With no industry or government standards, the shoe size markings only really pertain to the particular last or shoe style you are working with at a particular moment. But that’s important because now you understand what’s happening to proportions as you choose length and width. You will be better able to explain why you are trying different shoe sizes on your customer. It will help you overcome your customer’s preconceived idea of one correct shoe size for his/her foot.