Find Your Foot Shape to Get the Best Fit in Shoes

Labor Day weekend is here and it is a perfect time to discover your foot type.  Why now?  The Shoe Lady most fervently hopes and recommends that you will be spending a significant portion of the weekend under sunny skies, near water and barefoot.

Get your bare feet wet.  Now step on dry pavement.  Which of the shapes below look most like your footprint?   Why does it matter?  There are 28 different “fit points” involved in building a pair of shoes.  Length and width are only two of those 28.  Understanding your foot’s shape will help you make better choices about the style of shoes to buy.

SHAPE A and B:  High arches.  Shape A has such high arches that the foot is raised off the ground even at the outside edge.  Shape B has high arches with a narrow outer edge of the foot touching the ground.  About 20% of the population have high arches.  This type of foot tends to be a bit more rigid than other types.

Recommendation for selecting shoe styles for feet with high arches:

Imagine carrying your body weight on your heels and the balls of your feet with a delicate bridge of tiny bones, tendons and muscles holding the foot together in mid air.  Are you feeling sorry for your feet?  You should be!  Treat them well.  Think about that delicate bridge and do what you can to support it.  Many shoes come with arch supports built in.  The Propet brand includes removable arch supports in all it’s styles.  Many other brands like Naturalizer, Ros Hommerson and Soft Spots include some styles with removable arch supports.  The problem with arch supports is making sure that it fits the shape of the arch in your foot.  Once you figure out how to support that arch, you will have a relatively wide selection of styles.  If you need an arch support or orthotic all the time, you may be limited to styles that are closed and styles that can accommodate an orthotic insert.

While you are imagining your foot centered around a delicate bridge linking the ball and the heel, don’t forget to feel sorry for the ball and heel – left to carry the full weight of whatever you may be.  Unless you are elfin thin, this can be hard work for the ball and heel of your foot.  Think soft cushioning for them.  Think about keeping them flat so they can share the burden of your weight.  When you wear heels, more responsibility for carrying your weight goes to your toes and the balls of your feet.   Ballet flats are a great choice.  Even better if the inner or outer sole add cushioning.

SHAPE C:  Average arches.  Shape C is what shoe makers assume when they design a new shoe style.  There is an arch, but not high.

Recommendation for selecting shoe styles for feet with average arches:

Pay attention to other aspects of your foot shape.  But you are “home free” on the arch issue when it comes to picking styles!

SHAPE D:  No arches.  Shape D is a flat foot with little or no arches.  About 20% to 30% of the population are born with flat feet.  We can also get flat feet as we age, often as a result of obesity, hypertension or diabetes.  Flat feet are normal and should not cause problems, unless there is an underlying condition that causes pain.  (If there is pain involved, see a podiatrist or physical therapist for treatment, this is over The Shoe Lady’s pay grade!)

Recommendation for selecting shoe styles for feet with no  arches:

One of the most annoying problems with buying shoes for flat feet is finding shoes that do not gap around the area of the arch.  The best choices for flat feet are shoes with a high vamp and shoes with a mary jane style strap across the top of the foot.  You will find many “granny” styles that fit this description.  Keep in mind, dear young one, that your sense of style can convert that granny look to something hot with the right accessories.  Think red mary jane’s and purple paisley knee socks.  It doesn’t have to be dull.  High vamp shoes also bring the two sides of the shoe together more and so will avoid the gapping problem with your shoes.  A loafer is a typical high vamp shoe.  Some other flats and pumps have higher vamps as part of their design.  There are more straps, inserts, etc.   A new “retro” style this season is the “smoker” flat.  it has a high vamp.  And, of course, lace ups and ankle boots are always good to close that gap.

Use these images to determine your foot type.

Use these images to determine your foot type.











Footnote on arches:   There are two main arches in  our feet.  The long arch runs from the ball of the foot to the heel.  The transversal arch runs under the ball of the foot.  For more information, see this Wikipedia article.

Walk in comfort!

The Shoe Lady

Long Toes? Short Toes? It Makes a Difference in Picking Shoes

Dear Shoe Lady,
I’m a male, and I have an arch length that is much longer than my foot length. I’ve heard two schools of thought on this:
1. Take the higher of the two measures.2. Split the difference of the two measures.

My foot length corresponds to a size 14.5, but my arch length corresponds to about a 17 (I’m not exactly sure on that, because my arch length is off the chart on the Brannock Device, which tops off at 16. My arch length is 9″). Because of the major difference, would it be better to split the difference or go with the higher number? Thanks 🙂

The Shoe Lady <>
May 15

to Heath

Dear Heath –

So sorry.  But I can not even find an “arch length” reference on Google!  I use a Brannock device and have never heard of anyone measuring the arch length.  I suggest you not worry about arch length, worry about foot length and width.  Then pick your style of footwear, shape, vamp design, etc., based on whether you have a high or flat arch.  Also consider using orthodics for a better fit.
Best of luck.
May 15

to Shoe
 Thanks for the response. 
I had done some more research since I contacted you and pretty much answered my question.
Shoes are actually made for your arch length; Manufacturers simply count on everybody having regular sized toes. The arch length (heel to ball length) doesn’t concern most people (hence why I and almost everyone else hasn’t heard of it), because most people have arch lengths that correspond to their foot lengths (in other words, they have “normal” sized toes). There are some people, however, who have extra long or extra short toes. This makes the arch length and foot length very disproportionate (short toes correspond to a long arch length and long toes correspond to a short arch length).
I have short toes in proportion to the size of my foot, so the length of my foot will fit well into a size 15 shoe, but the break of my foot is much higher up than the break of the shoe. This makes the shoe too tight on the ball and presses the toes together. The widest part of your foot us supposed to match up with the widest part of the shoe. This can cause big problems in the future and could be part of the reason why I have mild bunions on both feet.
On the Brannock Device, the heel-to-ball measurement is on the opposite side of the width bar. The numbers correspond to the shoe size. When I measure the length of my arch on the Brannock Device, it goes off the chart. My arch length corresponds to between sizes 16.5 and 17. This is the size I’m supposed to wear, even though I will have extra room in the toe box.
People with extra long toes have a special problem: If one’s arch length corresponds to a size 11 but their foot length corresponds to a size 13.5, they can’t simply go with a size 11. Their toes would be squished. These people either have to buy a pair of shoes that are too wide for the rest of their foot to accommodate for the ball, or they have to find a shoe that has a extra longer toe box.
Hopefully that made sense lol.

The Shoe Lady <>
12:49 PM (2 minutes ago)

to H
 Dear Heath-

Thank you for the clarification.  And the detailed description.  I’d never heard this referred to as “arch length” before.  But I am painfully familiar with the “ball to heel” length.  You are absolutely right, this is the dimension that shoemanufacturers use.  And they assume an average toe length.  So people with short toes and people with long toes have to take that into consideration when they buy shoes on line.  I tend to suggest that they think of the shape of their foot in relation to the shape of the shoe.  But non-average toe length alone is often the culprit.
Best to you,
The Shoe Lady

Need Size 15 Low Heeled Shoes for Tall Lady

Hi Shoe lady
My question is: Do you have any suggestion for shoes in size 15 which are comfortable and low heeled. I am a tall lady who has always had problems getting comfortable shoes that fit. I really need help. I have bought some shoes, 3 pairs from this website which never fit.  It would cost me a lot returning them since I live in Europe and have to pay toll fees for everything I purchase outside the country.  Need your advice before I start ordering for spring. I have seen some flat shoes that I liked but I cannot be sure they will be comfortable, thus need to hear you view.

Thanks a lot,

Dear Denise,

Alas.  Most women who wear size 10 or smaller have no idea what a luxury it is to actually go into a store and try on a variety of styles and heel heights in what they think is their best size.  After they’ve done this for several years, and if they’ve paid attention, they discover the following:

1.  They may take a different size in a round toed flat than a pointy toed pump.

2.  They may take a different size in Brand A than in Brand B.

3.  Each foot may be a different size so they need to buy the best size and shoe shape for the larger foot.

4.  Some styles may be more comfortable than others.  If you have flat feet or narrow heels, you may prefer a Mary Jane style.

5.  The same Brand making a ballet flat can use two different factories and those factories may have different ways of cutting and shaping the shoes which mean they will fit differently.

Please read col_right_callout for more on these differences.

When you are a size 15, you have never had an opportunity to try on enough pairs of shoes in that size (or 14W or 15N) and in different styles and heel heights to know what is best for your feet.  Some shoes marked size 15 are not going to work.  Others are.  To get the best choice for you, you need to provide the shoe seller the kind of information you would be giving someone in a shoe store.

Carefully measure your feet following the instructions linked to the article above.  Write back to me and let me know those measurements.  But WAIT.  There’s MORE!  I also need to know if your arches are flat or high.  Does your forefoot tend to be wider than usual?  What EURO size do you wear most comfortably?  Do you need a loafer, laceup or Mary Jane to keep the shoe on your foot?  Do you have bunions?  Is your foot thick and muscular?  Soft and flabby?  Skin and bones?  What is the highest heel you would wear for a daily shoe?  What is the lowest heel?  Do you like peep toe shoes and sandals?  Or do you only want closed toe shoes?  Send me back  that information and I’ll see what I can find to suggest.  At this time I think your best bet is Barefoot Tess.  But because these shoes come from different factories and are different styles, they may fit quite differently.

Maybe someday you will have the choices you deserve!

Best wishes,

The Shoe Lady

Shoe Sizes: EU vs US vs UK, How To Know What Fits?

Hello Shoe Lady,
My shoe size in The Netherlands is 43. My search for really nice shoes has taken me far beyond the borders, to the US. I found different size conversion charts, resulting in conversion of my european shoe size to US size somewhere between 10.5 and 12.5. What is the right US shoe size for me?
Hope you can help me out!

Dear Elis,

I am so glad you found me!  I am continually MORTIFIED by the bad information given out to women “who leave a larger footprint” by people in the shoe industry who should know better!
The short answer:  US size 11.
Here’s a little more information:
Take a look at the international size chart here:
Some of the confusion might be that Great Britain uses a women’s shoe measuring system similar to that of the USA.  Except different.  A Euro size 43, US size 11 women’s shoe in Great Britain is a UK 9.
Another source of confusion is that one of the most common sizes in the US is size 8.  It is close to (actually a bit smaller than, but wider than a US medium so feels about the same) an EU size 8.  So shoe people, who should know better, assume if US 8 equals EU 38, then US 9 equals EU 39 and US 11 equals UK 41.  On the surface this sounds logical.  But it is so wrong.  Here’s the mathematical back story.  In 1374 the King of England decided to base shoe sizes on the length of a barleycorn. Each barleycorn represents a jump from one size to the next.  This was refined in 1880 in the USA when Edwin Simpson got all scientific with the inch (I know everyone on the metric system will laugh at this, as silly as barleycorns) and set the standard for US sizing,  In his system, still used, 1/3 of an inch equals one full (not half) size difference.  But wait, there’s more!  Unlike EU sizes which have a standard, proportional width that runs comparable to a US wide, US shoe sizes also come in width measurements, narrow, medium, wide, extra wide.
Your best size may be size 11M ( M equals Medium), but I think you need to know more!  I strongly suggest you read up on Measuring Your Feet and Understanding Shoe Sizes ( so you will be able to pick the right length, width and shoe shape for your feet.  You want to get the right size the first time when you are ordering from another country!
Thanks for asking!
The Shoe Lady