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How to shop for shoes online

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Updated May 14, 2020

Of course, online shoe shops are nothing new. But now there's more and more interest in buying shoes on the internet. If you're not used to buying shoes without trying them first, there are a few tricks you can remember to improve your chances of getting it right first time.

Increasingly popular to buy shoes online

Why are there so many people looking at shoes online right now? Well, there are probably several reasons. Perhaps it's the thought of squeezing into a cramped shoe shop, in close contact with both sales people and other customers – not a particularly attractive thought during a pandemic. Perhaps more people want to get out into the countryside with a good pair of walking shoes now they’re not getting their regular exercise on the way to work. Or perhaps people just don’t fancy dragging their children to the nearest shopping centre or department store?

Our top three tips for buying shoes online

It can be really easy. It can also be incredibly difficult. If you already have favourite shoes that you like and you’re sure of the right size, you can buy new shoes with just a couple of clicks. But if the shoes are for a pair of child’s feet that have grown heaven knows how much during the winter, or if you’re picking out shoes you've only seen as a photograph, it’s much more tricky. Here are our top three tips for how to succeed in buying shoes at a distance.

1. Measure the foot!

Having the correct foot measurement is important. Not just for children, whose feet grow the whole time, but rarely at an even rate. But for adults too. This is because a size 40 in one shoe style can mean a completely different internal measurement than a size 40 in another. Most manufacturers offer a size guide. But be aware that there can often be different size models for different shoes despite them being from the same manufacturer. Using your own foot measurement, plus a margin for movement of 1-2 cm, you can use the size guide to work out which size should fit best.

2. Measure your shoes!

The internal dimensions of a pair of shoes you’re currently using can provide you with a useful guide for finding the right shoes – and above all the right size. If you know your own foot length and the internal dimensions of a pair of shoes you find comfortable, which aren’t too tight and where your toes aren’t squashed, you can work out how much extra space you need inside a new pair of shoes.

3. Choose a safe bet

Of course it’s fun to have completely new shoes. But if you're buying online and you urgently need new footwear, it can be a good idea to choose a model – or at least a manufacturer – you've tried out before. Because it isn’t just the shoe size you need to take into account. Shoes can also have different widths and heights – not the heel height, but the height from the sole to the top of the shoe. And a pair of knee-length boots can vary enormously in terms of the space they allow for the wearer’s calves!

How to measure your feet and shoes

A classic trick for measuring your feet is to stand on a piece of paper and draw around them. Then you can measure from the heel to the big toe. Remember to always measure both feet! It’s common for your feet to be slightly different sizes, so when you're choosing the size of new shoes you need to work from the size of the biggest foot.

If you're going to make a habit of online shoe shopping, or if you want to buy shoes for the kids without having to take them with you, it can be a good idea to invest in a measuring device. These come in many different types. Some are for the feet, some are for the shoes and others can measure both. A good measuring device can give an accurate measurement of how long the foot is.

A shoe measuring device can easily give you the internal measurement of shoes you already own. This is really useful if you have children’s shoes for the younger siblings to inherit once the older child has grown out of them. It’s also handy if you suspect your child has grown out of the shoes they're wearing. Then you just quickly measure the internal dimensions, compare it with the length of the child’s foot and find out if it’s time for a new pair of shoes or whether you can wait for a bit longer. If there’s less than 5 mm left, it’s probably time for a larger shoe.

Tips for shoe measuring

Note that the measuring sticks that can measure both the length of the foot and the internal dimensions of the shoe often add 10-15 mm to the foot length, to allow for growing children’s feet. So if you want an exact measurement, you need to deduct this margin.

Different size margins for different types of shoes.

Different types of shoe often require different amounts of space for movement. Running shoes can require a couple of centimetres more than you'd need in a pair of normal summer sandals. As an adult, you can normally tell for yourself if a shoe’s the right size, when it’s too small and if it’s so big that it’s going to slip about and be hard to walk in. But with children’s shoes it’s more difficult. The measurements below are approximate, but can be useful when you’re buying new shoes and need to know what internal dimension will be best.

Sandals with closed toe – approx. 1.5 cm Sandals with open toe – approx. 1 cm Boots – approx. 1.5-2 cm Wellingtons – approx. 1.5-2 cm Winter shoes – approx. 1.5-2 cm

And don’t forget that winter shoes and Wellington boots can be used with an insole in. So if the measurement you need is between two sizes, you can choose the bigger one and insert an insole.

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