The first step when buying barefoot shoes is to know how to measure your feet and shoes properly. I digged deeply into this topic and I tried to write down everything I know or I found about that to make this step easier for you.
Table of Contents
1. Measuring the foot
For measuring feet, we can use different methods. The most important thing is to make a measurement as precise as possible and always let someone else do the measurement for you.
1.1 Foot tracing
Foot tracing method is the most used method for measuring feet. I use it for measuring feet and I use this method also when I make custom orders for shoes according to my foot measurements.
Here are the basic guidelines how you should make a foot tracing properly:
- Let someone else do the tracing for you
If you will try to do the tracing on your own, this can lead to some errors as the foot is not in the natural standing position - The person whose feet are measured should stand with straight legs and completely relaxed feet
- Use thin, sharp and short pencil or a pen and hold it completely vertically
You want to get as close as possible to your foot and you don’t want to give too much extra length to your feet with making inaccurate tracing. With using very thin pen you can get the exact tracing. - Always make a tracing for both feet – they can be different lengths and widths
Here is also a video of how I do the foot tracing.
When you have done a tracing, measure the distance from the middle point of the heel to your longest toe to get the foot length.
The width can be measured in different ways. Anatomically correct and according to different books, the most correct method is to connect points between both metatarsal heads (look photo below) and measure the distance from your big toe to your pinky toe as is shown on the photo below.
In that way you get foot length and foot width measured like this.
But the problem here is that different brands use very different methods for determining the width of their shoes. For that reason I like to measure the width in a different way too, just to make my width comparable to the values from the size charts.
In that case the width can be measured at widest part where the ball of your foot is and the width line is perpendicular to foot axis.
FOOT AXIS = a line that goes from the middle point of the heel through the middle point of your second toe as you can see on the photo below.
NOTE: There is no uniform method that all use for measuring the width and the length of their shoes. This second method is based on the width that Clevermess measure uses when measuring shoe widths and Plus12 uses for measuring the internal lengths.
1.2 Standing against the wall
The second method you can use is to stand against the wall and measure the distance from the wall to the longest toe.
Remember! Don’t take the measurements on your own.
Use these steps to measure:
- Mark the place at the wall where the middle part of the heel will be located
- The person whose feet are measured should stand with legs straight and feet relaxed, against the wall. The heel should gently touch the wall and shouldn’t press too much on it
- Make a line where the longest toe is. Hold your pencil vertically.
- Now measure the distance from wall to the line you draw
- Take a measurement for both feet
Here you can also see a video how I do this. You should get very similar results as with using foot tracing method. I got the same values for my daughter.
1.3 Using Plus12 measure
Plus12 is a measure for measuring length of the foot and also for measuring internal lengths of the shoes. There are several places where you can buy Plus12 measure – on their official website, Amazon and also in different online shops which sell barefoot shoes. Some of them are listed here.
How to do a measurement with Plus12?
- For measuring foot length, stand on Plus12 with the heel touching the back blue part. Don’t press too hard with the heel, but just gently touching it.
- Stand on the red tip with your longest toe. If you are measuring your kid’s feet, hold foot to ensure it is completely relaxed and that the toes are in its natural position.
- Now take a look at the value at the measure. Plus12 always gives you the shoe length you need and not the foot length! It adds the recommended 12 mm space in the shoe you should have!
- Take a measurement for both feet
In our example the Plus12 measure shows 206 mm. This means foot length is 206 mm – 12 mm = 194 mm.
This is very similar value that I got also with other two methods. If you have done the measurement ok, you should get very similar results with using all three methods.
Here is a video of using Plus12 for measuring my daughter’s feet.
2. Measuring the internal length and width of barefoot shoe
2.1 Internal length
Sadly, there is no uniform method used for measuring internal lengths and widths of the shoes. Barefoot brands do it very differently. Some brands have this clearly specified or their website, but for others this is a total mystery how they do it 🙁
Usually, some of them measure the internal length from the middle point of the heel to the longest first toe (like Tikki, Zlatush, etc.), some brands measure to the longest point of the shoes (Feelgrounds, etc.), some just measure lasts or insoles, which definitely don’t give the right feeling of the internal length of the shoes itself.
What I suggest you here?
Before buying shoes always check the internal lengths of the shoe at different online shop that sell barefoot shoes too (if available) and not only on official websites of the barefoot shoes you are buying. Some of them can be found here.
Look for those retailers that just don’t copy the size tables from manufactures websites, buy they do their own measurements. Those usually use Plus12 for measuring length and Clevermess for width in kids shoes.
This step with checking the lengths is really important as the internal lengths can be different from model to model, even though they are from the same brand and in the same size.
For some brands you have no other choice than hope that their size chart is true to size.
How to measure shoes at home with Plus12?
No matter what, I always check the internal length of the shoe with Plus12 measure at home too. But you need to know how to use it properly!
A very good guide how to use Plus12 you can find on ŠŤASTNÉ NÔŽKY here and here and on Instragram from mini.and.mum in the highlights here.
A lot of tip you can also find on official Plu12 website.
Why Plus12?
Plus12 measure is super easily to use, affordable and it takes into account the space you need in front of the toes and it has a red tip.
Red tip?
Red tip mimics the height of the big toe and it takes into account also the space you need above your toes. Some barefoot shoes are flatter at the front part and there is no space left for your toes and Plus12 takes this into account.
The red tip in this Zlatush shoes, which I reviewed here can go all the way to the end of the shoes. There is a lot of space above the toes too.
How to measure with Plus12?
Position the measure at the heel part. Some shoes have more rounded heels and also some shoes have more curved insoles. Be careful that you push the Plus12 completely at the end of the heel in that little curved part. Only that way you could measure the shoe properly.
If necessary, position the red tip to the place you want. Don’t push too hard into the material and be careful that the tape is straight and not bended.
Measure the distance from the middle point of the heel to the longest first or second toe. It depends which toe is longer for you. On the scale you can now see the internal length of the shoe in [cm].
Why measuring the insole or using the measuring tape is not completely correct?
Insoles are not always the same length and width as the shoes are and they can serve just for approximate determination of the shape and length inside the shoe. Usually the shoe itself is wider than the insole is.
With measuring the insole, you also can’t take into the account the space above the toes you need. With Plus12 you can do this too.
Measuring with the tape can be used in only in some cases (for open sandals and just in some shoes). This method also don’t take into account the space above the toes.
2.2 Internal width
Talking about the width of the shoe is hard. Why? Our feet are not 2-dimensional. Giving a 2-dimensional measurement of the shoe that would be true for all cases is almost impossible.
What also matters here is the circumference of the shoe and the foot. We need to take into account both values – width measured with foot tracing and circumference.
Where I see a problem?
A big problem is that different brands use very different methods how they measure the width of their shoes. This is why I presented two options for measuring width of the foot in Foot tracing chapter above.
A lot od them don’t use the recommended method where you connect metatarsal heads and measure the distance from your big toe to your pinky toe.
For example, Tikki shoes is one of the rare brands that have very detailed instructions how they measure their shoes. The width is measured like I explained above in the first method for measuring width. If you are buying barefoot shoes from Tikki, use this method.
Well, how to measure now?
I still see that some brands just measure the insole width, distance between the stitching, outsole width, etc. There is not just one method used. And not all of them are correct.
IMPORTANT! You need to know to what value you are comparing your measured foot width too!
A measure for measuring the width of the shoes is Clevermess. I don’t have it has you can measure the width only up to 8 cm and it can’t be used for adult shoes. I would only recommend them for measuring widths of the shoes, although it can also measure length of the foot and shoe and width of the foot.
Clevermess requires a lot of practice to get the feeling how to put the arms at the right positon and don’t press too much with them to the sides of the shoe. Therefore this is not for everybody as you can get totally wrong values.
If the values in size charts are measured with Clevermess, then you should measure the width with the second method I presented above (width perpendicular to foot axis).
For using Clevermess and measuring the width of the shoe I recommend you to check posts from Terka from ŠŤASTNÉ NÔŽKY here and here. She is an expert in that field.
You can also make wooden sticks in different lengths and position them to the place where your widest part of the foot it. Just be careful that you compare the values you got with the values have measured. Those sticks can be positioned diagonaly too as the width in first method is measured.
Also something like this can be used too.
But what you should be careful about? Let see an example…
An example
Take a look at the photo below. We have two different shoes – Wildling Tanuki Niji (left foot) and Peerko 2.0 (right foot).
Now we have 2 different foot, both 9.8 cm wide measured with foot tracing method, but Foot 1 has a circumference 24 cm and Foot 2 has 25 cm.
Wildling upper is less structured and it allows more spreading to the sides, while Peerko don’t allow this.
Therefore it means Wildling shoes could have different widths presented in the size chart, like size 42 fit to the foot width of 10.2 cm and with 24 cm of the circumference and for 9.8 cm width for foot with 25.5 cm of circumference.
Complicated right?
This is why you can’t 100% rely on values for the width in size charts. But personally I wouldn’t measure widths of the shoes on my own at home. You still get approximate values from the size charts.
What to do now?
Measuring shoe widths is hard. It requires a person with a lot of practice that will see the shoe and your foot.
The problem that different brands don’t use the same methods for measuring the width is big. Comparing the widths from their size charts to your foot width is like comparing apples and oranges.
There is no exact method that all would use.
Here I recommend you like this. If no width is available, check the widths on websites of shoe retailes that make their own measurements (especially for kids shoes).
They usually use measuring like blue line on the photo below is. Also, the insole can still help a little bit too to eliminate those shoes that are really too narrow, too wide for you or the wrong shape.
3. How much space do we need in shoes?
Size charts usually tell you the internal lengths and widths of the shoes. Therefore, you should always add 10-12 mm to your foot length and choose a shoe size that has the inside length you are looking for.
Why 12 mm? This is the recommended space which you need to have in front of your longest toe regardless the age and closed-shoe type.
This is valid for closed shoes and for adults. For kids you need to add growing room. More about this you can read here.
4. To sum up
There is sadly no uniform method that all manufacturer would use for measuring the inside length and width of their shoes.
But remember, you need to know what you compare. What values are in the size charts and what you have measured!
I hope in the future there will be a better system for measuring feet and shoes. This will make shoe shopping much easier. Until then we need to stick to what we have now and deal with it.
DON’T FORGET
The shoe will fit you well if:
- you will have enough space in front of your toes to move (12 mm is recommended)
- the shoe will be wide enough for you
- it will match your foot shape and foot volume
- it will have a toebox shape that will match your toes shape well