Shoe sizes are usually a lot more reliable than dress sizes. We’re all used to choosing our regular size on autopilot and heading to the checkout. However, this isn’t always the case.
If you’re used to shopping with a US shoe size in mind, you might get confused when numbers like 38 and 40 start to appear. These are EU shoe sizes, which use a different sizing chart to US shoe sizes.
Adding 31 to your US shoe size is a rough approximation to convert it to a European shoe size. Still, it’s not a precise method due to variations in sizing standards between different brands and countries. For accurate sizing, it’s recommended to consult a brand-specific size chart or try on the shoes.
Shoe size systems primarily include European (EU) sizing based on centimeters, United States (US) sizing based on inches, UK sizing using whole numbers, Japanese sizing in centimeters, and various regional variations (Credit: Iniavisual / Shutterstock)
Many European brands that sell in the US don’t add the equivalent size to their boxes, product listings, and the shoes themselves. Knowing how to convert your US shoe size to find your EU shoe size can make shopping more stress-free.
Navigating international shoe sizing can lead to common mistakes, like buying the wrong size or width of the shoe. This guide covers everything you need to know about EU vs. US shoe conversion, including the main differences to look out for.
EU to US Shoe Conversion 101
The first difference you’ll spot between EU and US shoe sizes is that EU footwear uses higher numbers, whereas US shoe sizing uses lower numbers.
|Women's Shoe Sizes|
The difference in EU vs. US shoe sizes comes down to the way these countries measure feet. In the US, shoe sizes are determined from barleycorns of roughly 1/3 of an inch. By comparison, EU shoe sizes are based on ‘Paris’ points of 2/3 of a centimeter.
|Men's Shoe Sizes|
Foot width also pops up in EU and US shoe sizes. However, it’s usually US brands that offer a variety of widths. Most European shoe sizes are sold as a regular fit by standard with a limited wide-fitting range.
While more EU sizes are popping up in the US, the opposite is also true. American sneaker brands often sell their shoes in Europe with US sizes.
What Are the Differences Between EU and US Shoe Sizes?
EU shoe sizes use the ‘Paris’ system for measuring foot length. This system utilizes centimeters. By comparison, US shoe sizes use the ‘Brannock’ system of barley points, utilizing inches as the form of measurement.
In the US, adult shoes usually range from 4 to 12 for women and 6 to 16 for men. However, specialist brands can offer a more extensive size range. In the EU, adult shoe sizes range from a 35 to 45 for women and 39 to 49 for men.
Every US size has an equivalent EU size, but half sizes can be tricky. While a US 5 and 6 are an EU 35 and 36 respectively, a US 6.5 and 7.5 are an EU37 and 38 respectively. Use an international shoe conversion chart to find your EU shoe size using your US one. Most brands will have a sizing chart available on their website for your convenience.
Another major difference between EU and US shoe sizes is between men and women. While EU sizes are the same for men and women, a US men’s 9 is considerably larger than a US women’s 9.
More shoe sizes in the US are available in different widths. These sizes are usually denoted by a letter, such as 7E or 7D.
Common Mistakes to Avoid with EU/US Shoe Sizes
Half sizes, for both adults and children, is where common mistakes can occur. If you have wider or narrower feet, you’ll always want to double-check the brand’s sizing chart and product description. It’s rarer to find shoe sizes in different widths in the EU, compared to the US.
It’s not just in Europe where you’ll find EU shoe sizes being used as standard. Several Middle Eastern countries, as well as Brazil and Hong Kong, use EU shoe sizes.
There’s also a common misconception that European shoes run smaller than their US counterparts. European sizes are often a little larger than their US equivalent. Always check the brand’s sizing chart and advice before buying from a new brand for the first time.
Converting Children’s Shoe Sizes
The biggest challenge can come from converting EU and US shoe sizes for children. You’ll usually find children’s shoes offered in half sizes in the US. However, this is rarer with EU sizes.
|Kids' Shoe Sizes|
In the US, children’s shoe sizes often have 0.4cm between each half size. EU children’s sizes, by comparison, usually have 0.9cm between full sizes. It’s a small difference, but it can quickly add up if your child wears a half-size.
|Baby Shoe Sizes|
We recommend checking the brand’s sizing chart when buying children’s shoes to avoid common mistakes.
What To Do If You Buy the Wrong Shoe Size
Mistakes can happen. If you’re converting between EU and US shoe sizes, you can still end up with the wrong size even after using a conversion chart. These mistakes are more likely to happen with brands that offer half sizes or that have a narrower fit.
If you’ve bought the wrong shoe size, you should be able to return or exchange them hassle-free. The only exception would be if you’ve purchased your shoes during a sale. Double-check the returns and exchange policy for the store before purchasing your shoes.
Be gentle with your shoes until you’re sure that you’re keeping them. Most stores will only accept a return if your shoes are in a sellable condition. You’ll need to hold onto the box, packaging, and original receipt.
Why the EU and US Use Different Shoe Sizing
With today’s global economy, you might think it would be easier if the EU and US used the same sizing chart for shoes. However, history has influenced the two different sizing charts.
The United States took the inspiration for its sizing chart from the traditional system used in the UK, reflecting the history of the American colonies. You’ll see this most in men’s shoe sizes, where US shoes are only one size longer than their UK equivalent.
By comparison, the EU sizing chart is used in Continental Europe, including footwear capitals like France, Italy, and Spain. EU shoe sizes utilize a Paris points system for men, women, and children before adding 2 to 2.5 Paris points to make up the actual shoe size.
Bookmark this EU and US shoe size guide to avoid common mistakes and always get the perfect fit when buying shoes from international brands.