Warning: A long post. If shoe sizing issues don't interest you don't read on. :)
To custom make shoes, we need our customers to provide us accurate foot measurements. Telling us you're a size 8 doesn't work because different brands size shoes slightly differently. We also can't do what Zappos and other online shoe stores do - they suggest you order a couple of sizes and just ship back the ones that don't fit. We can't put our custom made shoes back on the warehouse shelf like a standard shoe retailer can.
To get sizing right, the suppliers we are speaking to require 3 measurements:
1. The length of the foot (at the longest point)
2. The width of the foot (at the widest point)
3. The circumference of the foot (around the widest point in 2 above)
In physical stores that custom make shoes this is generally done by having the customer stand on a sheet of paper, the store assistant traces around the foot then measures the length and width using a ruler. The assistant then uses a measuring tape to measure the circumference of the foot. Even when this is done, 5%-10% of shoes need adjustments made to get them right.
The problem with having people do this same process at home is that there is so much room for error, and 6mm in length is a full shoe size! Just using a small circumference pen versus a large circumference pen, let alone angling the pen in or out against the foot, could make the difference a whole shoe size which would equal a customer return.
Here's what we've come up with as options to measure shoe sizes:
1. Customers do as described above and we create a good YouTube video to explain how to measure your foot accurately. If you don't have a measuring tape we'd have one you could print then cut out.
Pros - fairly simple.
Cons - prone to error. An assistant in a shoe store does this a lot so they know all the tricks to getting it right. We can't teach people at home to do it this well in a short video.
2. We do a slight variation on 1 above. Instead of drawing around your foot then measuring the length and width, you put your foot on a piece of paper, in a corner, on a hard floor and you mark the longest and widest points of your foot then measure them.
Pros - simple and reasonably accurate.
Cons - we're not sure of the accuracy of this compared to 3, 4 and 5 below.
3. We create a printable PDF document with measurements on it. You put it in a corner on a hard floor, then place your foot in the corner and measure the length and width of the foot on the document using the lines marked on it. The PDF document would have a measuring tape to cut out to measure the circumference of your foot. We'd explain how to do all this on a YouTube video.
Pros - quite accurate from our testing.
Cons - You'd have to:
1. Print two sheets of paper and tape them together in the exact right place (20% of women have feet too big for a standard page);
2. Ensure your printer hasn't scaled down the image which would change all the measurements;
3. Accurately fold along the edges of the paper (different printers will start printing at different points on the page);
4. Print and cut out a tape measure;
5. Do the measuring.
That's a lot of slow, potentially frustrating steps.
4. When someone signs up on the site, we post them a document as in 3 above.
Pros - accurate and simple.
Cons - posting the letter would take a couple of days. We'd lose customers while they wait for the sizing document to arrive.
5. We create a database of brands and shoe sizes. You tell us you're a size 9 in Jimmy Choo's. We match that in our database and can make you an equivalent size. (Thanks to Isis for this suggestion)
Pros - simple for the customer.
1. Difficult to build this database;
2. For some brands you might be a 9 in one style (Eg. a platform) and a 9.5 in another style (Eg. a flat).
Sizing is tough. I think on our next trip to Hong Kong we're going to have to nut this out with the suppliers and test, test and re-test the different options.
Does anyone have any other thoughts on what we could do?