Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Shoe Sizing Conundrum (Part 2)

Back in May we posted about the issue of being able to make custom made shoes in the right size for people. As we expected, this is most definitely one of our biggest challenges.

There were some great comments and suggestions in that original post and we explored all of them. In the end, because we hoped it might be simplest for our customers and quick for us to set up, we decided to test having people measure their feet with a tape measure. We've run one beta test and are in the middle of a second one and the results so far haven't been great.

For the first test we wanted to develop the simplest possible method to measure your feet with a tape measure. We experimented and came up with a method we thought might work. I measured everyone's feet using that method and our supplier determined sizes from my measurements. 12/16 shoes fit first time = 75% success rate. Not brilliant, but ok and I'm sure we could improve from there - so the measuring method works, but that's with one person measuring everyone's feet.

For the second test we wanted to see if customers could be taught to measure their feet accurately using the same method. We created the instruction video below and put together a document explaining how to measure your feet.

24 people measured their own feet following these instructions. Jodie or I then measured their feet to compare measurements. Unfortunately only 4 people got the same measurements as Jodie and I. Those 4 people each took about 20 minutes to follow the instructions really carefully, so the method works if people do that, but we can't expect everyone to take the time to do this, so the failure rate is likely to be too high if we have people take measurements of their feet with a tape measure.

Still, all is far from lost, the plan from here is:
1. We're going to set up a market stall in Sydney, ideally at the Bondi markets, where we have sample shoes for people to try on for sizing. Once sized up, people can order online through the website (we'll have computers with internet access at the stall). This will let us start selling shoes and give us the opportunity to keep testing alternate sizing methods.

2. Our supplier likes the idea of people posting us a closed in shoe that fits really well. We can use that to get sizing right and ship the shoe back with the customer's order. We're still thinking this through, but we're likely to run a third beta test trialling this method.

We're still very open to other possibilities that came from the comments in our original sizing post, like an iPhone app (check out RulerPhone) that helps you measure your feet (thanks Ben) or a way to take a foot mold at home (thanks Cameron).

As always we'd love to hear your thoughts. Would you visit us at the Bondi markets in Sydney to get sized up? Would you be willing to post us a shoe that fits you really well?


  1. Hey guys

    The market stall sounds like a great idea! However, personally I don't think I would send in my own shoes - the beauty of online shopping is that it is easy and involves little effort.

    Having said that, given your price point you might find that customers will be willing to do that to ensure the shoe fits the first time around given the amount they are spending and also the time they are taking to design it themselves.

    Are you planning on offering standard sizes or just offering shoes based on foot measurements? I would have to say that 95% of the time I am the same size, regardless of style of shoe or brand.

    You have probably already thought of this but can you have your standard shoe sizes drawn on a template so a customer can just print that template out and stand on it and see which size best fits them? sort of like this?

  2. How about some kind of simple origami shoe that people can print out and mould around their foot to check if a size is correct?

  3. I think posting a shoe is too much work. You have to find something suitable to post it in, go to the post office (which is hard for 9-5'ers), and then on top of it all, risk the post office losing one of your best fitting shoes... I'm not sure who would take the risk.

    Is it worth finding out common brands of shoes women wear and matching this with a size? A drop-down could be the brand, the second the size If you were to measure up all the major brands and sizes (as you would have done if they had sent 1 in) you might be able to capture a large % of the market. The others could do the measure or send method... How fragmented is the ladies shoes category - from a supplier base perspective?

  4. Thanks for the great comments guys.

    Phuong - Yeah, we're a little worried that posting a shoe will be too much work. Gonna survey as many people as we can to see what percentage would actually do it. We've talked to our supplier quite a bit about just asking for a normal size. They've said that would be fine for certain shoes, particularly strappy/open shoes, and I know I'm almost always a size 44 in shoes I buy, but for some of the closed in shoes, particularly closed in high heels, they feel that the success percentage would drop to be way too low. And from our testing so far I get the feeling they're right. Yep, we've explored templates like the one you mention. They work for trainers / casual shoes and would work for some of our open shoes, but for the closed in shoes we need to get a measurement of the circumference of the customer's foot around the base of their toes, and there's no way to do that with a printed template.

    Tarwin - It's a good idea. It would need to be made of rigid cardboard rather than paper, but it's definitely an idea that has potential. Making something like that is beyond our expertise but we might try to find some people/companies that are able to do that sort of thing...

    David - That could work. Trouble is sizes can vary even vary within styles within one brand, so we'd have to do it for styles of shoe. The market is very fragmented so we couldn't do it for all brands/styles, but there are a few major brands that are available in most places. We could pick 5 common brand/style combinations. Customers could get themselves sized in one of those 5 styles and tell us what the size was. That's definitely a possibility I'll speak to our supplier about. Cheers.

  5. I know that I have already suggested this in the past and you didnt like the idea however I still think that the best way to ensure 100% success is to make the shoes out of elastic. A Volcanised rubber and spandex mix would also work.

  6. Is this suggestion just so that you can have an excuse to wear vulcanised rubber and spandex Mulligan?!

  7. Hi Michael, this is a great concept, although as I own a shoe shop I can tell you there is no way to successfully measure a foot as everyfoot is completely different. Also there is no standard is shoe sizings so using a current shoe size will not be accurate.Perhaps you can have blanks of different styles you are offering at outlets then people can choose style colour and try on the blank?

    Good luck

  8. Hi Claire, that's a very good idea. We could partner with shoe store owners and other fashion retailers. Customers could try on the blanks in those stores then use our website (possibly on computers in store) to design their shoes and order.

    You mention you're a shoe shop owner, how interested to you think shoe stores would be to work with us?