You say you are a size 10?

As everyone in the footwear industry knows, there is not really any such thing as “being a size 10.” Though most countries’ footwear sizing charts were originally based on real measurements, they are nowhere near perfect across brands and even across one brand’s lineup. This is due in part to varying lasts, no precise way to convert between international shoe sizes, slightly different ways of measuring feet and footwear, and of course due to the huge variety of foot shapes. So even if you are a size 10 in one shoe by your favorite brand, it does not necessarily mean another shoe (by any brand) will fit you best in size 10. This is especially true of sandals, which a large proportion of people wear in a technically incorrect size. In fact, Shoefitr estimates that 45% of shoes may be the “incorrect” size.

Shoefitr is a technology that aims to help with this, especially for online purchases where you cannot try on the shoes. They have scanned hundreds of thousands of shoes from over a thousand brands. Their system then compares these scans to a shoe you suggest of which you like the fit. This way you can see that the shoe you are thinking of purchasing will fit like your favorite runner, if you buy it as a 9.5 instead of a 10, for example.

Zappos may soon be seeing a reduction in returned shoes due to poor fit. Their parent company, Amazon, recently purchased Shoefitr. I would think that they will soon supply this tech to their customers, to reduce the up to 50% return rate they have. One question is if they will attempt to reproduce this tech with regards to clothing…

Another option, instead of comparing shoes to a pair you like, is to use the customer’s actual foot to match footwear to their specific foot. This is done by using photographs of their feet, which are then turned into 3D models. If done correctly, a company could then suggest shoes that fit even better than the shoes you like, which may fit well but are still not perfect for your particular foot. There are a few companies making customized footbeds or shoes this way, based on photographs the purchaser submits. Take three pics of your feet, send them in, and they send you customized shoes or footbeds (Sols and Wiivv) to match your feet. Volumental, a Swedish company, is hoping to use similar tech for shoes, clothing and orthoses.

This isn’t a great trend for local, independent footwear stores, but it may result in a much lower return rate for online purchases of footwear. Is this a good thing and where will it lead?

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