So how do you know if boots you have an eye on will fit? What are the magic tips and secrets on boot sizing? More after the jump…
…here is a “brain dump” from this experienced Bootman regarding the sizing of boots. This information is in no specific order.
No standard: little known secret, but there is no standard sizing for boots. Boots are formed on lasts (a foot form) and boot lasts are all made differently. There are general measurements for how long and wide a last should be, but the only guarantee is that a 10D last for Lucchese will be different from a 10D last for Tecovas, or a 10D last for Chippewa, or a 10D last for crap-shit from China. Best way to deal with this is trying them on, but if you can’t do that, then (see below) buy from a source with a non-punitive return/exchange policy.
Measure both feet! while both of your feet look the same, it is likely that each foot is a little different. One may be a little longer or a little wider than another. Use a Brannock Device to measure both feet. Where can you find one? Easy — in a sporting goods store where athletic shoes are sold. Just having your feet measured does not mean you have to buy a pair of sneakers. Bleccchhh…. But measure BOTH feet about once a year. Once you hit 50 and/or gain or lose weight, measure again. Weight gain causes “foot spread” which means wider feet. Once a foot spreads, when you lose weight, the foot does not return to being less wide. That is, once a foot has spread, it stays that way. So while you may have worn boots with a “D” width in your 30s, you may need an “E” or “EE” width in your 50s.
Same brand not necessarily the same sizing: some boot brands have multiple production facilities. For example, low-end Lucchese boots are made in Mexico while higher-end Lucchese boots are still made in the USA. Chippewa-branded and Justin-branded boots are made in various locations under the guise of the parent company, Justin Brands. Some of their boots are made in China, some in Mexico, some still made in the USA, and who knows where else. So what I am saying is, if one type of Chippewa or Justin boot fits you (e.g., loggers), it doesn’t mean that another type of boot with the same company label (e.g., cowboy-style work boot) will be made with the same lasts and will fit the same way. (Even Chippewa Hi-Shine engineers are drastically different from Chippewa oil-tanned [Odessa] engineers of the same listed size). Alternatively, some boot labels like Tecovas have boots made in the same facility in León, Mexico. General word of advice: do research on the internet.
Alternatives to try-on: if you cannot find the boots in which you are interested in a local brick-and-mortar store (much more difficult to find these days), then before you buy a pair of boots, look for information on the exchange and return policy. Some companies like Tecovas cover the cost of return shipment back to them to exchange boots that do not fit with no cost for shipping a new pair in another size to you. Some companies do not, especially the cheapo low-ball priced retailers. If you go with a low-ball price (especially for inexpensive boots), you may have to pay a return shipping charge, a restocking fee, or be stuck with boots that don’t fit because “all sales are final.” READ the information on the retailer’s website regarding exchanges and returns.
Foot size changes with time, age, health: Over the years, I have bought hundreds of pairs of boots. Now that I am in my sixth decade of circling the sun, I have boots that fit me in my 20s and 30s that still look great, but there is no way I can squeeze them on my feet. Frye boots in particular. Ouch! I already covered how to deal with calf size on a previous post in this series. Now, how do you deal with foot size changing with age? Generally, I recommend once you hit 50 (or older), buy boots a half or a full size larger than your Brannock device length, and perhaps, if available, a width size wider (like an “E” from a “D”.) At first, it may feel like your feet are swimming in boots with a larger size. That is easily accommodated by two methods: 1) gel insoles; and 2) two pairs of socks. Sometimes, I do both. Then as your arch naturally falls with age and your feet widen, your boots will still fit and you can continue to wear them for many more years to come.
Can you have boots stretched? while it is possible to have boot calf circumference widened by stretching by as much as 3/8-inch (9mm), it really is not possible to have the foot of a boot stretched. Maybe enlarged to accommodate a corn or bunion, but not the entire foot. If you need this service and can’t or do not want to do it yourself, find a cobbler (in urban areas, you may find cobbler service at a dry cleaners).
Adjusting boots more than two years old: Sometimes you have old boots that you really like but find are more and more uncomfortable to wear with being tight on the calf, pinching the toes, or causing blisters at the heel. I hate to say it, and this comes from direct personal experience, but boots that have seasoned with age have dried out, and any attempt to stretch them often causes the leather to crack and break. You cannot “remoisturize” the boot leather to make it more pliable (or “stretchable”) again. If the boots won’t fit and insoles or socks don’t help — cut your losses; sell ’em, shelve ’em, give ’em away, or toss ’em.
Summary: There really is no magic formula to boot sizing. Think before you buy; buy wisely with knowledge; and, as always:
Life is short: wear boots!