Boot Sizing

Chippewa Hi-Shine boots with added mid-sole and lug sole

Chippewa Hi-Shine boots with added mid-sole and lug sole

Lately, several people have written to me to ask questions about choosing the correct size of boots, especially when stores that sell boots are hard to find or not available and therefore people are considering purchasing boots from on-line vendors.

Their questions have asked,…

  • I want to order a pair of Chippewa high shine boots but I am unsure what size to order. Normally I wear a size 44 eur with my Sendra boots. I ordered a pair of Frye boots last year size 10.5D but they are to big for me. Can you give advice on what size to order?
  • Have you got ANY idea if any boot company that makes a good engineer boot in a triple “E” width?
  • Do you address anywhere on your site about whether particular brands are true to size/over sized/under sized?

My replies were answered for each person individually, but following is information of value to anyone with these types of questions.

LucclassicUnfortunately, the little-known dark secret is that the lasts — forms to make the feet of boots — are not standardized across the industry, and each manufacturer’s boots are not the same when it comes to sizing.

Most are “about” the same, but some are way off. For example, White’s Nomad boots run at least one full size large. Tall Chippewa engineer boots used to run 1/2 size large, but nowadays are true-to-size. Frye China-made boots are all over the place from a full size too small to a full size too large. Lucchese Classic hand-made boots fit fine in the foot, but the calf circumference is more narrow than their machine-made counterparts in the Lucchese 1883 line.

Copsnewdehners1Stock Dehner patrol boots usually run true-to-size in the foot, but the shafts are often too narrow to fit with breeches. A lot of cops have complained about that — goes back to Dehner Boots history with making equestrian boots for skinny-legged riders. Dehner responded to that by offering stock boots with a 1-inch additional calf width option.

So what to do? Here is what I suggest:

BrannockDevice1. Before ordering boots over the internet, go get your feet measured using a Brannock Device. If the last time you had your feet measured was when you were in your late teens buying a pair of sneakers, then it is highly likely that your foot measurements have changed. Do NOT think that just because a 10D boot fits you now that your size is a 10D. Boots change size over time with wear. Men’s feet become a little wider as a man ages and arches fall. Go Get Measured!

Justindeercow132. Try to determine where commercially-made boots you are interested in are manufactured. Sometimes vendors are forthcoming and say “Made in USA” or “Made in Italy” or even “Made in China.” It is when information on the site of manufacture is NOT stated that you have to worry. If that information is deliberately withheld, then it is highly likely that the boots are made in China, or perhaps Pakistan. Run, don’t walk, away. Boots made in these countries are proven inferior and wildly different in size. These boots are made by machines with mechanical construction methods, including gluing the soles instead of stitching them. Boots made in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, U.K., Italy, Spain, and Germany are usually pretty good. Look for those countries of manufacture and avoid the unknown.

3. Use the power of internet search engines and search for terms like “Lucchese 1883 sizing” or “Chippewa engineer size” … include the name of the manufacturer, style, and the word “size” or “sizing”. See what results. Note — results will come back with links to vendors. Scroll through that to find any information about how other people rate the boots for quality and size. Note as well that most people who write reviews on internet forums usually complain. Few write anything positive. Measure the number of complaints to get an understanding of the general gist. If there are more than five serious complaints, reconsider your choice.

4. Use your own past experience and that of your friends. Ask around, “anyone have Sendra boots? How do they fit?” Or consider posting a message on the “boots on line” board. While that board has a mostly gay following, it is all about boots and many men with experience and knowledge about all sorts of boots visit that site.

TLoryx025. Keep in mind that there is no single list of boot sizing by manufacturer. I tried at one time to include that information on the boots review pages of my boots wiki, but that information fell short and I have not had time to maintain it. I have also learned that sometimes manufacturers change lasts (boot molds) and a boot that ran large a year ago may run true-to-size nowadays. That’s why when you do the internet search (point 3 above) that you look for a date on the posting. Reviews that are more than a year or two old may not be accurate any more.

Wescoroughout126. Unfortunately, these days it is hard to find unusual sizes such as EEE width. Manufacturers stopped making boots in odd sizes because they were not selling and the cost of inventory was hard to keep in check. If you have an unusual size foot or problems with your feet requiring special sizing, then consider having boots custom made. While custom boots are expensive, they will be worth it if they fit well and you wear them.

7. Before placing an internet order, check the company’s return policy. Some vendors have a free shipping and free one-time return policy (for domestic U.S. orders). Some vendors allow for a free return for change of size. Some vendors charge a restocking fee if you return boots if you decide you don’t like them. Overall recommendation — check the return policy before placing an order.

8. Know that new boots will feel tight on the legs and sides of the feet and a little loose in the heel. That is all normal. The boots will conform to your foot as you walk in them and break them in. However, don’t walk in the boots on pavement or break them in if you may be considering returning them. Vendors will not take back boots that have been worn and show wear, particularly on leather soles.

Summary — overall, most boots from major well-known manufacturers will fit fine and will run true-to-size. Be careful to avoid knock-offs (same style but by Chinese-manufacture), major-label boots made in China (Harley-Davidson, Frye), and the unknown. Do your research and it is likely that you will be pleased with the fit of the boots you get.

Life is short: wear boots with pride!

1 thought on “Boot Sizing

  1. I’d add one other note:

    In my experience, if you read books about cowboy boots (like the old Texas Boots Book from the 80s), they will mostly say go down a size from your regular shoe size. Ex. if you wear a 9.5 D shoe, you’d order an 8.5 D boot. Don’t do it.

    I find the best way to buy cowboy boots, either through ordering, or through ebay, is to get the total measurement of the outsole. For example, say I see a pair of nice Tony Lamas on ebay. They are the older kind, not the cheap junk made in China. The sole measurement for my foot needs to be about 12″ long by 4″ wide. If those boots I saw are that measurement at the outsole, they should work. However, if they are 11 1/2″ by 3 3/4″, they’d be too small. Use that as a gauge for sizing. If you have a high instep, you might have to go up a half-size. Luccheses are BAD for people with high insteps, but you can always have a cobbler stretch the instep. If buying from an ebay seller, don’t buy from them if they won’t provide the outsole measurement.

    This is also a great way to size used custom boots, as well. If there is this awesome pair of Paul Bonds with 3″ heels that are to die-for, check the outsole measurement. Don’t go by the size listed in the listing because it might not be accurate.

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