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A Guide to Sizing: Why You've Been Buying the Wrong Size Shoe



Who me? 


Statistically, 80% of men wear the wrong shoe size. Yeah, that number surprised us too! Here at HELM we do everything we can to get sizing right on the first pass, and we've found that with a bit of conversation and some measuring tape, buying online doesn't have to be much different than stopping by the shop. Wearing the wrong size can not only be problematic when it comes to comfort, it can also cause the shoe itself to break down more quickly. As passionate boot-makers, we want every pair of HELM to stick with you for years to come, so getting you into the right size is a high priority. 


Here are five things you need to know to find your perfect-fitting pair.




No Two Feet Are the Same (Including Yours)


Almost every single one of us has two different sized feet, so always size for your biggest foot. The length of your arch (distance heel-to-ball) is just as important as the overall length of your foot (distance heel-to-toe). If you have a long arch, you may need to go up a half size. An important factor for the long-term health of your foot itself is the alignment of your arch with the natural flex point of the shoe. In other words, your foot and the shoe should bend at the same point during wear.



Your Size May Vary


Your foot size changes with age and can even fluctuate with weight loss or gain. For those of us over forty, it’s not uncommon to go up a half size in shoes every decade, not to mention that everyone’s feet go up and down in size throughout the day. An easy trick? If you’re trying on a shoe you plan to wear all day long, judge the fit at the end of the day when your feet are fully expanded. 


Note: since everyone has different size and length of toes, the amount of room at the end of the toe box in a shoe (especially tapered styles) is largely cosmetic. 



How to Take Accurate Measurements


HELM uses Brannock US Mens sizing in all of our boots and shoes. Our sizes start at a Men’s 6 (Women’s 7.5) and go up to a size 16 in both D (standard) and EE (wide). The best way to figure out your accurate Brannock size is by using a Brannock device or physically measuring your foot. (Any footwear retailer should have a device on the sales floor.) Getting measured by a professional is certainly the best option, but you can also measure on your own at home.


If you’re at home, grab a piece of paper and a pen. Stand up with your foot on the piece of paper, placing equal weight on both feet. Lift up and flex your toes before placing them back down to ensure your foot is properly elongated. Now trace the outline of your foot with a pen or pencil. If you’re wearing socks, pull them tight and flush against your toes to get an accurate measurement. 


With a tape measure and your traced foot outline, measure the length from your heel to toe and then the widest part of your foot (usually the ball of your foot area). Compare your measurements with the Brannock sizing chart here. Precision counts here and you'll see that even an eighth of an inch matters. The difference between full and half sizes comes down to just millimeters!




How HELM Styles Run


Having your sizing measurement is the first step to finding your best fit and your Brannock size is the best tool to get you in the ballpark. That's not the only thing to pay attention to though. With each design profile running a bit differently, a few other variables can contribute to fit, like manufacturing and personal preference. 


Our USA made styles (The Muller, The Railroad, The Marion) run true to Brannock sizing in both D and EE width. For these styles we always recommend buying true to size.


Our styles manufactured in Brazil run a half size bigger than Brannock in D and EE width. Start by sizing down a half size, but rest assured that as always our returns and exchanges are free of charge. We will keep working with you until we get the fit just right.




The Best Way to Try On


Always lace new boots and shoes all the way up to the top eyelet. The hide may be stiff, but it’s important to have your ankle in the proper position in order to accurately gauge fit. After taking the time to lace them, walk around for a few paces to get a good feel of where your foot is flexing in the boot or shoe. 


Proper fit is more about alignment than length. When you bend your foot, is the ball of your foot lining up properly with the natural flex point of the shoe? The widest area of your foot (usually the ball) should be in alignment with the widest part of the shoe. Brannock has some great visual aids on this subject here.


In higher profile boots with 6 eyelets or more, approximately ¼ inch of heel “slip” is standard. Just remember that the amount of room at the end of the toe is largely cosmetic. The more your arch lines up with the shape of the shoe, the less unnecessary stress the design will endure over time.


We want you to have a beautifully fitting pair of HELM that you’ll enjoy for many years, and fit is the first and easiest step to ensuring that happens.