Shoe Sizes—Who Knew?

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

We all remember certain numbers: our social security number, birth dates, important phone numbers, and our shoe size! It might seem that “shoe sizes” have always been in existence. In fact, that’s not the case. So, when and how did people begin measuring the foot and attaching a size?

Up until the time of ancient Rome, people did not even distinguish between the left and right foot, let alone size them. In modern terms, shoes were made for “two left feet,” or two right feet.  There was no distinction in the silhouette. Despite this, the Romans did develop a measuring unit based on barleycorn. They determined that three barleycorns would equal one inch. Using thirds of an inch, or one barleycorn, they began shoe measurements.

Many years later, in 1324, a royal decree from King Edward II of England made the Romans’ ” three barleycorns equals an inch” rule official. The standard of using 1/3-inch increments (one barleycorn) to indicate the next shoe size is still used today! A few hundred years later, another norm was set when 13 barleycorns (13 in.) became the line between children’s shoes and adult shoe sizes. 

Today, shoes come in half sizes, different widths, and can even be prescribed. Despite so many options, and endless opportunities for having the feet measured, many people still end up wearing shoes that are too small. This can lead to common foot conditions such as corns, calluses, and bunions. 

What can you do to avoid these issues? Have your feet measured yearly. Our feet expand as we age, and with certain seasons of life such as pregnancy. Also, get a measurement in the afternoon or evening when your feet are their largest.

Are you suffering from foot pain and discomfort? Call Dr. Parker at (281)497-2850 for a complete evaluation of your feet and ankles. The friendly staff at Houston, TX office will help you determine the issue, and the best treatment. You’ll be back on your feet in no time!

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