Tips for Buying Shoes Online

Online shopping has exploded in the past decade, experts forecast that the trend will continue to grow and estimate that by 2020 there will be over 2 billion online shoppers. While most shoppers are comfortable buying tech gadgets and non perishable household items, up until recent years most people did not think to buy clothes and shoes online.

The main factor preventing online shoppers from was the major challenge of getting a good fit on the first try since the idea of having to deal with the cost and hassle of online returns  in the event the items didn’t fit was enough to turn them off. During the early years of e-commerce, the process of return shipping could be quite a hassle since you had to package up the item, contact the retailer’s support and print out your own return label, not to mention making the trip to the post office to ship the return.

Returns Have Gotten Easier

Much of that has changed in recent years with the growing trend of large online retailers offering free shipping and free returns on many orders. They’ve realized that consumers just aren’t willing to take the risk of buying shoes online without the guarantee they can return if for free.

It’s become almost standard now for companies to include the return shipping label inside the package. In addition, many retailers have streamlined the return process and make it much more convenient. Often times the shopper doesn’t even have to leave their home and can just leave the package out for pickup by the mail carrier with the prepaid return shipping label.

But in the case of shoes a lot of shoppers are still hesitant to buy online since it’s quite common to have to try on more than one pair and likely still have to deal with the return process. Even if you’re shopping in a brick and mortar shoe store it’s normal to have to try on several pairs before you get the right fit.  It’s always just been part of buying shoes – and part of the reason a lot of parents dread taking their kids shoe shopping since the selection process for finding a pair that fits (and matches their style preferences) can seem to go on forever.

While there is always a chance the shoes won’t fit, the process has gotten easier in recent years and shoe companies are getting better at publishing accurate sizing charts. In addition some websites are publishing user feedback on how the shoes fit based on the buyers expectations. This feature can be very helpful, for example if you see that for a particular shoe model the majority of shoppers found it was “smaller than expected” you can go up a ½ size to increase your chances of getting a proper fitting shoe.

Tips For Buying Shoes Online

Whether you are shopping online for work boots, running shoes or a good pair of shoes for pickleball, the most important thing is getting the right fit – the best case scenario is ordering just one pair and getting that perfect fit the first time. We’ve put together some tips to help increase your chances of finding a good fit when shopping online and hopefully minimize the hassle of buying shoes online.

  • According to orthopedic experts, most people wear shoes too small for their feet.
  • There should be ½” between your longest toe and the front of the shoe
  • Your feet spread out during the day, measure your feet in the morning to get the best fit.
  • Use a paper and pen to trace the outline of your feet.
  • It’s best to have someone measure for you (while you are standing up).
  • If you are alone sit in a chair to measure more accurately.
  • Measure the two widest points on the tracing to find your shoe width
  • Measure the two longest points on the tracing to find your shoe length.
  • Then reference shoe sizing chart to find correct size based on your outline.
  • Measure both right and left feet- most people have a slight difference between the two.
  • Buy shoes based on the larger foot.
  • The is no standardized size guide across shoe brands, compare your measurement to the official sizing chart from the brand you are buying.

If you regularly buy shoes from the same brand, you’ll get to know your size for that brand so it’s more likely you’ll get a good fitting pair from the same brand the next time you buy.  However, to be safe, double check the online reviews to see if other people found the fit to match their expectations since even the same shoe company can make significant changes from one model to the next.

If you buy a lot of shoes, especially if you have kids, since their feet are constantly changing, you may want to invest in a “Brannock” device. This is the standard metal shoe measuring device you see in almost every shoe store. It’s a bit of an investment in the beginning, but really can save busy parents a ton of time and hassle since it greatly increases the chances of getting the right fit on the first shot and minimizes the number of returns you’ll need to do (due to poor fitting shoes).

This is the traditional heavy-duty device although there are more affordable options like this simple Squatchi, Kid’s Shoe Sizer


Buying your first pair of shoes online can be a little annoying. I know the feeling of finding a great deal on the pair of shoes I wanted,  only to be disappointed when they arrived and having to ship them back because they were too small. However, if you take the time to measure at home, whether you do it by hand tracing on paper or using a more precise measuring device, the benefits of shoe shopping from home can far outweigh the potential hassles. Hopefully our tips above have helped you find your next shoes online.


American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society:



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