Does Shoe Size Matter?

We used to be a lot smaller.  Over the past fifty years, the average height of American men has grown from 5’8” to 5’9.5”; women are an inch taller, now standing proud at 5’4”.

A walk in the park. Photo by: eclaire

Our body mass index has increased, as well, meaning we weigh more for our height, a huge twenty-five pounds more.

We are also smarter, although not that much smarter or we wouldn’t be eating ourselves into an early grave.

Feet have gotten bigger, too, irregardless of our falling arches and splayed toes.

Consider this:  One hundred years ago, the average woman’s shoe size ranged from 3.5 to 4.  By the 1940s, it was 5.5.  By the 1970s it had jumped to 7.5, and the following decade to 8 or 8.5.  Today it’s a 9, which means as many women need a 10, 11, or 12 as a 6, 7, or 8.

The average male shoe size is 10 to 10.5.  Yep, they’re larger, too.  For those who need sizes 14 to 20 there are plenty of places to shop on the Internet.

There are no recorded differences in shoe width.  Women generally are a “B”; men a “D.”

A day at the beach. Photo by: Chewy Chua

Our attitudes have changed, however, toward the shape of our feet.  Long, narrow ones were once considered aristocratic; short, stubby pairs were deemed lower class.  Women, in particular, who weren’t blessed in this area had to settle for ill-fitting, cheaper shoes.  Nothing else was available. Not so today.  Everyone can choose from a wide variety of styles, from the casual and comfy to the fashionable, if not practical.

And there are always flip flops for all shapes and sizes.  Sure they’re bad for us.  We turn our ankles inward when we walk and take smaller steps, creating unnecessary stress just to keep them from falling off.  But, oh, do they show off a French pedicure!

No matter how we treat our feet, we’re changing from head to toe.

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


  1. louisa may alcott says:

    I used to be 5’4″ and shrunk- your article needs to address the irony of height loss w/in the ever expanding and taller contemporary norms…perhaps my spine is like the Portrait of Dorian Gray (which, by the way, is a “must read”) Oh! how I wish that Oscar were still here – he would understand not measuring up to contemporary norms. BTW, he was quite a Wilde guy way back when, if you know what I mean) 😉

    all the best,

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