Unit of Shoe Length

measuring tape

One would think that unit of shoe length would be in inches or centimeters but that’s not entirely true. There are many shoe sizing systems and one of the fundamental difference is in the units of measurement they use for shoe length. This also results in different increments between shoe sizes, because usually only “full” or “half” sizes are made.

The following length units are commonly used today to define shoe-size systems:

The Paris point

The unit was invented by French shoemakers in the early 1800s and hence names Paris point. Paris Point refers to the length measurement used for ballet shoes, including pointe shoes. Unlike other shoe size systems, such as US or UK sizes, Paris Point uses a numerical system based on centimeters.

The Paris point is equivalent to 2⁄3 centimeter (6.67 mm; 0.26 in), with whole sizes increasing by 1 Paris point, representing 3.33 millimeters (0.131 in) between half sizes. This measurement is frequently employed in Continental Europe (Euro shoe size) and Russia.


The barleycorn shoe size system is a unique measurement system that has been used for centuries to determine the length of shoes. The origin of this system can be traced back to the medieval times when grains, particularly barleycorns, were commonly used as a unit of measurement.

The use of a grain as a unit for shoe measurement may seem unusual at first, but it actually has practical reasons behind it. Barleycorns were chosen because they are small and uniform in size, making them an ideal choice for measuring the length of shoes accurately.

The barleycorn system works by equating one barleycorn to one-third of an inch or roughly 8.47 millimeters. This means that each whole shoe size represents an increase or decrease in length by one-third of an inch.

So why was a grain specifically chosen for this purpose? One reason is that grains were readily available and easily accessible during medieval times. They were commonly used as currency and traded among merchants. Using a grain as a unit for shoe measurement allowed for consistency and standardization across different regions and countries.

Additionally, grains are small enough to provide precise measurements but large enough to be easily handled and compared. This made them perfect for determining the length of shoes when accuracy was crucial.

The barleycorn, an ancient English unit, corresponds to 1⁄3 inch (8.47 mm) and serves as the foundation for contemporary UK and North American shoe sizing. In the United States, shoe sizing typically aligns closely with a formula of three times the foot length in inches (barleycorn length), subtracting a constant (22 for men and 21 for women). In the UK, a similar calculation is applied, but with a constant of 23, which is consistent for both men and women.

Metric measurements (Mondopoint)

Developed in Japan, Mondopoint provides a more accurate and precise way of measuring foot length.

In the Mondopoint system, foot length is measured in millimeters (mm). This eliminates the confusion that can arise from other systems such as the barleycorn system or traditional international shoe sizes. With Mondopoint, you can easily convert your foot length measurement into a corresponding size using a Mondopoint conversion chart.

The advantages of using the Mondopoint system are numerous. First and foremost, it offers a more standardized approach to shoe sizing across different brands and countries. This means that no matter where you are in the world, you can easily determine your correct shoe size using the same measurement.

Metric measurements in millimeters (mm) or centimeters (cm), with intervals of 5 mm and 7.5 mm are used in the international Mondopoint system widely used in East Asia.

Fast Forward to Today

These difference unit measurements have lead to different sizing systems and need for size conversion tools and charts.

Since the early 2000s, labels on sports shoes typically include sizes measured in all four systems: EU, UK, US and cm (Mondopoint).