I have no shame when I walk into Nike Town and take the escalator down to the kids section; in fact, I have no choice. I wear a pretty standard size in women's shoes (7), and I've been wearing sneakers for a minute now, but I still can’t seem to crack my correct size. Am I a kid's size 5 or 6? Maybe even 5.5? What about in men's sizes? I think I remember a Nike employee telling me that the smallest size in men's (a 4.5 I believe) converted to women's size 8? Or was it 9? I don’t remember. Basically, if I want shoes, I can't shop from my couch.
Finding the right sneaker size for my feet has been a struggle since it became the norm to wear sneakers with — well, pretty much everything (even with a wedding dress, which I might do myself one day). Like a lot of sneaker lovers, I can’t walk in heels to save my life, so I wear sneakers instead. Also, like a lot of sneaker lovers, I have made mistakes when purchasing my size. Or, I have just accepted the fact that in certain shoe styles I will never find the right size. Acceptance is key, maybe patience is better.
One thing I'll give heels is that the sizing is clear, and since they aren't made for male-identified folks (for better or worse), there's no trying to translate men's sizes. Ditto kids. And of course there's no shortage of colors or styles, most of which are available in all sizes produced.
Us sneaker lovers don't have that luxury. Instead, we do math. I'm constantly calculating size conversions, except this, too, is a struggle. Despite my countless Google searches around the phrase, “woman size 7 in men's shoes,” I haven't stumbled upon too many useful results. The sneaker size conversion charts online are unreliable or contradictory.
Example: A good number of the websites suggest taking your size in women's and subtracting two. I know for a fact that this isn't the most solid rule of thumb. I was once given a pair of high top Air Force Ones by an ex-boyfriend. What an undertaking he put himself through. He let the store clerk lead him to my "right" size. The exchange left my women's size 7 feet with a pair of kid's size 5. Yikes. When I put them on for my birthday dinner, my toes were squished, and I mean crammed to the max. They were the only shoes I had for the night and I didn't have time to exchange them, so I had to wear them to dinner. I will never forget how uncomfortable I was, but I had to be cool with my new shoes.
So inevitably, I find myself trekking to the nearest store to test a size for myself. But not even that effort always ends in the very simple result I'm looking for: me paying real money for a pair of sneakers I have chosen — that fit my feet.
Another example: It was not long before I was on the search for a pair of correctly sized low-top Air Force Ones. This time, I had learned, and I bought a size 5.5 in the kid's section. I remember being so hyped about my perfect purchase that day. But when I got home and looked closer, I realized the kids low tops aren’t made in the same way as the classic men's shoes.WTH! The kid's version of the low tops aren't as rigid nor bulky. I think they're made with less material overall. They're still lit, and I still wear 'em, but I couldn't believe I'd been fooled again.
And don’t even get me started on my Yeezy journey. I was approached by StockX to moderate a panel about the concept of luxury, and they wanted to give me a pair of sneaks as a thank you. (#Blessed, I know). Of course, I went with Yeezy Wave Runners. The only issue was the back and forth between myself and the lovely people at StockX regarding, what else, my shoe size. I was embarrassed to say the least. I had no idea what direction to point them in besides the fact that I was a woman's size 7 — what's new. I think we hashed and rehashed what size I would be for maybe six emails. We finally agreed to meet up so that I could try on a few pairs of different brands and sizes — on carpeted floors with minimal walking to keep the sneakers in pristine selling condition. The ultimate consensus was that I would fit best into a men's 5. With my fingers crossed, this time the 5 actually fit. But how ridiculously confusing is all of this?
I am grateful for the time StockX spent with me trying to determine the right size for that pair of Yeezys. That truly locked it in for me that this online sneaker retailer is one of the most reliable shoe reselling sites out there. Despite my faith in StockX, I still don’t believe in Googling shoe size conversion charts. In today's fashion sneaker culture, there is no guarantee that you're going to find your size. In other words, sneaker culture is not going out of its way to include us. We have to make it make room.
So, instead of giving you an easy, untrue answer to the question of how to find the sneakers you want in your size, here are a things to know in order to hack it:
1. The shoe you want may not come in women's sizes, ever.
2. Your men’s size might not be consistent across the board with every shoe brand.
3. You might have to look in the kid's section for the shoe you are on the hunt for. Sometimes the smallest size in production is a men’s 7 (approximately a women's size 8 or 9).
4. Nike kids shoes are pretty damn good for women. I am a 5.5 in kids I think?
5. Going to a store and trying on the shoes is probably your best option. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .
Like I said, the struggle to find a well-fitting pair of sneakers is real, but in the end you usually get the right size for your toes. Good luck.