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Shoe-Sizing: Are you Mondo, Paris Point or Barleycorn?


Tormented by the absence of an international shoe-sizing standard all my life, I have finally discovered my oppressor. Barleycorn. Looking up all kinds of fun facts about feet to celebrate #I Love My Feet Day that took place on Wednesday, the 17th of August, I stumbled across how the shoe-sizing world is divided into Mondo, Paris Point and … Barleycorn.


The simplest and arguably the most sensible shoe-sizing is Mondopoint because it measures shoe size by average foot length and width in centimeters. Used in South Korea, China, Taiwan, Russia and Japan, as well as by NATO, other military outfits and many sporting events, Mondopoint is sensible, in comparison to France’s and Europe’s Paris Point sizing, which uses 2/3 of a centimeter rather than a full centimeter, and bases shoe size on a last, those iron or wooden molds of feet found in vintage tailors and shoe cobblers. The Paris Point measurement is not surprising given the way the French count, 90 in French is 4 x 20 + 10, but it is, not sensible, especially when the actual measurement of a European shoe size is further complicated by measurements that account for the difference in actual foot size versus last size. Yes. More calculations prove how complicated shoe-sizing can be. In French shoe-sizing. Still. At least they used centimeters.


Not barleycorn. Which is what they use to this day in contemporary UK and US shoe measurement. Barleycorn was the measurement used in 10th Century Wales where three dry and round corns of barley were counted as an inch, and also measured on a last. The difference between the UK and the US barleycorn measurements comes from variances in start points, with US sizing presenting a greater range from smallest to largest, naturally, and also accounting for distinctions among men, women and children. But there’s more, and I’m still trying to get my head around this, Australia and New Zealand took it one step further, following UK sizing for men and children but US sizing for women. I need my friends down under to help me figure out why they felt the need to outdo the US in shoe sizing, but for now…


Take good care of your feet, all 52 bones (1/4 of all bones in your body), 66 joints and 234 ligaments and tendons in them. With the 250K sweat glands in your feet remember to keep them dry to keep the Kyetococcus bacteria at bay this summer. And air travelers, remember to bring along a pair of socks if you’re in sandals for when you walk across the scanner where cocci breed aplenty. Love your tootsies, in all their barleycorn glory!

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