The answer to this question is not as easy as yes or no. Although Nike mostly makes standard-sized shoes, they also have some wide and extra-wide variants for most of their sneaker lineup. However, recent developments in the company’s R&D department have made it reinvent how your sneakers fit.
The impact of growing online sales
Nike is the undisputed king of the sneaker world. Yet, while it paved the way in footwear design and dominated the industry by creating some of the most sought after and iconic sneakers, with numerous air Jordan and air max models, it’s easy to overlook one of Nike’s most significant advantages: comfort.
In recent years, the number of customers who line up in Nike stores waiting for new sneakers has dropped as online sales skyrocketed. However, Nike noticed a growing trend in online shoppers. Most people order a few sizes of sneakers, keep the one that fits best and return the rest.
Apart from the heavy losses from the returned sneakers, the company was concerned about the customers who went through all that trouble to get the correct sneaker size. The main reason behind this practice is just the inconsistency between shoe sizes.
For instance, a women’s size 8.5 air max 97 might be too small for a person whose foot fits perfectly in a women’s size 8.5 Air force 1. This inconsistency gets worse when you switch brands. It’s, therefore, almost pointless to order a shoe based on another shoe’s size. Furthermore, some people’s feet are different sizes, meaning that no standard pair of sneakers will ever be a perfect fit.
Nike’s solution to the problem was the company’s Nike Fit feature on the Nike app. The service was launched in North American stores and the Nike app towards the end of 2019. According to Nike, head of global sales, fit is one of their customers’ biggest friction points.
How it works
At its core, Nike fit is a scanning AI program that asses your foot size. It launches in the Nike app when you order a sneaker. Instead of choosing standard size, the feature uses your smartphone to scan your feet’ dimensions and then recommend an appropriate size. In addition, it measures both length and width for both feet, allowing people with different sized feet to order different sizes for one pair of shoes.
Furthermore, the feature saves your dimensions for future purchases. This allows it to recommend a different size for smaller or bigger shoes in the same size as the ones you ordered initially. For example, Air Jordans fit differently from Air force 1s.
Nike also added a similar experience to its stores, the only difference being that it’s the sales associates who do the scanning.
Why Wearing The right Size is Essential
Shocking global statistics reveal that more than 60% of the people in the world wearing shoes at any given time are wearing the wrong size. So why all the fuss over wearing the right size of sneakers?
It’s a well-known fact that wearing tight shoes can hurt your feet and cause ailments like blisters. However, if you wear loose shoes, they’re uncomfortable and might make you walk funny. Worse still, wearing the wrong shoe size can cause foot injuries that interfere with your everyday life, especially if you are an athlete. That’s not to mean that people with white-collar jobs are exempted from foot injuries. In fact, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, more than 60,000 people are out of the office every year due to foot complications arising from wearing the wrong shoe size.
For sneaker companies like Nike, ordering the wrong size is the leading cause of returns, costing them billions of dollars each year. As a result, the company has made numerous efforts to address the sizing issue over the years. In the early 2000s, for instance, Nike released their Air Presto with “small,” “medium,” and “large” sizes, just like in their hoodies and T-shirts. This was initially to see how customers would react to the presto’s elastic, t-shirt like material and the new sizing. Unfortunately, the customers were probably not impressed because Nike recently started using the numbering system on prestos.
Barleycorn and Brannock Devices
However, the numbering system can still be very unreliable and is quite dated. The shoe numbering systems date back to England in the 14th century, where legend has it that the king needed a new pair of custom shoes, but none could fit. Frustrated, he decided to make a form of shoe size measurement because none existed at the time. The legend adds that he decided that an inch was equal to three barleycorns, meaning that a size 8, for example, is equal to the length of 24 barleycorns.
The system continued to be used the world over until 1925, when the Brannock device was invented. The device was Charles Brannock’s attempt at improving the barleycorn system by adding a width measurement. Hence, the uncomfortable metal you place your foot in at the sneaker store. In fact, the device is a common sight in footlockers, DSWs, and Macy’s around the country. Does that mean that nobody else has tried to improve how shoes fit for almost a century?
A few startups have tried to change how sneakers fit, albeit with little success. For instance, one Brooklyn-based startup called Atom only sells its shoes through invitations. It also sizes its shoes in quarter sizes and sends three pairs to the customer. The customer then picks two shoes for the left and right feet, even if they are different quarter sizes, and returns the rest.
While this is a creative way to solve the fit issue, making three pairs for each order is still costly. Major companies like Nike are also not likely to adopt such a model simply because it’s risky. Many customers are bound to keep the extra pairs instead of returning them.
Nike is an industry leader in the sneaker sports shoe industry and makes some of the most iconic sneakers in history. The company’s wide and extra-wide options, coupled with its Nike Fit system, ensures that everyone can get a fitting Nike.