You know your shoe size like the back of your hand. It’s been with you since you graduated the harrows of puberty and ascended adulthood, and unlike your ZIP code, it hasn’t changed much over the years.
Your mother’s maiden name, the name of your first pet, your phone passcode, and your shoe size: all of these are comfortably consistent and readily available in the recesses of your mind.
But what’s your calf size?
Calf size is as essential as shoe size when finding the perfect footwear. If you don’t know how to measure calf size, you’ve come to the right place. Use this step-by-step guide full of expert techniques to find your measurement and shop shoes with confidence.
Mastering Calf Measurement: Step-by-Step Guide
As we get older, the shape of our foot may change, but our shoe size usually remains the same.1 However, because your calf is a muscle, it can fluctuate more often in size and shape. Because of this, it’s important to take updated and accurate measurements to reliably find perfect-fitting footwear.
Maybe you’ve been killing it in the gym, or maybe a lot of walking has shaped your calves. Perhaps you have wider calves and want to know how to measure for wide-calf boots before you make a purchase. No matter what shape or size your lower legs are, this fail-proof guide will teach you the best method to obtain and interpret your measurement.
Understanding Your Measurements
If your calf measures 16 or more inches around, you’ll likely want to shop for wide-calf shoes. If your calf is somewhere between 12 and 14 inches around, you may want to consider a medium-calf shoe.
At Vionic, we utilize the following inclusive calf width guide:
- Medium calf – 12.9 to 14.1 inches
- Wide calf – 14.6 to 16.1 inches
Now you know the basics of how to measure your calf. But for the best results and the perfect shoe fit, let’s graduate to the big leagues with enhanced tips and tricks to ensure a more precise measurement.
Pro Tips for Accurate Calf Measurements
Whether you’re scouring for a replacement for your everyday go-to boots or trying a new style, use these expert tips to find the optimal fit for your calves:
- Measure both calves – If the measurements for each of your calves differ, go with the larger of the two measurements. If you have an imbalance in the muscles of your calves, this will ensure that each boot is as comfortable as possible and one doesn’t run too small.
- Planning an outfit? Wear it while you measure – Want to wear your new boots over your favorite leggings or jeans? Take your measurements while wearing these articles of clothing to ensure your boots will fit over them comfortably. The same goes for if you like to wear thicker tall socks with your boots.
- If you’re close to the cutoff, go for the larger size – If your calf size falls right in between medium calf and wide calf on the fitting guide, opt for the wide calf. For the Phillipa Tall Boot, if your measurement is within a ½ inch of the widest medium calf size, it’s recommended to go up to a wide calf boot.
- No flat tape measure? No problem – If you don’t have a fabric tape measure handy, fear not. You can use a string or a ribbon to get an easy, accurate measurement. Simply tie the string or ribbon around the widest part of your calf, and then remove it and measure. You can also find printable tape measures on the internet in a pinch.
Remembering these quick tips while measuring takes all the guesswork out of matching you with your new fit. Still, there are a few pitfalls to avoid if you don’t want to give your new boots the boot.
Mistakes to Dodge for Ensuring Precise Measurements
Avoid the hassles of returning and exchanging by keeping these frequent mistakes top of mind when taking your calf measurements:
- Don’t order your exact calf size – While it may seem like common sense, this is an easy mistake to make. While you may want a secure fit and a sleek look, your legs need some room to move around when walking or sitting. Make sure to account for room for movement in your footwear selection.
- Don’t go it alone – If you’re having trouble accurately measuring your calf or doubt your measurements are accurate, it’s time to call in some backup. Ask a friend, roommate, or family member to help you measure your calf, and compare their measurement with your own. This can help you avoid a hasty inaccurate measurement that results in an ill-fitting purchase.
- Double check – Hand in hand with the previous point, it’s important to take your time and not rush the measuring process. When using the flat tape measure, double-check that there’s no space between the measuring tape and your leg. Also, be sure not to pull the measuring tape too tight; a snug and taut fit is good enough. (If the measuring tape leaves a mark on your skin, you’re pulling too tight.)
Knowing the ins and outs of calf measurement is foundational knowledge in your quest for footwear that will prioritize comfort while taking your style to the next level. The next step is finding your ideal fit based on your unique size.
Finding Your Ideal Fit Based on Calf Size
For every calf shape, there’s a perfect shoe to offer all the comfort, support, and style you could ever dream of. Whether you’re a dancer, a marathoner, a stay-at-home mom, a roller derby skater, or a blogger, your calf size measurement is the key to unlocking a great fit.
If you have particularly small or slim calves, you should look for slim-calf boots, which can be elegantly styled with many outfits. For larger or more athletic calves, check out wide calf or extra wide calf options to stay comfortable and chic in any ensemble.
Above all, your calf size measurement is your north star when it comes to choosing which boots are yays or nays. If you traditionally have trouble finding footwear due to your unique foot, ankle, or calf shape, don’t hesitate to contact online customer support. With your measurements in hand, the experts can guide you toward options that will benefit even the most fickle of feet.
Styling Boots: Which Height is Right?
With so many variations and styles to choose from, determining a comfortable and flattering boot height for your style can be overwhelming. To thin your choices and steer your search, here are some tips to find the most comfortable boots for women with the right height.
Traditionally, curvier or more athletic calves can be difficult to wrangle into long boots. If this has been your experience, opting for boots with adjustable laces, buckles, or elastics can help. Many boots today are made in varying widths, so do yourself a favor and check the sizing guide to see if the wider sizes are available and accommodating to your shape.
Thinner, slimmer calves have the opposite problem. Keeping longer boots from falling down your legs can be a challenge, so for you, laces are likely better than elastic. Tall ankle boots or knee-high boots are a few timeless choices for flattering smaller calves.
The Practicality of Calf-Size Awareness
What’s the big deal about calves, anyway? As it turns out, your calves play an integral role in any athletic endeavor, particularly in driving your forward movement when taking steps or running on the ground.2 Any time you wobble and lose balance or step down from a tall height, your calves absorb the shock, converting that impact into propulsion so you can keep your momentum.
In other words, your calves keep you moving—and moving gracefully.
Restricting your calves in footwear that isn’t tailored for their shape is not only harmful to your balance and movement; it’s also pretty uncomfortable. Therefore, the benefits of wearing shoes that are shaped to your custom calf measurements are tantalizing. You’ll move better, and be more comfortable. And if you look better, why wouldn’t you want a pair of custom-fitted boots?
Whether you’re in for a long night of bar-crawling or simply strolling through your favorite aisle of the grocery store, do it in footwear that’s both practical and fashionable for your leg shape.
Embrace Calf-Size Awareness and Shop Confidently With Vionic
Don’t buy a pair of boots until you’re confident in your calf size measurement. Measuring your calf is easy and quick, and will help you find the footwear you get excited to wear every day.
Vionic makes it easy to find your ideal pair of new boots by offering extended shoe sizing options for both wider feet and wider calves. For wider calves especially, the Phillipa Tall Boot comes in a wide calf size in two gorgeous colors and features a side zipper for easy on and off.
Your shape isn’t just important to you, it’s important to Vionic. We design footwear that’s both stylish and comfortable for everyone. To ensure this, fit guides accompany every pair of shoes on our website so that you can confidently shop with your unique measurements.
Rock your new boots with complete satisfaction by embracing your calf size and shopping with Vionic.
- Bartocsh, Jamie. “Do our feet change in middle age?” UChicago Medicine. 3 October, 2019. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/orthopaedics-articles/do-our-feet-change-in-middle-age/
- Lee, Kyu-Lim et al. “Functional relationship between the anatomical structures of the calf and athletic ability.” Clinical anatomy (New York, N.Y.) vol. 35,5 (2022): 544-549. doi:10.1002/ca.23855