Have you ever bought shoes only to have them hurt your feet later? Who hasn’t?
We all think we’re an expert at finding the perfect shoes… until they start rubbing against your ankles on the way home.
Just because a pair of shoes feel good in the shoe store, that doesn’t mean they’re good for the sole. Find out why in today’s guide where we tackle how shoes are fitted and how you have been buying shoes wrong this entire time.
Battle discomfort and foot damage by getting educated on the topic of shoe fit and sizing. Here you’ll find everything you want to know about buying the right shoes in all the right sizes. If you like in-depth reading, we also have links to similar content that’s sure to impress and prove our case.
Take a look at the page below to see the best tips and tricks for finding an ideal fit when you buy shoes, saving you both time and money in the process! You’ll also learn some of the problems associated with poor shoe-fitting, so you can sidestep them.
Table of Contents
Importance Of Wearing The Right Size Shoe
Everybody knows their shoe size but this doesn’t guarantee you get the correct shoes for you. Shoe sizes aren’t standardized and even then, other factors dictate how well any given pair of shoes will fit on your feet. When it comes to shoe sizes, we all know that you shouldn’t settle for shoes that feel too tight or too loose. Unfortunately, our feet may not be able to feel when a shoe is perfect for all occasions.
The most reliable way to get a properly-sized shoe is to measure your feet. You can do this at shoe stores or in the comfort of your own home. There are methods for doing this that guarantee you get useful measurements no matter where you are. You can even meet a podiatrist if you want professional assistance on finding the best shoe fit. Feet may stop growing when you hit adulthood but they still change shape as you age due to both biological and environmental stressors, so measurements may slightly change over time.
Remember to accommodate for any bunions or bony protrusions that may make the size of your feet irregular, which demands slightly larger shoes. Sometimes one foot may need a larger shoe than the other. Feet size also changes throughout the day, so you should have a shoe tested when your feet are at their largest, closer to the end of the day.
Getting the right size shoe matters because ill-fitted shoes aren’t just uncomfortable for you, they’ll also cause painful and damaging blisters and other abrasions. These mainly occur at your ankles and your toes and are much worse than any shoe tightness can ever be. If your shoes are too loose, you can hurt your arches by overcompensating when you walk. Nobody likes these injuries and foot problems can harm your ability to work or just live your life, so it’s more than just pain.
Supports Healthy Feet
The long-term health of your feet can be affected if you wear ill-fitted shoes for long enough. Like our hands, our feet are made up of so many tiny parts that can be damaged or displaced by shoes that are too tight, or by awkward walking from shoes that are too big. In the average adult foot alone, we have:
- Twenty-six distinct bones across eight bone types.
- Over thirty joints that are constantly moving.
- Over one hundred ligaments that get engaged whenever we walk.
Across all three of these broad categories, there are many opportunities for your foot to get injured. Don’t add to those chances by settling for subpar footwear. Poor shoes throw off the biomechanics of your body and this causes problems for your feet and the joints in your knees and hips.
Types Of Shoe
Since shoes need to be properly fitted to their owner, you can find them in all shapes and sizes. The feet of the recipient needs to be considered since nobody’s feet are the same, especially across age and gender groups, and even then the shoes need to be purpose-built to perform certain tasks. For example, a pair of running shoes don’t need to just cater to the age and sex of the owner, but they also need to cater to the hobby of running around by being extra durable and comfortable.
Let’s take a look at the main types of shoes you’ll find when trying to buy them.
Children’s shoes are an all-encompassing category of shoes that cover what infants and children wear as they grow up. Their feet are changing much more rapidly than adult feet, so they don’t last so long or they’re expected to grow a little with the child’s feet before becoming useless.
When a child is a non-walking infant, you don’t even need to have shoes since socks will do. When the infant starts walking, however, then they must have shoes outside at all times. When inside their home, they should be barefoot as this allows them to explore their home properly.
Need to get shoes for your child? Do the following three things:
- Find a store that provides shoes specialized for wide and growing feet. Children’s feet are wider at their midsection, which can cause problems if the shoe doesn’t fit properly.
- Get shoes with soft soles to protect and comfort the child’s soft ligaments and muscles. They also need to be firm around the ankle to provide stabilization to the child’s walking when outdoors.
- Get shoes that have a wide and spacious toe box. A general rule is that the width of an adult finger ahead of the toes should make the shoe suitable for the next three to six months, though this depends on just how fast the child is growing.
Once you’ve bought the shoe, check how they fit regularly so you can change them out when they get too small. If you don’t catch that in time, your child will likely let you know by refusing to wear their shoes or always trying to take them off.
Women’s shoes are the most varied shoes you’ll find in shops. They range from casual or purpose-built shoes to formal or aesthetic shoes, which may even neglect your feet to maintain a certain look. From typical sneakers to high heels, women’s shoes have more shape variety than any of the other shoe types.
When buying for comfort and/or practicality, a shoe that has a lowered heel (under two inches) and a generous toe box, preferably wide or squared-off, is best. It’s widely known that if you wear high heels too much, their narrow toe boxes will deform your toes. Shoes that have lifted heels and/or pointed toe boxes are best worn for certain occasions, for a short period, if you wear them at all. All other shoe types should have the shorter heel and wide toe box described above when it comes to women’s feet.
If you like wearing high heels, ones that have a small platform under the toe box will decrease the stress placed on the balls of your feet. This reduces the overall stress on the foot, too.
Men’s shoes have more uniformity than female shoes. Casual, work and aesthetically pleasing shoes are more similar than they are different, which can’t be said for the high heels that are marketed towards women. Sneakers, boots, and smart shoes are all expected to do three basic things:
- Match and conform to the shape of the man’s foot.
- Have softer soles that provide more comfort and cushioning.
- Be durable, especially if used for work. Leather is a common material used for this.
Sometimes shoes will have leather soles too, which may make the entire shore more durable and fit for use in harsh environments but may sacrifice comfort. We’d recommend that you have shoes that cover all uses, some with cushioned soles and some with leather-based durable shoes for outdoor work.
As we stated at the beginning of this section, the size and sex differences when it comes to shoes are only part of the equation. Shoes have different uses, so what constitutes a good boot won’t be the same as what makes a great running shoe. When it comes to the utility of shoes, athletic models are the most demanding, so let’s take a look at why that is.
There are as many athletic shoe types as there are sports to play them with. With the different physical demands that each sport or activity has, your footwear needs to change to keep up with those demands. These are concepts that we’re familiar with already, like flexibility or comfort when pressure is being applied to the feet. The aim of these is to minimize injury when you’re active.
Need some examples of athletic shoes? Here are just a few we can think of:
- Walking Shoes
- Running Shoes (and Barefoot Running Support Shoes)
- Cross Trainers
- Court Shoes
- Golf Shoes
- Skate Shoes
- Skiing Shoes
- Ballet Shoes
- Cleated Shoes
- Trail-Running Shoes
- Hiking/Backpacking Shoes
Rocker Sole Shoes
This type of shoe is best used when you have a certain condition. The term rocker is used to describe how the soles of these shoes tilt upwards at the ends. Snowboarders will know the term well since there’s a type of snowboard shape that’s called the same thing.
These shoes have thicker soles that, unlike the typical shoe, will curve upward at either end so they uplift the toes and your heel. They’re good for reducing arthritis pain by dampening the impact shocks that come with walking. They’re usually bought under the recommendation of a podiatrist or related healthcare professional who has diagnosed biomechanical issues with your feet.
That said, they can increase the risk of falls in those who have poor balance to start with, so that’s something to keep in mind if you ever consider rocker sole shoes.
How To Fit A Shoe
So far we’ve looked at why you should get a shoe that fits and how the type of shoes you get may influence that decision. That’s great but ultimately useless if you don’t know how to fit a shoe in the first place. Let’s go through some of the conventional wisdom that everybody should use when buying shoes and determining if they fit properly.
Have Feet Measured Every Year
Just because you’re an adult, that doesn’t mean your feet stop growing. Quite the opposite. While your feet stop what we consider biological growth during your twenties, the tremendous weight and stress that your feet bear over the years change them in a very similar way. One size does not fit all, so always be aware of that and check that your shoes are fitting properly every year.
If you want to be careful, the best thing you can do is measure your feet every year. This gives you a quantitative measurement that you can put to use, either to put your mind at ease until next year or to seek out new appropriate footwear. Stand during the measurements. It may not be noticeable but the profile of your feet is wider when you’re standing because of the force applied to them, so a standing measurement is the most accurate for shoe sizing.
Measure At The End Of The Day
Feet don’t just change over a yearly timespan; they can also change throughout the day. This is a natural process that takes place, kind of like how you get slightly shorter during the day as your spine compresses, only to stretch back again when we lie down to sleep. The change in our feet could be as much as half a shoe size.
There are two concerns here. One, you don’t want to use measurements from the AM and end up with shoes that are too loose, and two, you don’t want to use measurements from the PM and end up with shoes that are too tight. How do you solve that? Measure at both instances and keep track of each size. If you’re buying practical and comfortable shoes, go for the PM, if you’re buying some aesthetic shoes like heels that need to be tighter then use your AM measurement.
Fit Shoes To The Larger Foot
Many of us have one foot that is slightly larger than the other. The differences are minimal but noticeable when you’re buying the right shoe size. The solution here is simple, fit the pair of shoes to the larger foot. The difference in size is so small that it won’t cause loosening issues for the smaller foot but it’ll properly accommodate the other foot and stop future problems.
Don’t Rely On Shoe Size Alone
Shoe sizes differ based on the type of shoe, the brand, and even your home country. There’s no standardization, so don’t take shoe sizes as gospel. They should be used as guidance when finding the best shoes for you. Trying shoes on is the most assured way to make sure a shoe fits you, so don’t dismiss shoes based on size if there’s a possibility they could fit, you may be surprised.
Look At Shape Of Foot
Sure, most feet follow the same shape but this isn’t guaranteed. While there are many miniature details involved with sizing that can’t be eyeballed, you should be able to look at your feet and the general shape of a sneaker and determine if they’ll be compatible.
Make Sure They Fit Well When Buying
As we said, just try shoes on when you can. You should remember that shoes fitting in the store don’t mean they won’t fit forever. If they’re tight in-store, you shouldn’t rely on them stretching to meet your foot profile. Make sure they fit properly when you first buy them.
If you have wide feet, you know all too well that feet come in a variety of widths and that shoes can fail to cater to them. This is why you should check shoe width at the balls of your feet. If it’s tight, look for wide toe boxes or larger sizes. Make sure there’s not too much room in the toe box since your feet will slide around and cause rubbing on your toes.
Speaking of the toe box, the shoe should be deep enough that your toes are comfortable. They shouldn’t rub against the top of the toe box during natural movement and they shouldn’t be compressed or bunched together. If they are, you can expect calluses and unsightly injuries or deformations.
Check Space At End
Similarly, there should be extra space at the end of your shoe. About half an inch, roughly the width of your finger, should suffice. Measure between the longest toe and the front end of the shoe. Square toe boxes are best for this.
Stand And Walk Around
Strapping shoes to your feet and sitting around isn’t a real test of what you’ll expect them to do. Stand up and walk around in them so you can make sure they’ll stay comfortable through use. If they slip around or chafe then they won’t be suitable.
Invest For Quality That Lasts
Shoes are more important than most clothing since they serve a practical, demonstrable purpose in keeping your feet safe and functional. If you need pads or stretching to make a shoe suitable, it was never suitable for your feet.
Buy for quality instead. It’s better to spend a little more on quality shoes that’ll last you a long time over cheap shoes that’ll take your money, break sooner, and cause harm to your feet in the meantime. A shoe is an investment and, with good shoes, you can have them repaired so you can enjoy them for much longer.
Features Of Supportive Shoes
We’ve covered why you should get shoes that fit, different types of shoes, and fitting tips when buying shoes. As we bring this guide to a close, let’s go through some tips on finding supportive shoes. Below we’ve explained different features and parts of the typical shoe that you should watch out for when looking for shoes that’ll support your feet.
While this may seem obvious, many people settle for “good enough” with their shoe fit when this can be damaging later on. Just because a shoe feels okay now, that doesn’t mean it won’t feel worse if you perform any physical activity. We’ve already gone through some tried and true methods to find the perfect shoe fit, so let’s go over how shoes are fitted and how you can use this knowledge to get the best shoes for you.
Shoes are shaped using something called a last, a foot-shaped block that the shoe is wrapped around when it is being manufactured. Think of it as a solid representation of the volume inside the shoe, which dictates important details like the shape and depth of the final product. They were traditionally made from wood when cobblers made shoes but now they’re made from hard plastic and utilized in production lines. There are three types of last – straight, curved, and semi-curved. There’s also no standard to lasts and the ones used vary across brands, so don’t worry too much about them as a consumer unless you’re getting custom shoes made.
The vamp is another part of the shoe that dictates how well it fits. This is the part of the shoe on top of your foot, directly above the arches, where laces or other fastening devices are positioned. The higher these are, the more stable the shoe is, like with boots for example.
You may have preferences over snaps, buckles, Velcro fasteners, or laces, in which case find the one right for you. At the same time, be careful if the vamp is too loose. This means the shoe is too big. Likewise, a tight vamp also means you have a shoe that’s too tight and liable to cause numbness and even pain after a while.
Made Of Breathable Material
Supportive shoes should be comfortable and part of that is how dry the in-shoe environment is kept. If a shoe loses dryness on the inside, it’ll exacerbate any rubbing or discomfort that your feet are feeling. It’ll also produce odor if worn for too long, which isn’t just unpleasant for you but also for people around you too.
Where breathability is concerned, the best materials are those you’ll find used for running shoes. Athletic shoes are used for physical activity, so your feet sweat more, and some of those shoes will even be used in wet environments. Because of this, they’re commonly made from synthetic fibers that are lab-engineered to reject outside moisture and vent inside moisture. Gore-Tex is a popular example of breathable shoe material that’s used by athletic shoe manufacturers. It is also used to make hiking and work boots more breathable.
Has A Firm Heel
A supportive shoe needs to provide support at either end of the shoe, which is why the heel is important. The heel needs to be firm but not too firm that it becomes uncomfortable. Some heel platforms can have built-in shock absorption too but this isn’t the primary feature of this part of the shoe.
Also important to the firmness of the heel is the heel counter. The heel counter is the back wall of the shoe that extends up from the heel platform and is instrumental in holding the shoes in place when they’re on your feet. They also keep your heels and ankles in place within the shoe when moving around. If you’ve had shoes rub the backs of your ankles before, you’re all too aware of what a heel counter is.
They should be firm but, as we said, heel counters can rub away the skin on the back of your heels and create painful blisters if they’re too hard or ill-fitted. Also note that flat feet need to have stiffer counters than most for stability purposes.
Good Shock Absorption
A good shoe absorbs the impact shocks that come from walking or running, so your feet and legs can stay comfortable across long walking or running sessions. The insoles are where all the shock absorption takes place. There have even been research papers written about the benefits of shock-absorbing soles on leg joints.
Shoes that have removable insoles can be great for shock absorption, too. They allow you to take out the default insole and swap your own cushioned ones in. There’s a whole market of insertables for your shoes, from insoles that offer more cushioning to orthotic inserts that cater to specific issues your feet may have. Shoes that accommodate insole swapping have extra space too, so you don’t sacrifice space by adding your own.
Along with the insoles, the midsoles are also important for shock absorption. They’re especially important in running shoes where extra cushioning is required so that your feet can stay comfortable and stable during exercise. In general, softer materials have better shock-absorbing capabilities when used for shoes.
Cannot Be Bent Or Twisted
A quality, supportive shoe cannot be bent or twisted. When shoes are messed with like that, they lose their form and won’t fit your feet as well as they did before. For a shoe to remain supportive over time, it needs to resist attempts to bend or twist them when they’re being worn.
Two main parts of the shoe dictate how rigid it is. These are the shank and the outsole. Shanks are under the arch of the foot and are made stiff to keep the sole platform straight. It stops them from bending along the arch while allowing them to bend at the toe box. Your toes naturally move and bend when walking, so this is fine.
Then the outsoles, the hard bottoms of your shoes, are also important in how rigid a shoe is. They’re typically the hardest part of the shoe because they need to tread over land, so they’re made with leather or blown rubber.
Of course, too much rigidity can be a bad thing if the shoes are tight, so you want durable shoes as long as they fit well in the first place.
No Seams In The Toe Box
The toe box is the platform in the front of the shoes where your toes rest. They come in different shapes depending on the shape of the shoe, from a squared-off toe box in boots to rounded toe boxes in running shoes, and even pointed toe boxes that can be seen with some high-heeled shoes.
Toe boxes need to be deep and wide enough to properly accommodate the toes. The toes move around a lot, so the toe box also needs to be durable against long-term wear. There should be no seams in the toe box. If there are, over time those seams will be weakened and you could end up with your toes exposed in the shoe. The strongest toe boxes are those that have no seams.
With that, we have reached the end of our guide on finding the perfect shoe fit. You should now know everything a consumer needs to know when shopping for footwear. There’s a lot to remember, so check back with this guide if you ever forget some of the information we’ve shared today. Maybe you can only take some of the precautions listed above instead of all of them, in which case try for as many as possible so you have the best chance of scoring quality footwear.
By following the information in this guide, you can hopefully get the best shoes for your feet. Remember that good shoes aren’t too tight or loose and that any tightness you feel will only worsen throughout the day, or through physical activity, so a fit needs to be perfect before you hand over cash. There’s a reason this guide was called finding the perfect fit and not finding an okay fit, after all.