Do Your Shoes Fit?

Admittedly, this is an odd topic for Deep-Fried Friday. However, I have narrow feet and struggle to find shoes that fit. I have wondered how the narrow shoe market has nearly disappeared from stores, which for me means that I purchase the majority of my shoes online. Being a people watcher by nature, I began noticing feet of others around me. And what did I discover? Many of you are wearing the wrong size shoe.

Your toes hang over the edge. Your feet are nearly swallowed by the width of your shoe. The arch of your feet is not aligned with the shoe’s arch. And on and on. At least that’s what I’ve seen.

Too Big
Too Small.

However, I am not expert, so let’s consult someone who is. Jenny Sanders, a podiatrist in San Francisco, started her Dr. Shoe blog because “At some point early in my career, I started to realize that many of the foot problems I encountered were directly related to improperly fitting or excessively worn shoes.” Dr. Sanders says that 95% of patients presenting with foot problems “have not had their feet measured within the past 3 years and/or are wearing the wrong size.”

In this case, size matters. Poor-fitting shoes can cause foot pain and fatigue. Moreover, “Improperly-fitting shoes can cause bunions, corns, calluses, and other foot problems that can lead to bigger ailments down the road” (Healing Feet blog). Far more disconcerting is a 2007 study of diabetic patients which showed that 63 percent were wearing the wrong size shoes, “putting them at higher risk of developing foot ulcers, which can lead to amputations” (ABC News). It’s a reasonable presumption is that the larger population has a similar percentage of ill-fitted shoe issues, and there are consequences for wearing the wrong size shoe.

So how do you know if your shoes are a good fit for your feet? Here are a few tips, gleaned from the experts.

Don’t get stuck on a particular size. Manufacturers all use different molds, meaning that the sizes are not exactly standard. You may wear an 7 1/2 in one brand and an 8 in another. Moreoever, certain shoe materials stretch more, so that the shoe may not fit as well after a couple of years of wear.

Get sized. I remember as a child sticking my foot in that cold metal device at the Thom McAn shoe store while the sales associate checked my size. It’s been years since I’ve done that. However, our feet can change size even as adults. The contraption is called a Brannock Device, and it measures not only length by arch and width as well. All three measurements are needed to guarantee a good fit. Dr. Sanders gives a primer on making sure you get your shoe size correct by paying attention to both the heel-to-toe and heel-to-ball measurements of your feet. You’ll need to go with whichever one is longer. And don’t forget width. Believe me, if you have narrow feet, a narrow shoe will feel much better than a regular width.

Try ’em on the right way. You need to try on shoes to see if they fit. But make sure you do it right:

  • Shop toward the end of the day when your feet have swelled a bit from use.
  • If applicable, wear the right thickness of socks/tights/hose when you try them on.
  • Try on both shoes, since our feet are not exactly the same size and you need to make sure they feel okay for both your left and your right foot.
  • Stand up and walk around in the shoes. Take your time and see how they feel. Are they not only pretty in that little mirror on the floor, but do they feel reasonably comfortable on your feeet?
  • Check the alignment of your arch with the arch of the shoe. The length may be okay, but if your arch is in a different place, the shoes will not be comfortable long-term.

Once your know your size, don’t be persuaded otherwise. I have a narrow foot, period. You would be surprised, though, how many times I walk into a store and ask for a narrow shoe only to have a salesperson attempt to convince me that I can pull off a regular width. I’ve also had suggestions that I go down a half-size with that regular width to somehow make up for it. It doesn’t work that way!

I also admit to being tempted to buy a wrong-sized shoe that is awesome! I slip on a strappy heel that is 60% off and looks like it came off the set of Sex in the City. I want it . . . so bad. But it is not exactly my size. What to do? *sigh* Walk away. I know from experience that a beautiful shoe with a limp is not the look I’m going for.

If you want more tips, the podiatrists at Healing Feet blog do a good job of breaking it down. Take care of your feet and get a shoe that fits. Then you’ll feel like this:

So what do you think? Do your shoes fit? Have you been sized in the last three years? Do you have a hard time finding shoes that fit?

25 thoughts on “Do Your Shoes Fit?

  1. Great info, Julie! My feet are pretty persnickity. I’m on them a lot and I’m very physically active so my shoes have to work hard for me. I wear orthotics and I live in sneakers, which i purchase new every six months. If I wear a heel, it’s two inches at most and for a very short duration. I’ve learned to spend good money on footwear, choosing such pricey namebrands as Clark’s, Merrill’s, or New Balance. I have found that you definitely get your money’s worth with a good shoe. I have a wide foot and if you add my orthotics in, it can be a bit of a challenge to find the right fit. I won’t buy a pair of shoes unless they pass the cloud test. That is, I walk, jog, and jump around the store, and if it doesn’t feel like I’m on a cloud, I won’t buy them.

    1. I love your cloud test, PJ! What a great way to think about it. I agree that orthotics can definitely help a lot of people. We have a wonderful running store nearby that helps diagnose issues and find orthotics to remedy problems. That’s a good idea for people who experience foot pain.

  2. You know what’s funny? I can’t wear some of my sandals and Mary Janes after I lost weight. My feet are still the same length, but overall the shoes are too big. Boo. I love shoes. And I learned a long time ago their sizes is almost as silly as jeans–I wear different sizes in different brands. And I have back issues, so cheap shoes are tough for me. Spending the extra money is worth it.

    Great post!

    1. I didn’t mention that, but problems with your feet can result in back issues. Great point, Stacy. I wish someone would standardize women’s sizes. That would help so much. At this point, I mostly buy from 2-3 brands in which I KNOW my size. Unfortunately, that limits my choice of cute shoes, but it’s worth having shoes that fit.

      Take yourself shoe shopping with that new size!

  3. I’ve been having some foot issues as of late and given my love of shoes, as you know, it’s been a real hamper. So this post couldn’t be more timely! I am definitely going to check out some of the fab blog resources you point out…
    And yeah, I never let the shoe sales people talk me into a shoe that I KNOW does not fit properly – no point because I know I’ll get it home and never wear it!!!
    GREAT post!

    1. Wonderful, Natalie! The good news is that if you’ve been wearing the wrong size, you can look at the DH and say, “I MUST go shoe shopping!” (Or Julie Glover says my feet will get all catawampus.)

  4. I’ve bought a lot of shoes on line, but I’ve sent a lot back. I hate it when my feet hurt, so when I try on shoes, if they don’t fit perfect, no matter how bad I want them, I walk away. It sucks, but you have to do it.
    My partner and I both wear Size 11 (yes, we’re tall) and those are difficult to find. Also, She has a narrow heel so that just compounds the problem. Shoe shopping can be every bit as frustrating as it is fun some days.
    Great Post, Julie.

    1. Prudence, it is especially difficult when you are a less common size! I hate seeing all those cute shoes in size 7B and knowing that I will never find a pair of those in my size. That said, I agree wholeheartedly that searching for the right-size shoes is worth the effort. I’m sure your feet would thank you if they could!

  5. The best part for me about this post is when you wrote about Thom McAnn (sp?). THAT is a blast from my past. I think they went out of business. At least around here in California Thom McAnn no longer exists. And, yes, our feet really do change. I used to wear an 8 or 9 and now I’ve been a 10 for years!!

    1. Yes, Patti, I never see Thom McAn stores anymore either. Yet that’s where I remember going as a child!

      My feet grew a half-size from pregnancy. I had been hoping that my feet would swell OUT so I could wear regular width shoes, but NO, they got longer. It’s weird that our feet can still grow, right?

  6. Shoes are actually the one thing on me that’s easy to fit! Except for the occasional, annoying, “the smallest we have is a seven.” Grr!

    I haven’t measured my feet in a while, but I do try other sizes if the 6 doesn’t feel right. I walk around in them – that’s a must. And if they aren’t comfortable, I don’t buy. My feet went up to a 6-1/2 when I was pregnant. I took a couple years, even after losing the baby weight (well, what I lost of it LOL), but they eventually went back to a 6. Go figure.

    1. Oh, you have Cinderella feet, Jennette! How lovely.

      My feet grew a whole size in pregnancy, then shrank back down a half, giving me a net growth of one half size. Wild, huh?

  7. Well, you’ve met me twice and I’ve worn the same shoes both times. Checkered Vans a la Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. These are the nicest (most expensive) shoes I own. The reason for that is that shoes never fit me, and I’m not going to pay $$$ for shoes that hurt.

    I have narrow heels (3A). My forefoot, however, is of normal width when I put weight on it. Thus, most narrow shoes are okay in the heel, but they squeeze and hurt my forefoot. So narrow shoes are generally out. The wider shoes rub at the heel and leave blisters on my toes from sliding back and forth, so they are out.

    I have gotten where my shoe attire consists flip flops for dresses and slip ons (like the Vans) for all other dress styles. If I buy a quality shoe (like the Vans) I can buy a stick-on heel pad at Walmart which helps enough to keep the shoe from killing me.

    The state of footwear is grim for me. So I do understand just how you feel. 😀

    1. That’s the hardest stuff! When some part of your body is narrow in one place and regular or wide in another, blah, blah. It’s like you need a custom cobbler to get a decent shoe fit! Bless your heart.

      Thanks heavens for the resurgence of flip-flops, right? And Vans were HUGE in my high school. I’m sure they look cool on you. (When we met, I was looking at your beautiful face and don’t recall what you wore on your feet.)

  8. I definitely have a hard time finding shoes that fit – I’m a size 11. It does vary, though, depending on the shoe. In some I can go down to a 10. Sneakers are usually pretty easy to find, but finding size 11 heels that are cute? Not so much.

    1. Yes indeed, Karen. Narrow shoes are hard to find, but so are the sizes at either end. And if you are a less common size, shoemakers will often just manufacture the most basic styles for you. It’s frustrating. Shouldn’t our feet get the royal treatment too?!

      1. Somehow I missed this blog and just saw a comment. Interesting post. I spend 364 days of the year in men’s Jordan basketball shoes that are not only highly padded and comfortable but I don’t tie the laces and I can slip then on and off whenever I want. Therefore, I am SO accustomed to wearing shoes that are like slippers that I can’t imagine wearing the high heels I used to use when I worked in San Francisco and walked everywhere. Who was that woman?

  9. Ugh! I’ve had a hate/hate relationship with shoes my whole life. When I was young (up until my early twenties), I had extra narrow feet. And if that wasn’t bad enough, in my teens, my left foot was a whole size bigger than my right. My poor mom had to buy two pairs of shoes for me. They finally evened out, but ….for some reason (and I was sized a lot so it wasn’t the fit) my feet always hurt. I hated wearing shoes. In my mid-twenties, I crushed my right ankle and have had multiple surgeries on it. So then instead of the narrow feet I had, my feet began swelling (the right because of the injury and the left because of the extra stress placed on it) and I moved up into the wide widths. I really hate wearing shoes. And when people (like my sister and aunt who adore shoes) talk about all the cute shoes and heels, all I think is “oh the pain!”

    1. Wow, Rhonda. I will say that some people swear by orthotics (shoe inserts for specific conditions). My son wears orthotics, and it has really helped his heels. I wonder if a good podiatrist or shoe salesperson (often found in higher end running shoe stores) could help in some way.

      And I have heard that some people have two different sized feet. We all vary a little in size from foot to foot, but it is unusual to have that much variation. What a pain to have to buy two different shoe sizes! Being all Texan and everything, all I can think about your story is “Bless her heart.”

  10. I love the photos, Julie! Managing a shoe department has taught me a lot about feet. And you want a good fit! Find a brand that works for you, and then try different styles. And if you want a recommendation, Bare Traps are my new fave!! Comfort and cute styles for flats, boots, and sandals. And for walking, check out Jambus. They’re also amazing and fashionable for women!

  11. I sell shoes for a living at nordstrom. While I a agree it is best to wear a narrow if you measure at that-but some brands do run narrow and European shoes are on a diffrent scale and diffrent compaines use diffrent lass. So I would say try on go by feel and not just width. The reason you see less narrows is because our feet have gotten wider in the last 30 years

  12. I have trouble getting shoes to fit as I am between sizes. Recently I discovered SIZERS – they are shoe sizing insert cushion that you pop into the toe of the shoe and create a perfect fit in shoes that would otherwise be too big. I love this product and recommend it to everyone who has dealt with ill-fitting shoes. You can get them at
    Hope this helps you and it definitely helped me!

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