How shoes should fit – everything you need to know for a comfortable, blister-free experience

Understanding how shoes should fit will not only make a huge difference to your comfort levels but improve your all-around foot health.



It’s so important that your shoes fit properly. After all, we spend most of our day wearing them and not buying footwear with spot-on fit can result in long term problems such as blisters and bunions, heel pain and Ingrown nails. 

Buying shoes in the correct size is a crucial starting point, as is taking into consideration the shape of your foot. 

Are your feet narrow or wide? Are your arches high or flat? For example, the best shoes for flat feet have a wide toe box, making extra space to avoid rubbing at the sides. It’s worth noting that this sizing guidance applies to all types of shoes, from the best sandals and boots to your trusted trainers. 

Fabric plays a big part in how shoes should fit too. Leather and canvas are durable, breathable options, and both will give the more you wear them. Plastic and vinyl shoes are neither breathable nor stretchy, making them some of the main culprits of uncomfortable, ill-fitting shoes. 

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Your shoes should feel secure and comfortable and should fit both the length and width of your foot. Your toes should have room to be able to wiggle freely. When trying on shoes, walk a little and take your time. Remember—if the shoes rub or pinch when trying them on, they’ll rub or pinch when you wear them. 

 Shoes can be either too large or small, too wide or narrow and in some cases, the style of shoe may simply not be compatible with the shape of your foot. If you’re finding they’re just a little too big, but not quite roomy enough to need to size down.

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Key signs of an ill-fitting shoe are:

  • Pinching at the toes or heel
  • Pain when walking
  • Blisters
  • Bruising
  • Bunions 
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Measuring the distance between the end of the shoe and your toe is a good marker of how shoes should fit. If possible, we’d recommend visiting a dedicated shoe store where a shop assistant can measure your feet and make suggestions based on your needs. This is especially important when shopping for running shoes or work shoes, as you’ll be wearing both for long periods. 

If you’re not able to get your feet measured, there should be a thumbs width at the end of the toe before the end of the shoe. The toe box should be wide enough and deep enough for your toes. If you already suffer from a foot problem such as a bunion, you are advised to purchase extra side shoes or a shoe with depth.


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Ill-fitting shoes are at best uncomfortable, and at worst, will cause lasting damage to your feet. Genetics can play a role in some structural problems in the feet, but shoes that fit poorly can certainly aggravate these conditions and make them worse,

One of the biggest problems caused by poorly fitting shoes is blisters. They can cause thickening of the skin and ongoing cracks and fissures in the skin of the feet, depending on where the blisters are. If the blister is severe, it can prevent you from walking properly. Most people find they change how they walk to ease the painful rubbing which in turn can cause back pain, knee pain or ankles problems.

Poorly-fitting shoes can wreak on your toenails, causing conditions such as Onycholysis, when the toenails drop off because your shoes are too tight, or ill-fitting causing repetitive micro-traumas on the nails. Not only are missing toenails painful and unsightly, but they can also have longer-term consequences. Once a nail drops off, it is often never quite the same again. 


Health Problems Elsewhere in the Body That Signal a Poor Fit

Another sign of a poor fitting shoe is pain or discomfort elsewhere in your body. Watch for soreness in your lower back, legs, or hips. Poorly fitted shoes can throw your body’s alignment off, leading to poor posture or an adjusted gait that causes problems in other parts of your body. Arch support is also a major part of a shoe’s fit. Shoes that are too loose can lead to poor arch support, shin pain, and arch collapse. Loose-fitting shoes may also cause trips and falls, as your foot can’t feel the surface as well as it should.

How should shoes fit?

1. Measure Your Feet – Have your feet measured before buying your shoes. It is better to measure them in the evening when your feet are fully expanded.

– This will give you the proper comfort for all-day wear, instead of just your rested feet in the mornings.

2. One Foot Is Larger – Did you know you have one foot that’s larger than the other. Measure both feet, and go for the size of your bigger foot.

3. Don’t Plan for Expansion – Don’t expect your shoes to expand over time. Although some types of shoes might expand (leather shoes, for example), it is incorrect to choose a smaller size to “accommodate” this growth.

– Your shoes won’t magically grow!

4. Wear Your Socks – For measuring, make sure to bring the socks you would normally wear with those shoes. This can really make a difference in size.

5. Use a Shoe Horn – Once your feet are measured, make sure to put your dress shoes on with a shoehorn. This way, you won’t damage the back of the shoe.

6. Stand Up – Stand up with both shoes on. There should be between up to 1/2″ of room between your longest toe and the tip of your shoe.

7. Pass the Finger Test – How much room should you have in your shoes? There’s always a major test your shoes should pass: Slide your index finger between your heel and the heel of your shoes.

– Your finger should fit snugly, but not too tight or loose. If it is tight, chances are you need a bigger size. If it is too loose, go one size down.

8. Walk in Both Shoes – For leather sole shoes we recommend walking on a carpet. If you walk on other surfaces, the soles and heels will start to wear out.

– This is not a good idea if you need to return the shoes. Be careful to not scratch the soles or flex them excessively in the vamp area.

– Walk for a while and make sure they don’t rub or chafe anywhere. Some heel slippage is normal, up to half an inch.

– This happens because the outsole is not yet broken in. It is also normal and okay to not have slippage at all.

9. Excessive Slippage – If there is excessive slippage to the point that the foot slips out of the heel counter more than 3/4 of an inch. This means the size is too big.

10. Toe Box Sizing – More often than not, you won’t have an issue with the toe box being too big. But you may have an issue with it not being deep enough. Some people have trouble fitting their toes if they have hammertoe.

– An improper toe box size can develop into sores or calluses because the toe box is way too small for your feet and develops points of rubbing and discomfort.

11. Shoe Width – The widest part of your foot (ball area and metatarsal bones) should roughly match the widest part of the shoe.

12. Brands & Sizing – Keep in mind not all brands have the same sizing, and some will have standard width sizes. Always make sure to check a size chart that compares different brands.

13. Boot Slippage – With boots, it shouldn’t be too easy to slip your foot in the first time. Some resistance is normal.

– If they’re leather boots, this will change as the leather breaks in and adapts to your feet.

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