Check out our Ultimate Shoe Shopping and Shoe-Fitting Guide!

Everywhere I go, I see people wearing shoes that are poorly fitted—my wife loves to point out women whose toes are hanging over the edge of their sandals. Sound familiar? Are you looking at shoes, right now, that you bought online (and still wear) even though your feet hurt every time you wear them? 

Unfortunately, I see this issue a lot—apparently, almost 90% of all women willingly wear shoes that are too tight for their feet! How can you tell if your poorly fitted shoes are causing you harm? Read on for my four tell-tale signs. If you check off one or more warnings, it’s time to invest in a different pair of shoes! (Don’t worry, I’ve got tips for that, as well. Want a hint? The first will be trying those shoes on in person before you make a purchase.) But first, let's review the basics of shoe fit. 

5 Clear Signs Your Shoes Don’t Fit  Sometimes, it's obvious your shoes don't Fit. Otherwise, you need some helpful guidelines to determine your shoe fit!

1. Your toes touch the tip of your shoe 


There should be a little space between the end of your toe and the start of your shoe—literally, enough for some wiggle room. Feet swell throughout the day, so what fits in the morning may become too snug in the evening without that extra bit of space. To ensure a good fit, shoe shop in the afternoon, when feet are at their largest.

2. You have bruises, blisters or calluses on your feet and nails 

Any one of these injuries could mean that your shoe is rubbing you the wrong way, meaning it’s either too tight, too short or too narrow for your foot. Over time, the pressure from the ill-fitting shoes can cause your skin to harden or even change the direction of your bone and nail growth, leading to bunions and in-grown nails.
 

3. Your arches hurt at night


If your shoes are too big, or lack proper support, the muscles on the bottom of your foot tighten up every time you walk in order to keep your arch lifted. While this flexing keeps the loose shoe in place, it also puts stress on your tendons, setting you up for the chronic inflammation of plantar fasciitis.  
 

4. Your sneakers look old


Running wears out your shoe’s support, which is why I recommend swapping out sneakers after you’ve logged around 400 training miles in them. A shoe that’s pounded the pavement for longer than that distance is probably not giving you the protection you need, even if it still feels like it fits you properly.  

And speaking of old-looking sneakers, if this last tip applies to you, keep reading for my advice on purchasing a well-fitted pair of athletic shoes.

How to Score the Perfect Pair of Sneakers in 4 Easy Steps

  1. Know when to ditch the old model

    Your sneaker has a shelf life—about 400 miles, give or take. If you run regularly, that means they may only last 4 months—if you’re logging upwards of 30 miles a week, you might need to replace them even sooner. No matter how great the shoe, once it’s worn out, your feet will start to hurt. Period.
  2. Find Your Arch Type

    Use the simple test I described in this post, then shop for a shoe designed for your arch type.
  3. Divide and conquer

    Many runners swear by having separate shoes for training and for racing, allowing them a lighter sneaker for competitive runs, while still making sure their feet are supported during training. This practice also has the advantage of making sure your foot doesn’t always step the same way, which decreases the likelihood of repetitive injuries like stress fractures.
  4. Test them out

    Each shoe is made differently, so even if one pair has all the features you theoretically need, you still want to wear them for a bit before purchasing. That’s why I like shopping in a store made for runners like Fleet Feet where you can actually run in a pair of sneakers before committing to them.

Now, about that last tip...I want you to try your shoes before you buy them. But I also want you to do so the right way, so you don't pick up a nasty foot infection from the last person who tried on those same shoes. So here's how we're going to protect your feet: 

3 Ways to Safely Try on Shoes It's fine to wear your own shoes barefoot. But always wear socks when shopping for shoes to avoid infections

The last thing I want is to send you to the shoe store, only to discover you've brought home an unwelcome surprise like a foot or toenail infection!

  1. Wear Your Own Socks

When you try on shoes, make sure you’re wearing socks (ideally the ones you plan to wear with that shoe, so you can guarantee proper fitting.) Why is it so important to wear socks? The answer is simple: Athlete’s Foot! This is a contagious fungal infection that you can catch from a surface touched by another infected individual. In other words, if you try on a shoe barefoot, and someone before you did the same thing, you’re at risk for catching whatever was on that first buyer’s foot! And don’t think those disposable nylons stores offer will do the trick: they’re actually pretty porous, which can still leave you vulnerable to infection.

  1. Pack some heat

If you’re a mom, you’ve probably already got some Lysol wipes tucked in your purse for those fun moments our kids always present. So, when heading to the shoe store, just make sure you take one out and wipe the shoe down before slipping in your foot. This should help eliminate any residual bacteria hanging out in there.

  1. Do Some Follow Up Foot Care

This tip is important for every day, but especially for when you’ve just returned from shoe shopping. At the end of the day, wash your feet in warm water and soap, to keep them clean and help avoid any infections.  Just be sure to dry them properly after you’re done, especially between your toes where moisture can linger and increase your risk of fungal infections. And you wouldn’t be wrong to roll this ritual into your nightly self-care routine: after drying your feet, grab some moisturizer and give yourself a little foot massage. After all, shoe shopping, mom-ing and getting the job done is hard work. So you totally deserve a little pampering!

Need more guidance on shoe fit and shopping for the right kicks? Come into our office for a comprehensive foot exam to make sure you’re in the perfect pair!

 

 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.
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