If your toes are sticking out, your shoes are too small, ladiesI see you out there, wearing shoes that don't fit. Your toes hang over the edge of your shoes. And you're not alone. In fact, an American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society study says 88% of women in this country wear shoes that are too small. And 55% have bunions.

Why are women picking the wrong shoe size so often? There's lots of reasons. For many women, shoe size changes during or after pregnancy (but it doesn't have to!)

Still, if you shop for shoes online, you may keep ordering the same size you always used to wear. Then, even if you're squeezing in your feet once the shoes arrive at your house, you deal with it. After all, that's easier than dealing with the hassle of returning them. But it's also a big problem


Wearing Too Small Shoes Due to Changing Shoe Sizes

Pregnancy isn't the only thing that changes your shoe size. In fact, any type of weight loss or gain can cause a shift. So if you’ve recently gone on (or off) a diet, it’s not a bad idea to get your feet re-measured. That will help you know if your existing shoe collection really fits the feet you have now.  And even if you haven't gone through any major life changes, you should still get your feet measured every other year, since even the passing of time can change your foot size just enough to mean your old shoe size won't fit. 

Now, some people choose the wrong shoe size by mistake. But here's a more disturbing bit of information. A UK College of Podiatry study shows that, of 2000 adults surveyed, one third of the men and almost half of the women fessed up to buying shoes that don't fit. Knowingly.

Obviously, that's a problem. But before I get to explaining why, let me offer some important information. It will show you what to look for when buying new shoes.

Shoe Fit Guide: Foot Shape Matters 

Even if you know your proper shoe size, you also have to fit your foot shape. Here are some fitting points to consider, if your feet are a little off of typical.

Narrow feet

Thinner feet might lead to extra space at the shoe edge. That means your shoes may rub your feet, leading to blisters, if you don't look for a narrow-fit pair of shoes.

Wide Feet

These can get squished and rubbed as well. It may be tempting to size up on shoes to accomodate wider feet, but that can lead to further issues. Instead, look for wide sizes, in materials such as leather that have a bit more give to them.

Flat Feet or High Arches

Use this special guide to figure out your arch height.  High arches and flat feet can lead to discomfort in typical shoes, even supportive sneakers. Many people with unusual arches can prevent problems by adding a custom orthotic to their shoes.

Signs of A Good Sneaker Fit

Shoes that fit should feel good on your feet right away. You should also feel stable in well-fitted foot wear. And make sure you can wiggle your toes in a new pair of kicks.

Of course, if you're in the right size shoe, but the fit isn't perfect, you can try a different lacing technique. Just don't let buckles, straps or laces replace a proper shoe fit. In some cases, your foot may need a different style of shoe. And no amount of strapping will change that fact.

We've talked about shoe width already. But now I need to offer a note on shoe length. It's very important to leave the right amount of space between the end of your great toe and the ridge of your shoe's toe box. (About a thumb's width of space is enough.)

And while we're on the topic of your toe box, make sure there's enough width to fit your toes (without squishing.) If that means steering clear of point-toed stilettos, so be it. (You can choose a pair of better-for-you high heels here.)

Ok, so you've got an idea of how your shoes should fit. But I know you may be thinking: does it really matter? The answer is yes. And here's why.

Shoes that Fit are Crucial to Foot Health 

What’s the big deal with sizing, you might ask? If my foot can fit in the shoe, how bad for me can it be to wear a pair that’s a bit small? Well, here’s a straight-up answer from a Houston podiatrist: it’s really, really bad.

Did you notice the second statistic the study focused on, about how many women have bunions? Here’s a little secret: that high percentage is directly related to wearing shoes that are too small.

One of the most common causes of bunions (extra bony growths on the outside of your feet) is wearing poorly fitted shoes. Especially those with narrow toe boxes that squeeze your toes into unnatural positions.

Once bunions have developed, the only way to get rid of them is with surgery; however, you can stop their progression by taking preventative measures that include switching to shoes that really fit your feet.

Shoes Can Even Offer Pain Relief

While wearing shoes too small for your feet causes trouble, wearing some smart sneakers could offer pain relief! In a new APMA Journal study, researchers learned that wearing shoes with special shock-absorbing soles offered pain relief. In fact, participants who wore these soles reduced their knee pain by 85%. And they also experienced less ankle, foot and back pain by the end of the five week study period. 

Now, the study in question looked at shoes that used VeroShock technology. (Available in GDEFY footwear.) But the principle applies to any assistive device that reduces the shock on your feet. For that reason, I fit many foot pain patients with custom orthotics. And, by making up for biomechanical issues that increase shock to your feet, they deliver similar pain-relieving results! 

So here’s the bottom line: If you haven’t had your feet sized in a while, get them measured at a shoe store (preferably at the end of the day, when they’re at their largest due to normal swelling. If you find out your feet aren’t the size you thought they were, get rid of any shoes that are too small for you now and if you have concerns about bunions, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider so we can stop their growth before surgery becomes necessary.