The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

If the Shoe Fits: Choose the Right Size Shoe

Posted by on Monday, February 27th, 2012


What size shoe do you wear?

Sounds like an easy question, right? But if someone asked me, my answer wouldn’t be an enthusiastic “6 1/2.” It would be more like, “6 1/2, sometimes 6, a 7 in running shoes, probably boots, too, so I have room for heavier socks…” I’m sure most people would give a similar response.

The primary reason we don’t know our shoe size is that shoe manufacturers all use different molds that can result in radically different sizes, sometimes even within the same brand. Moreover, your feet change size as you get older; wear on them makes them stretch and spread out, so the shoe size you thought you wore for the last two years may no longer be valid.. That’s why buying shoes online is often a bad idea, even if you think you know what size you wear in a specific brand. The best way to buy shoes is still the old-fashioned way: in person.

So let’s talk about some tips for making sure you have the right size shoe:

  • Have your feet measured. Yes, just like when you were five years old. Go to a shoe store and ask the salesperson to measure your feet the old fashioned way. Although, as noted above, there certainly will be variations in size, having your feet professionally measured and sized will at least give you a closer idea of the size you need. Make sure you stand when your feet are being measured, as your feet will swell when you put weight on them. Also, ask the shoe salesperson to measure both feet, as some people can vary greatly in size from one foot to the other. A slight variation doesn’t matter, but if one foot is 1 1/2 sizes or more larger than the other, then you may need to buy two pairs of shoes.
  • Shop for shoes at the end of the day. Remember how we said that you should stand when your feet are being measured because your feet swell when you stand? (That was about two sentences ago, so we hope you would remember.) Well, they also swell from use. Whether you’re tramping around in the wild or just getting up and down from a desk all day, your feet are going to balloon in size from when you first get up in the morning. Shop at the end of the day to get a truer size.
  • Wear or bring the right socks. If you are planning to go shoe shopping, make sure you’re wearing the right kind of hosiery (oh good, I so rarely get the chance to use the word hosiery) for the type of shoe you want. If you’re buying some slinky heels for an evening out, don’t try them on with some chunky warm winter socks, unless you are an extraordinarily daring fashion person. If you’re buying running shoes, don’t try them on with thin tights. If you’re not already wearing the right kind of hosiery (twice in one post! twice!), just bring it with you.
  • A half inch here, an eighth of an inch there. I don’t know about you, but I’m always a little unsure about just how close a pair of shoes should fit. Luckily, there are some general guidelines: make sure you have about 1/8th of an inch of wiggle room at the back of the shoe. If it’s too tight back there, you’ll end up rubbing your heel too much; if it’s too loose, your foot will slop in and out, causing blisters. At the front of the shoe, try to have about a half inch between the top of your toes and the end of the shoe. Make sure there’s room in the toe box for your toes to sit comfortably without being squashed together into an unnatural shape. (Come on, fans of extremely pointy, narrow-toed shoes, what did you think I was going to say? This is a podiatry blog, not a shoe fashion blog!)
  • Bend, don’t break. You know where your foot bends (if you don’t, stand up on your toes. Right now.). Now make sure your shoe bends at the same place. If the shoe bends above or below the ball of your feet, you’re going to have many uncomfortable days ahead.
  • Walk. Don’t just stand there admiring your feet in the shoes you’re trying. Walk around in them and make sure they feel good walking. I know this seems self-evident, but some people don’t do more than take one or two steps and that’s not really enough. If possible, ask if you can walk outside the store in them. Some athletic stores will have a treadmill for you to test the shoes out in the store, or have an area near the store where they can tell you to go take a quick run. Aside from fit, there are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right running shoe, so the more you can do to be sure, the better. Running in the wrong shoes is a quick ticket to a lot of pain.
  • Find out the return policy of the store. Some stores won’t take shoes back unless they’re in supermint, unworn condition, but others will be okay if you come back and say, “Look, I thought these were okay when I tried them here, but when I got out and did my usual run, they just didn’t feel right.” Make sure you know exactly how much latitude you have.
  • Buy shoes that fit now. People constantly will try on shoes, think they feel a little tight, and tell themselves, “Well, they’ll stretch.” No, they won’t, or at least not enough to make them really comfortable. Lace up shoes have a little more give, but overall, don’t buy your shoes with the hope that they’ll fit in the future.

Hooray! Now that you know how to buy shoes, so go get some! However, if you’re unsure of what kind of shoes are right for your feet or if you’re experiencing foot pain, contact us at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.




If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.