When the Shoe Fits

Buying footwear off the rack is not necessarily a “shoe”-in. Fit matters and can affect your health and wellness from head to toe.

One in every seven people—that’s 43.1 million Americans—complains of foot pain. Many of these issues can be resolved by choosing the right shoe.

Shoes that do not fit properly can lead to stress on not just the feet, but also the hips, lower legs and spine. Ill-fitting shoes can also lead to pain and injury, which often limit hobbies and activities.

When considering a new shoe purchase, style is usually the first consideration, but it cannot be the only factor when it comes to comfort and foot health.

Fit Tips

Rely on these shopping pointers to help you find the most appropriate shoe for you:

  • Always try on before purchasing. Shoe sizes vary widely among brands and between styles within the same brand, so it’s best to go by fit—not size—when selecting a new pair of shoes.
  • Consider your lifestyle. Keep in mind all the places you’ll go to each day and buy shoes appropriate for each activity.
  • Leave wiggle room. Make sure there’s a half-inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  • Measure both feet each time you shoe shop. Typically, your feet are two different sizes, and foot size increases with age. To ensure a good fit, always try on both shoes.
  • Shop at the end of the day. This can be an ideal time to try on new shoes because feet often swell throughout the day and thus are at their largest size near day’s end.
  • Tight is not right. There is no such thing as a break-in period for a pair of shoes. If the shoes feel too tight on the first try, don’t buy them.

High Pain Tolerance

It comes as no surprise to many women that wearing high heels can lead to health issues. You might love the look, but consider:

Shoes that are too narrow can damage instead of protecting your feet. Over time, the shape of your foot can change, leading to deformities like hammertoes and corns.

Pointy, high-heels can cause bunions—bony bumps at the base of the big toe joint—as well as knee and lower back pain.

If you choose to wear high-heeled shoes, select a pair with a platform under the toe box. Platforms and wedges distribute weight more evenly than heels, decreasing foot strain.


orthoinfo.aaos.org, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, orthoinfo.aaos.org, npr.org, news.nationalgeographic.com, bls.gov

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