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How to Make Sure Your Shoes Fit (Women’s Edition)

young woman sitting on steps and adjusting high heeled shoes
MPH Photos/Shutterstock

The shoes looked and felt great when you tried them on—but the first time you wore them outside of the house, you came back with blisters. How can you make sure that doesn’t happen again?

Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly can lead to a host of foot problems, affecting everything from nail growth to circulation. And there’s more to making sure your shoes fit than just trying them on once.

Want to make sure your shoes fit every time? We’ve got the essential tips women need to know—keep reading for more.

Leave Space for Your Feet

If you try on a pair of shoes and your toes hit the end, you need a bigger size. The only exception is if you’re shopping for a specialty shoe, like dance shoes or rock climbing shoes.

There should be about half an inch of space between the end of your foot and the end of the shoe. The end of the foot is at your longest toe, which might be your big toe or your second toe. And in the back of the shoe, you should have about an eighth an inch of space.

You don’t want too much or too little space around your feet inside the shoes since either one can cause rubbing and blisters.

Measure Your Feet

measure shoe size on white background
Chutima Chaochaiya/Shutterstock

The size of your feet changes over time, so it doesn’t hurt to get your feet measured even as an adult. This will help you know which sizes to choose in the store.

Have someone else measure your feet (the professionals at the shoe store will do it for you), so you can stand up during measurement. Make sure to stand straight with your weight spread evenly over both feet, in the center of the foot.

As you go about your day, your feet will swell, so measure your feet at the end of the day for accurate results. If you’re trying on shoes, you should also try them on at the end of the day.

Fit Your Biggest Foot

It’s common to have one foot that’s a little bigger than the other. If this is the case, choose a shoe that fits the bigger foot. If you have a significant size difference, you can always add an insole to the shoe on your smaller foot.

Ignore the Labeled Size

Just like with clothes, different shoe brands are often sized differently, even if the numbers are the same. Don’t get hung up on the numbers. Pick the shoe that fits your feet best.

Use Insoles Wisely

Insoles can help you make up for size differences in your feet, or make a too-big pair of shoes fit you better. However, there’s a limit to what you can do with insoles. Try to find a pair of shoes that fits you as well as possible with no insoles or other modifications.

Be Realistic About Stretch

Closeup of woman's leather boots on wooden stairs
milicad/Shutterstock

It’s often tempting to think that a too-small pair of shoes will stretch to fit your feet. However, most shoe materials won’t stretch that much. The only exception is if the shoes are stiff leather. But many leather shoes use material that’s already been softened and stretched out, so it won’t stretch much more after purchase.

If you’re set on stretching out a pair of shoes, consider taking them to a shoe repair store to let the professionals handle it. While there are some ways to stretch out your shoes at home, a cobbler will give you the best results without the risk of damage.

Walk Around in the Shoes

While you’re in the store, walk around to see how the shoes feel when you’re in motion. Even after you buy them, you might want to wear them only in the house for a while until you’re sure they fit well. That way, if you decide the fit isn’t right, you’ll be able to return them as unworn shoes.

Bring Socks to the Shoe Store

If you usually wear socks or pantyhose with your shoes, have them with you when you try on new shoes. What you wear underneath will affect how your shoes fit, so this gives you the best results.

Buy for Comfort

No matter how good the shoes look, they should feel good, too. Even a pair of high heels, if they’re well-constructed and fit properly, should allow you to walk comfortably for at least a short period. If they aren’t comfortable in the store, they won’t get better when you get home.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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