How Do You Find the Right Shoes?

Shoes serve many functions. They protect our feet. They cushion our body weight. They can make our feet feel comfortable or fashionable — hopefully both! Finding the proper shoes and making sure they fit are important for keeping your feet and your body happy. Poorly fitting shoes can be painful and cause foot problems like bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and more.

Follow these tips from Foot and Ankle Orthopaedic Surgeons to find the right shoes for you:

  1. Have your feet measured. Your foot size and shape can change over time. Don't rely on the fact that you have always worn a certain size.

  2. Fit your shoes to the larger foot. Most people have one foot that is larger than the other, so make sure you have BOTH feet measured.

  3. Get measured at the end of the day when your feet are the largest. When you are up during the day, your feet will swell and settle some. You want to make sure you are comfortable throughout the day and not just when you head out of the house in the morning.

  4. Don’t rely on shoe size alone. Just like clothes, the size marked inside the shoe may be different depending on the brand. So your shoe size is a just a starting point in selecting the correct shoe.

  5. Look at the shape of the shoe. Make sure the shoe shape resembles the shape of your foot and fits your foot comfortably.

  6. Don't plan on shoes stretching over time. They should fit well when you buy them.

  7. Check the width of the shoe. The ball of your foot (the widest part just before your toes begin) should fit comfortably in the widest part of the shoe.

  8. Check the depth of the shoe. The shoe should be deep enough to fit your toes, especially if you have hammertoes or other conditions. If the shoe's toe box is too small, your toes will rub against the top of the shoe and you will get calluses or sores.

  9. Check the space at the end of the shoe. Stand up and make sure there is 3/8" or 1/2" (about the width of your finger) between your longest toe (usually the second toe) and the end of the shoe.

  10. Always stand and walk around in the shoes to see if they are comfortable, fit well, and don’t chafe or rub anywhere. Your heel should not slip or slide while walking.

Additional Tips

Match the shoe to your activity

Your ideal shoes will change based on the activity you want to do while wearing them.

  • Running shoes are specially designed to provide the proper cushioning at the heel and flexibility at the toes that athletes need.

  • Walking shoes have a shock absorbing heel and flex at the ball of the foot.

  • Cross-trainers are often good all-purpose shoes for general exercise. Basketball shoes are meant for basketball and may not be the best choice if you do a lot of walking.

  • Cycling shoes are stiffer to help you pedal more efficiently but don't work well for most other activities.

  • Dress shoes can be comfortable as well as look good. Many dress shoes are now made with a sneaker-like sole that provides better cushioning and tread and better arch support. Expensive Italian loafers are not for everybody.


Look for good shoe construction

Some basic principles of a good shoe include a cushioned heel, firm sole that doesn’t easily twist or bend, and flexibility at the proper area depending on the type of shoe.

  • If the upper part of the shoe is made from a soft, breathable material, it will be more comfortable to wear for longer period of time and less likely to cause rubbing or skin irritation.
  • The upper part of the shoe should have laces or straps to hold the foot in place comfortably with activity.
  • There should be some arch support in the shoe or in the insert inside the shoe. Many shoes can be made to fit better simply by removing the factory insert and replacing it with a high-quality off-the-shelf orthotic. Custom orthotics are rarely necessary and should be prescribed by your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon for specific foot disorders.

 

Following these steps will help minimize your risk of shoe problems and foot problems. If you experience foot or ankle problems, talk to a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon near you.

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images, and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find a Surgeon" search to locate a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon in your area.