How to Fit Shoes

The Myth of Heel Slip

Many people feel that a shoe needs to be tight on the heel when they are new. There is no such thing as heel width. This fallacy causes many people to buy their shoes too small. A properly fitted shoe may slip on the heel slightly when new. Because soles on new shoes are often stiff and resist bending of the foot, heel slippage may occur. Loose heel slippage cannot hurt your feet. Tight shoes can cause blisters.

What Mephisto says regarding heel slip:

Avoid buying shoes too small! When the shoes are on your feet, there should be at least one half inch between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. If this is not the case, keep trying larger sizes. When fit properly, a MEPHISTO shoe will feel like an old friend. In walking, it is important to give your toes a good degree of freedom. You don’t want them locked in. (We like to say you should be able to play the piano with your toes.) The same thing applies to the heel. The MEPHISTO heel is not designed to fit snug. A true walking shoe bends with your foot. There is absolutely no need for the heel to fit tight. The point is, your foot should be cradled, not bound.

What Alden Shoe says regarding heel slip:

Backpart fit should be snug but not over tight. As the outsoles flex and “break-in”, small initial amounts of slipping at the heel should disappear. Going to a smaller size to eliminate ALL initial heel slipping can result in a fit that is just too tight, especially in slip-on models.

Advice from the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society

More than 43.1 million Americans–one in every six persons–have trouble with their feet, mostly from improperly-fitting shoes. A huge public health risk, foot problems cost the U.S. $3.5 billion a year.

We’re all susceptible to foot and ankle injuries, but we can reduce our risk by wearing properly-fitting shoes that conform to the natural shape of our feet. In selecting shoes, keep this basic principle of good fit in mind: Your feet should never be forced to conform to the shape of a pair of shoes.

Shoes that do not fit can cause bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoes and other disabling foot disorders.

Start with a good quality sock. Socks are your first layer of protection from the ground. Have both feet measured at least once a year. Your foot size increases as you get older.

Shoes do not have to be tight on the heel!

Soles on new shoes are stiff. When your foot bends to take a step in a new shoe, your heels should slip slightly. 1/8” movement is normal but can feel like much more. Loose slipping in the heels will not cause blisters when broken in gradually, but wearing shoes that are too small and tight will cause friction and then blister. It is much more important to give your forefoot lots of room. Breaking in shoes gradually is the best strategy. There should be at least 3/8” to 1/2″ space from the end of your longest toe to the end of the shoe while you are standing. Your feet elongate while moving.

LEFT: This is a proper fit, giving plenty of room for the toes and allowing the foot to bend in the proper place. RIGHT: The toes are crowded into a shoe that is too small for the foot.

Fit new shoes to your largest foot. Most people have one foot larger than the other. Walk around in the shoes to make sure they fit well and feel comfortable. If necessary, we can make modifications to accomodate for your smaller foot.  Sizes vary among shoe brands and styles. Every shoe company has it’s own lasts and are sized to their specifications. Every last is a different size and different volume. A size 8B in one company could fit like a 9-1/2 EE in another.

All of the lasts above are size 8C, and from the same company, yet note the different widths and toe shapes. All the above 8C’s will fit differently.

Judge a shoe by how it fits on your foot not by the marked size. When the shoe is on your foot, you should be able to freely wiggle all of your toes. If the shoes feel too tight, don’t buy them. Shoes should fit and feel roomy. “They will stretch to fit your feet” can be risky and wasteful.

Most high heeled-shoes have a pointed narrow toe box that crowds the toes and forces them into an unnatural triangular shape. As heel height increases, the pressure under the ball of the foot may double, placing greater pressure on the forefoot as it is forced into the pointed toe box. Women should not wear shoes with heels higher than 1 1/2 inches. High heels are like treats: not too much too often.

Trust your shoe fitting experts, pedorthists. They are professionals who have extensive training in shoe fitting. Pedorthists are experts at solving foot problems.

Your feet should feel good. Pain is an indication that your shoes are not properly fit.

How long should my shoes last?

Depending on your height, weight, and how fast or slow you walk everyone wears shoes differently. A 100 pound woman who walks very fast with many more steps may wear out a shoe quicker than a 300 pound man who walks very slowly.

The average foot perspires 1 cup a day. This can cause shoe linings to break down. It is important to alternate your shoes and orthoses to give them a day or 2 to dry. Removing custom orthoses from your shoes so air can reach all surfaces helps them last longer.

Every shoe has a limit to the wear it can give. When polyurethane soles wear past the outer shell they rupture across the point of contact, most often across the ball of the foot. On average, this occurs after about 1,500,000 flexes. Like wearing a hole in a leather sole, which occurs at 500,000 flexes, soles do wear out. Rubber soles tend to wear the longest. Many of the better quality shoes today can be resoled.

There are many different grades of leathers used in footwear. Naturally, vegetable oil tanned, aniline leathers are the very best for long wear and breathability. The better the leather the longer shoes will last. Avoid shoes made of man-made materials. Nubuck (brushed leather) is durable and easy to care for. For nubuck leathers use a soft wire brush. For aniline, use a good cream polish like Meltonian or Kiwi. For athletic shoes, wipe off with a damp cloth and mild cleaner.