This Is How Your Shoes Should Fit

Looking for a pair of comfortable shoes? Cushioned insoles, soft leather uppers and lightweight outsoles may not solve all your problems.

According to Pam Swisher, a certified pedorthist and co-owner of the Sole Comfort boutique in Albuquerque, N.M., it all comes down to fit. “Shoe fitting is an art and a science,” said Swisher. “The person fitting you has to understand the dynamics of how shoes are made.”

The first thing consumers must understand, she noted, is no one has a set shoe size. Every shoe is made differently, even within the same brand, resulting in different proportions. While one style’s overall heel-to-toe length might be 8 1/2 inches, another shoe by the same brand might be 8 1/4 inches.

Size Matters

To find that Cinderella fit, Swisher offers some easy-to-follow guidelines.

1. Know the length of your foot and toes: People have two lengths to their feet — the arch length, or heel to the ball of the foot, and the length from the ball of the foot to the longest toe. “Some people have real short toes,” said Swisher, “while others have [long] toes.” According to Swisher, feet can be easily measured at home with a basic ruler.

2. Determine the depth of your foot: “Do I have a thick foot, thin foot or an average foot?” said Swisher. “Is the top of my foot tall, is it short? If you have a high instep and a shallow shoe, you are never going to fit you foot [inside].”

3. Measure the width of the ball of the foot: According to Pedorthics.org, the ball of the foot should fit comfortably into the widest part of the shoe. This match permits shoes to bend where the foot flexes for enhanced comfort.

Footwear Myths

Swisher also dispels some common myths about shoe fitting. There’s a difference between having a narrow and shallow foot, she said. “My feet top-to-bottom look like pancakes,” said Swisher. “But, side to side my feet measure a ‘D’ width because I have a bunion. Therefore, I need a toe box that’s shallow and wide. The [shape] of the shoe has to work with the look of your foot. If you have square toes, you don’t want pointy shoes.”

Think you have narrow feet? Only 5 percent of the population has truly narrow feet, noted Swisher. “They look for narrow shoes because the heel slips. [For example], pumps must be too small to stay on the foot. It’s the law of physics.“ She added, “There’s no such thing as a comfort pump.”

Another misconception people have when shoe shopping is thinking that if their toes hit the end of the shoe, they need a bigger size. Some shoe silhouettes with shorter vamps are a better fit with shorter toes, Swisher advises. Conversely, longer toes require shoes with more elongated shapes. She also suggests having at least a 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch space from the end of your toes to the end of the shoe for maximum comfort. Why? As you walk, the foot elongates by about a half inch, she explained.

Bottom line, said Swisher, “Get to know your foot. About 85 percent of the population wears the wrong size shoe.”

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