How many times have you worn a pair of shoes that were too big? When you bought them they felt like the perfect size, only to realize that now that your feet are swimming in your shoes.
Whether it’s flats, pumps, or running shoes, if you can’t walk it comfortably because it feels too wide or too long, then you’re most likely wearing shoes that are too big for you.
If you’re unsure whether you have the right size or not, then check out these tips on how to tell if your shoes are too big and how to choose the perfect size of shoes for you.
How Can You Tell if Shoes Are Too Big?
When You Try Them On
The first thing you need to do is try them on and measure the space left in the toe of the shoe. There should be approximately a half to one finger’s width of space between the end of the shoe and your longest toe. Don’t go for something longer than that.
(And don’t buy anything smaller! That’s another article but shoes that are too small are a problem as well!)
While You Wear Them
Pay attention to how the shoes feel while wearing them. Do your feet slip in very easily? Does the shoe slip off when you lift your feet to walk?
Try walking in them and see if your feet shift inside, or if it feels like there is no support when you place the feet on the ground.
Feeling any of these things means that the shoes are most likely too big for your feet.
Is It Bad to Wear Shoes That Are Too Big?
You might think that it’s fine to wear shoes that are too big and that you can deal with the slight discomfort. But the reality is that wearing shoes that are too big for you can do more than just give you painful blisters.
Shoes that are too large can cause your feet to move in a dysfunctional and unnatural way. It doesn’t look good and can be very uncomfortable too.
Walking unnaturally over a prolonged period of time can lead to serious foot problems, such as Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and other painful conditions.
How to Measure Your Feet
The size of your feet changes as you age. And some foot conditions will require you to change the width of your shoe, like bunions or hammer toes. Also, your left and right feet are not exactly the same size, whether or not you have foot conditions.
It’s important to measure your feet at least every few years, so you can be sure that you’re wearing the right size shoes.
There are different measurement charts in different countries, which can be confusing.
However, if you know the measurement of your feet in inches or centimeters, it’s much easier to get the right size when comparing on the measurement chart. You also don’t have to remember your shoe size for every country.
Here’s how to measure your feet accurately.
Use a Brannock Device
The most reliable instrument for measuring your foot size is the Brannock device. It gives you three important measurements—length, width, and depth, or your arch measurement.
A Brannock device is easy to use. You place your heel in the cup at the end, and then adjust the ball-of-foot level and the width gauge to get your measurements. You can then note your measurements for future use.
It’s best to go into a specialty running store or shoe store, as not everyone has a Brannock device at home. While there are printable versions online, these can be inaccurate as they might not always print to scale.
Measure Your Feet at Home
If measuring with a Brannock device isn’t possible, you can improvise with a sheet of paper and a pencil. Stand as you would normally, with your feet bearing your weight, and ask someone else to trace your foot on the paper.
However, they should take care to trace very carefully and as close to the foot as possible so you can get an accurate measurement.
Once you have the outline of your foot, you need to measure from the heel to the longest part of your foot—the longest toe—in a straight line.
You can then add extra space later when you are shopping for shoes. For example, if your foot is 10 inches long, you should choose a shoe that’s slightly more than 10 inches in length to allow for some space in the toe box.
Take note that this method is not as accurate as the Brannock device as you’re only getting two measurements—length and width. You won’t be able to measure your arch.
How to Shop for Shoes That Fit
There are many things you can do to ensure you’re buying shoes that will fit comfortably for a long time to come.
Finding the perfect shoe fit can save you a lot of discomfort and reduce your chance of developing foot conditions.
Here are some tips you should consider before going shopping.
1. Have Your Feet Measured
If you haven’t bought shoes for some time, it may be necessary to measure your feet again. You can do this yourself or in a running shop or shoe shop, which is more accurate.
Don’t depend on the fact that you’ve always worn a certain size. While the length of your feet doesn’t often change, your foot width and shape can change over time, leading to different shoe requirements.
2. Fit Your Shoes to the Larger Foot
Almost everyone has one foot that’s larger than the other. It’s extremely unusual to see perfect symmetry, so make sure you have both feet measured and take note of both sizes.
If there is a significant difference in size between your two feet, then fit your shoe to the larger foot. You can fill up the extra space in the shoe of the smaller foot, but you can’t make a small shoe bigger.
3. Measure at the End of the Day When Your Feet are the Largest
When you’re up and moving during the day, your feet will swell, even if just a little. By the end of the day, they are a little larger than they were in the morning. If you’re wearing shoes that don’t accommodate this, you’ll feel pain and discomfort.
It’s advisable to do your feet measurements in the afternoons, once you have done some walking. It’s the best time as you’ll get the most accurate sizing that accounts for this daily swelling.
4. Don’t Rely on Shoe Size Alone
Shoe sizes differ based on the country the shoe originated from. You may know that you’re a size 9 shoe in the USA, but in the UK you would be a size 8.5 and in Europe you would be a size 42.
It’s therefore advisable to have your feet measured in inches or centimeters, so you can convert them to the right size easier no matter what sizing chart is used.
It’s also helpful to have a shoe conversion chart handy. You can download one and save it on your phone for quick reference at any time.
5. Look at the Shape of the Shoe
The shape of the shoe is an important factor to consider. While the shoe may be your exact size, it’s possible that the shape makes it too wide for your feet. Make sure the shoe closely resembles the shape of your foot to ensure that it fits snugly.
6. Don’t Plan on Shoes Stretching Over Time
A lot of people rely on the shoes expanding over time, but this is not usually the case. They should fit properly when you buy them.
Never rely on this as the possibility of the shoes stretching over time depends on several factors including the materials used in shoe-making.
7. Check the Width of the Shoe
The ball of your foot—the widest part just before your toes—should fit comfortably in the widest part of the shoe without pressure points.
Always go for shoes that closely resemble the shape of your foot. If you have a slim foot, go for narrow designs. Choose wider-shaped shoes if you have a wider foot.
8. Check the Depth of the Shoe
The pair of shoes must be deep enough to allow your toes to move naturally, especially if you have hammer toes or other painful foot conditions that affect the forefoot.
That being said, your foot should not move up and down in the shoe when you lift your feet to walk. Your foot should be able to be properly locked down, but your toes should not be restricted.
9. Check the Space at the End of the Shoe
Stand up and make sure there is about the width of your finger between your longest toe—usually the second toe—and the end of the shoe. That is usually around ⅜-inch or ½-inch of space.
This will allow you the space you need to prevent your toes from hitting the front of the shoe when you walk, especially when going downhill or moving at a speed.
10. Walk Around in the Shoes
If you’re shopping at a store and not online, always try the pair of shoes on and walk around in them.
Pay attention to how they feel. There should be no heel slippage while you’re walking.
Your feet should not shift around too easily in the shoes. This is a clear indication that the shoe is too big for your feet, especially if you’ve cinched down to get as tight a fit as possible.
11. Don’t always trust the manufacturer’s size
Just because a shoe says it’s a size 8, doesn’t mean it’s a true 8.
Variances in manufacturing sometimes mean that shoes don’t always fit true to size. Shoes can run bigger or smaller than what’s printed on the box.
Always go by how they feel and fit than what the size on the box says.
What If Your Shoes Are Too Big?
While some prefer wearing shoes that are a size bigger, it’s not advised. It may cause pain and discomfort due to misalignment, and could even cause injury to your feet.
Bigger sizes can also cause friction between your feet and the material of the shoes, resulting in painful blisters. It can also interfere with your natural way of walking and affects your gait.
However, if you have a significant difference in size between your left and right feet, you may find that while one shoe fits perfectly, the other is slightly too large.
Here are some tips to make yourself more comfortable in a shoe that’s a little too big.
One of the easiest solutions is to simply pack the front of the shoe with anything soft, like tissues or a cloth. This works well for occasions when you won’t need to be walking long distances in the shoes.
Make sure it’s not compressing your toes or causing chafing that could lead to blisters or causing you to distribute your weight differently or walk unnaturally.
You can also buy toe inserts, like the Shoolex toe inserts. Alternatively, just wear thicker socks to make up the extra space between your shoe and your foot.
Use an Insole
Insoles are soft pads that can be inserted inside the shoes to offer extra cushion and support to the feet.
If your too-big shoe isn’t offering the right support for your feet or if it’s too deep, adding an insole can solve these problems.
Make sure you choose an insole that suits the shape of your foot and provides the right kind of support. Be sure to buy the right size, especially if you need an insert for wide feet.
Footpads are small pads used to cushion the ball of your foot. They offer support and added comfort.
They’re a good choice for shoes that are just slightly too deep. They can help to raise the forefoot slightly, making up the space in the shoe.
Heel strips are another kind of padding that are used primarily to reduce blisters caused by the shoe rubbing against the heel of your foot. These may also be used around your toes or under your foot – this works well if you have narrow feet.
Layering a few heel strips inside the shoe can fill up a bit of space and provide a better fit on your foot, preventing your foot from moving around inside the shoe.
How to Make Shoes Smaller
There are many possible reasons why you may have shoes that are too big. You might have been excited or you loved the design of the shoes so much that you mistakenly bought the wrong size. Maybe it was the only size available.
Rather than walk around in them uncomfortably, here are some things you can do to make them smaller and a better fit for your feet. These can significantly reduce any discomfort you might experience if you can’t exchange the shoes.
Heel Slippage DIY
Using a tongue pad can help when you have loose-fitting shoes that cause heel slippage. This helps to cause a tighter fit and lock your foot down better, keeping it from moving in the shoe.
Tongue pads can also offer protection from any discomfort brought about by the shoelaces. Alternatively, using heel strips can help to prevent heel slippage if you don’t like extra padding on the top of your foot.
Constrict the Shoe
There are a few ways to constrict a shoe. If the shoes are made of canvas, leather, or suede, you can wet them lightly with a spray bottle and blow-dry the shoes, which will cause them to shrink a little.
One of the easiest techniques for shoes made of soft material is to stitch an elastic band around the heel area of the shoe. The band can effectively pull both sides together, offering a tighter fit.