Alright, here’s some scary news worth sharing (and it’s not about Coronavirus!) According to a 2018 study in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, up to 72% of people in this country are wearing the wrong shoe size.   Shoes that don't fit properly will leave your feet, toes and nails in bad shape!

Now, we know that some of you knowingly squeeze into a smaller shoe size, or slide around a pair that’s too big. Because, sometimes, you just can’t resist a sale. Or the pair you find is a must-have, but sold out in your size.

We’re guessing, however, that 72% of you aren’t regularly in that position. Which means that, lots of our readers could, right now be wearing the wrong size of shoe. Without even knowing it!

Clearly, that’s a situation or Elmhurst podiatrists would like to avoid. So, we’re here to help avoid shoe-size ignorance. To that end, today we’re sharing some clear signs that should suggest you’re wearing the wrong shoe size.

Your Toenails Get Bruised or Fall Off

One spot where people’s shoes tend not to fit is in the toe box—the part of your shoes where your toes hang out. Sometimes, the fit problem will be obvious, because your shoes will hurt. Other times, however, you’ll have to look for more visual evidence.

And one way to know if your shoes are too tight? You’ll get a serious case of jogger’s toe, a condition in which your toenails change colors (due to bruising) or even fall off because of repeated damage.

Want to avoid this problem? Well, of course you do, so here’s how to make sure your toe box fits correctly: There should measure a thumb’s distance between the front of your shoe and the end of your longest toe. And if your running shoes don’t give you that right now, you’ll need to size up a bit.

You’ve Got a Blister Problem

If you keep getting blisters—especially on the backs of your heels—that’s a pretty clear indication that your shoes aren’t fitting properly. Shoes that are too big can slide back and forth, rubbing your feet and causing blisters to pop up. And shoes that are too small will sit very close to your skin and create the same problem.

Now, sometimes, the real issue isn’t shoe fit. Occasionally, you develop blisters because you’re going sockless or choosing the wrong sock for your activity. (For example, if you run, wearing cotton socks when you run could cause blisters because they absorb moisture. It’s better to wear athletic, moisture-wicking socks instead.)

Fortunately, you can rule out sock issues easily. If you change socks and your shoes still give you blisters, switch up that size.

Plantar Fasciitis Comes to Town

Sometimes, shoe size isn’t your problem. Sometimes your shoes just don’t fit your individual arch type. When that’s the case, you may develop the heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis. This condition sets in when your plantar fascia gets stretched and irritated. You’re left feeling pain in the back of your heel—it’s worst when you first get out of bed, or when you get up after a long period of sitting. Many different factors can contribute to this kind of problem, but un-supportive shoes is a big one. Which is why, if you come see us for heel pain, we’re going to take a long, hard look at the fit of your shoes.

How to Find Your Perfect Fit  Orthotics, or medical grade inserts such as these, can help improve the fit and support of your shoes

Now that we’ve explored some ways in which your shoes don’t fit, and now that we’ve walked you through the symptoms of ill-fitting shoes, what’s next? Why, we tell you how to find shoes that do fit you properly!

First up: buy your shoes in person, not online. This allows you to get measured by a professional. It also lets you try those shoes on before making a purchase, which in turn means you can tell right away if the pair feels right. (Please note: shoes that fit properly will feel good right away. You should never require a ‘breaking in’ period to make those shoes comfortable. And, fi you do? That, once again, means they don’t fit you properly.)

But, as we mentioned, size isn’t the only way that shoes need to fit. In order to find the proper level of support, you can determine your arch height: flat, average or high. Our podiatrists can obviously help with this, but you can also get your feet wet and place a print on a piece of paper. If you can barely see a print at your midfoot (there’s a big indentation), you’ve got a high arch. If you’re able to see the entire base of your foot in the print, chances are you don’t have much of an arch (flat feet). Somewhere in between? You’re dealing with a typical arch, most likely.

If you’ve got flat feet, you’ll likely need a custom orthotic in order to find the proper support you need from a shoe. If you have high arches, your shoes will need a lot more cushioning to help you with shock absorption. And if you’re smack-dab in the middle? Then just pick a pair that fits in length and width.

Well, there you have it: our guide to figuring out how your shoes fit. But if you need help that goes beyond the confines of this post, never fear: we’re here to help. Just schedule a consult in our office, and feel free to bring along any shoes about whose fit you may be curious!  

Jordana White
Jordana Rothstein White