How can I make sure my shoe fits me properly?

I coach hundreds of runners of all shapes, sizes, speeds and abilities.  The single most important peice of equipment for runners, walkers and athletes of all types is footwear that fits correctly.  Shoes are categorized into many categories such as over protation control, motion control, cushioning, racers, trainers, minimalist, and trail running shoes.

In my opinion, all of these categories are meaningless without proper ensureing you have the proper fit.  In order to acheive ideal fit, you should try to find a local running specialty store.  These stores will measure your foot, examine the wear pattern on your most recent pair of shoes, and actually watch you move.  They will listen to your goals and needs and find a model of shoe and brand of shoe that will satisfy you.

When you try shoes on in the store, make sure that you are wearing socks similar to those you'll wear while running.  Lace and tie the shoes in the manner in which you typically do, taking care not to tighten laces too much or leave them too loose.

Now, use the stores treadmill or ask to take them for a spin outside.  

If the size feels right, and you feel comfortbale in that shoe, you most likely have found the magic pair of shoes.  If you notice anything uncomfortable with these shoes, please try on a new pair, possibly with a dfferent company altogether.  There really isn't a breaking-in period with shoes these days, so these impefections won't work themselves out and you are best off trying a new pair of shoes.

Shoes should be turned over every 500 miles or so.

Remember that proper fit is the key, and the most common mistake I find with my runners is that they are injured and uncomfortable from wearing shoes that are TOO SMALL!  Take the time and make the effort to find the right shoe for you and your feet with thank you!

  1. Have your feet measured 1 to 2 times per year

    Do not rely on a foot measurement taken 10 years ago. More than just your hairstyle has changed. The ligaments and other soft tissues in your feet tend to relax and stretch out as you get older. This causes your feet to change shape and size. Make sure to measure the length, width and arch length of your feet.

  2. Measure the arch length

    An important part of the shoe fit is the arch length. The arch length is measured from your heel to the ball of your foot (where your big toe joint bends). The bend in your big toe should match with where the shoe bends. With both shoes on, rise up onto your toes. If you feel the shoe bend before or after the big toe joint, then the shoe is not a good fit for your arch length.

  3. Shoe shop later in the day

    Most everyone develops some swelling in their feet by the end of the day. If you wait until later in the day to shoe shop, you will be more likely to avoid getting shoes that are too tight.

  4. Fit shoes to the larger foot

    One foot is usually slightly larger than the other foot. Buy the shoe size that fits the larger foot. There are different pads and inserts that can take up room in the shoe if it is too big, but you cannot add space to a shoe that is too small.

  5. Wear appropriate socks/hosiery

    It is important to wear the socks, nylons, etc. that you would normally wear with the type of shoes you are trying on. For example, if you are trying on high heels for a wedding, you do not want to wear the socks you wore to the gym to exercise on the elliptical machine. The thickness of the sock will affect the fit of the shoe a great deal.

  6. Stand when measuring

    When standing, your feet will spread out more. It is better to have someone else take the measurement, because you need to stand tall and look straight ahead with your weight centered over your foot. How you stand can affect the size and shape of your feet.

  7. Leave 1/2 inch at the front of shoe

    There should be about a 1/2 inch between the end of your longest toe and the end of the front of the shoe. Be sure look and see which is your longest toe; it is not always your big toe.

  8. Leave 1/8 inch at the back of shoe

    You do not want the back of the shoe too tight against the back of your heel. This may cause skin irritation and blisters. It is OK to have about a 1/8 of an inch between the back of your heel and the shoe.

    From Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M., former Guide. Updated 5/20/08


There are many different methods that are used for measuring a foot; one method that has been used for years is called the Brannock Device. In this method you measure three dimensions of the foot: (1) heel to the ball (HB) of the foot, (2) heel to the tip of the toes (HT), and (3) width. Simpler methods that can be helpful when fitting shoes is to find a pair of shoes that closely mimics the shape of your foot and your arch and also allow a finger tip's length of room from the tip of your big toe to the front of your shoe. (This answer provided for NATA by the Saint Louis University Athletic Training Education Program.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.