Nine Steps to Finding the Perfect Shoe

About 75 percent of the nearly 800,000 surgeries performed for bunions and the other most common foot problems are caused by poorly fitting shoes, according to the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society.

Consumers can prevent painful feet by simply buying shoes that fit. Ron Harris, director of product logistics at Munro & Company, offers the following tips.

  1. Start by having both feet measured. Some people’s feet change sizes as they age, have children, gain or lose weight, or change physical activities.
  2. Because most people have one foot larger than the other, be sure you pick a shoe that fits your larger foot comfortably. You can always add an insert or pad to the shoe for the smaller foot.
    Shoe sizes are not universally standardized. “Different brands and different styles within a brand will fit differently,” Harris says. “A shoe labeled 8 ½ may fit like an 8 or may fit like a 9.” The half-size of a shoe is only one-sixth of an inch.
  3. Even with a company like Munro that makes 75 different sizes per style to ensure the right fit, the same woman may wear different sizes in different styles because of the shape of her foot.
    “Most of our customers can wear all of our shoes in the same size, but not all of our customers can,” Harris says. If someone has a high instep, for example, she may have to wear a different size for a low-cut pump than she would for a boot.
  4. Select shoes that conform to the shape of your foot. You can still wear a pump that fits comfortably, as long as you don’t try to squeeze your toes into the point. The widest part of your foot should fit into the widest part of the shoe. “You’re going to have to have some room at the end.”
  5. That half-inch space between the end of your toes and the shoe isn’t just for kids. Harris says everyone should have up to half an inch between their longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  6. Slippage is good—just not too much. As we walk, our feet have to have room to bend within the shoes. If you don’t have enough room, you’ll get blisters or “pump bumps,” calcium deposits caused from chronic irritation or rubbing. “If you cannot pull your heel out of a shoe while standing, the shoe is probably too short or narrow.”
  7. The shoe should feel comfortable when you walk around the store. If it hurts in the store, it’ll hurt when you wear it.
  8. Try to recreate the conditions under which you’ll be wearing the shoes. If you’re the kind of person who is on your feet all day, your feet swell as the day goes on. So it’s best to try on shoes in the evening.
  9. If you wear orthotics, take them with you for your fitting. “The slightest difference from the insert or insole can have a drastic effect on the fit of your shoes,” he says. Orthotics affect the size and fit of a shoe, so if you buy shoes without seeing how they fit with the orthotics, “it could completely defeat the purpose of the orthotics.”
  10. Try on shoes with the same type or weight of socks you’ll be wearing with the shoe. For example, don’t wear trouser socks to try on dress shoes if you’ll be wearing the shoes with nylons. And don’t wear nylons to try on athletic shoes. “They need to fit in the same environment in which you need the shoes,” he says.

And to get the most life out of your shoes, Harris advises never to never wear the same shoes two days in a row, so they can dry out naturally.