If the Shoe Fits
“All it takes is the right pair of shoes.” ― Cinderella. While your happy ending with shoes might not be as magical as hers, your foot health will benefit greatly from the right pair of shoes. What exactly are your perfect pair? Well, for starters, they should be way more comfortable than a glass slipper. Secondly, you shouldn’t slip them on barefoot—make sure you wear the appropriate type of socks to cushion and protect your feet.
Follow these tips to ensure your socks and shoes fit properly and to prevent foot problems instead of cause them:
- Consider all of your options before purchasing a pair of socks: Do your feet get cold easily? Choose thermal socks. Do your feet get clammy, sweaty, and hot? Choose breathable fabrics that offer some sort of moisture control. Do you have diabetes, circulatory problems, or will you be standing for a long period of time? Special diabetic socks or compression socks will keep you protected.
- When choosing the proper material, make sure you know the difference between each. For more on athletic sock materials, check out these Sport Sock Material Types. For the difference between different dress socks, fashion socks, and hosiery fabrics, see Dress Sock Types.
Size & Fit:
- Although most people don’t find it that important, sock size does matter. Socks are more than “one size fits all,” so pay attention to the dimensions offered.
- The sizing of socks is often based on a similar shoe size range: most categories of sock sizes span a couple of shoe sizes, because a sock can stretch unlike the standard shoe.
- If your foot is very thin or narrow, it might be best to go down a size to ensure you’re not wearing a sock way that’s too big and bulky.
- At no time should sock squeeze your toes or feel too tight around your ankles or legs: this can create circulatory problems and other foot issues.
- Look for special sock features you might need, such as padding (for cushioning and protection), arch reinforcements (for improved support), height (based on personal or style preference), and fit (if a sock is too big, it might bunch in the toes and cause unhealthy toe-cramming; a sock too small will slide off down your foot and feel tight).
- Make sure your sock matches your occasion: they make all the difference between having a stellar time and seriously sore feet. For sports and other activities, visit our extensive section on Athletic Socks and find out which socks to choose by sport. For fashionable and dressy occasions, visit our guide to Fashion & Dress Socks. For medical purposes, visit our Medical Socks resource and our special section on Diabetes and Feet.
- For lounging around the house, it’s best to wear loose-fitting slouch socks or slipper socks (or go occasionally barefoot!) to let your feet breathe.
- Wear the socks or tights that you would normally wear with the type of shoes you’re trying on (so wear athletic socks and not dress socks while trying on sneakers!). The way your shoe fits will be greatly affected by the thickness of the sock’s material.
Size & Measurement:
- Don’t buy shoes based on the size marked inside: try them on and make sure the shoe fits your foot. Size doesn’t matter, perfect fit does!
- Measure feet before trying on a pair of shoes, or at least once or twice a year. Shoe sizes can change as you get older, so make sure to double check just in case.
- Doctors recommend you try on shoes later in the day when the feet are the largest—that way you don’t buy shoes that are too tight!
- Choose a shoe that is shaped similarly to your feet: if they have outrageous angles or skyscraper heels, chances are they’re going to make your feet hurt. Lower, cushioned heels are safer and less damaging.
- Shoes can vary depending on their material, brand, and type (so your nice shoes won’t fit the same as your tennis shoes). Always make sure to try your shoes on and walk around in them first.
- Did you know that most of us have one foot that’s larger than the other? Walk with both shoes on, and make sure they fit both feet, even if it means going up a half or full size for the larger foot.
- Make sure to stand up and walk around in your shoes to make sure they don’t slide up and down on your heel (rubbing is a no no) when you walk, and make sure the ball of your foot feels fits nicely into the widest part of the shoe (no squeezing).
- While standing, there should be about three-eighths to a half-inch of wiggle room between your big toe and the tip of your shoe.
- A quick scenario: You are in love with this pair of shoes—the style, the color, how they complete your look. Only snag? They’re a size too small. Take note: Don’t buy shoes that are too tight and hope that they’ll stretch. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
- Soles should not slip on any type of surface, and they should be a substantial thickness to cushion your feet on hard surfaces.
- The top of your shoes should be made of soft, flexible material that contours the shape of your foot.
- Make sure you rotate your shoes frequently to prevent them from wear and tear. Once shoes get worn down, foot discomfort and pain are soon to follow. Check out our Foot Conditions & Prevention section to learn more about discomfort and pain. Wearing the proper-fitting shoes will help with prevention!
- Children’s feet are constantly growing, so make sure to measure their feet and change their shoes frequently. For more information on kids’ shoes and children’s foot health, click here.
Ever wondered what the worst shoes are for your feet? Which shoe you should wear for what sport? Or the history of shoes? Check out these awesome resources and tip sheets to meet all of your footwear needs:
- The Worst Shoes for Your Feet: “Heels, flats, flip-flops…some of the trendiest shoes can be the riskiest.”
- A History of Shoes: “Minimalist Running Shoes Bring us Back to Our Barefoot Roots”
- The Most Expensive Shoes In America: A guide to the most expensive shoes across the nation.
For more footwear advice on the season’s latest trends for women, check out our section on Fashion Sock & Shoe Trends.
For a complete guide to the season’s fashion from head to toe, visit this Fashion A to Z Guide.