A man or boy can get by with dress shoes fitting improperly unless he will be spending a lot of time walking or standing in front of an audience, but when physical activity is involved over extended periods, properly fitting shoes are critical. This article will investigate some of the often overlooked features involved in correct fitting for athletic or casual shoes. The same concepts apply to all shoes, but the urgency is significantly less when extreme activity is not involved. Fitting shoes is a psychological mystery, so the closer you can get to the science, the better your sporting life will fare.
Arrange to get your feet measured accurately using an industry-standard fitting device. You’ve seen them in all shoe stores. You can measure both the length and width. If you have never used one, spend some time experimenting in a self-serve shoe store. If you are less adventuresome, go to a higher end shoe store and watch closely while the salesperson fits you. It’s probably worth the price of a pair of shoes to have a really competent, highly experienced salesperson spend some time answering your questions, sharing his knowledge and advising you on the best fit. But this is only a starting point: Fitting shoes properly can only occur on a shoe by shoe basis.
Measure your feet alone (by yourself) until you become very comfortable doing it. Also, measure with your foot in different positions, and measure both feet. Bounce up slightly with losing contact and place your weight on the ball of your foot, then your heel, then the toes, as if you were jumping. Lean forward, lean backward. You’ll be surprised that your shoe size changes dramatically between positions. A salesman won’t appreciate this exercise, but it’s worth doing at some point on your own.
Invest the time it takes to try on a lot of different pairs of shoes and really compare how each feels on you. Most people make their decisions about shoes from how they look on display, then reinforce their preferences intellectually rather than based on how they feel. Your decision on a pair of shoes should rely far more on how they fit and feel than any other factor, including look and price.
Reflect on all the shoes you have owned for as long as you can recall. Remember when your feet hurt you or caused a blister to form. Think about the shoes you have owned that always felt good. Be realistic about the shoes you were wearing when you performed at your best for endurance, spring, speed and quickness. Perhaps the shoes that worked best for you have slipped through your memory entirely because you never thought about them—probably a sign they fit you really well.
Try shoes on that are too long and too wide. Also try shoes that fit too snugly both in length and width. Try the size above and below for shoes that you really like. Most people don’t allow enough room for their toes to expand. There is a very wide range between a size that is too large and a size that is so small that it causes hammer toe—a condition where your toes default to a curled, gnarled appearance when you are barefooted. Hammer toe occurs much faster than you think. One season in athletic shoes that feel really good to you because you can move so well laterally yet are a bit too small can result in a case of hammer toe. If your toes ever ache or reach the end of the shoe, they are too small.
Change your way of thinking about your shoe size. Many people bury ideas inside their minds that their feet are too big or too wide, and then spend the rest of their lives wearing the wrong size, even suffering pain that is never blamed on the shoes. There is a huge temptation to purchase nice shoes for low prices from stores that only stock medium-width shoes. If you have a narrow foot, the chances of finding the right shoe in a this store is so small you would do better never to bother to look there. One key oversight among men is to buy a longer, narrower shoe. Hiking or even just walking for long distances is a good example of where you need some extra length for the toes. In this case you can’t risk the shoe moving up and down on your heel or the side of your foot, which will cause blisters.
Allow time to test a pair of shoes thoroughly before you decide to use them regularly or in a competitive event. You might be surprised at how many shoe stores will allow you to return a pair of shoes anytime if they don’t suit you. The department store Nordstrom will let you return a pair of shoes for cash after they are completely worn out (but don’t try this more than once; they keep records). But your purpose is to get the right fit, so return them as soon as you decide they won’t work, though it is much preferred to buy the right size from the start. If you don’t purchase shoes from a store such as this, be prepared to occasionally have to retire or give away a pair of fairly new shoes.
Pay attention to the foot sizing factors that extend beyond length and width. I bought one pair of shoes that wore a two-inch sore into the side of my foot before I could get home to change them. I ended up breaking these shoes in gradually over a long period of time wearing them only for brief periods with heavy socks. The top of your foot, your heel, the sides of your feet and toes and the arch are all very important to good foot health and overall body comfort and performance. There is no reason for your feet to ever hurt or cause you pain from the shoes you are wearing.
Buy your shoes together with your socks. Decide on your hosiery before or while shopping for shoes. Acquiring the right sock wardrobe is another often overlooked factor that will haunt you forever if not addressed sufficiently. This means you might need different shoes for different seasons as well as activities. Use only natural fiber cotton or wool socks for all marginally strenuous activities.