Are You Wearing the Right Shoe Size?

Woman tries on a shoe in stores
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Wearing ill-fitting shoes is more common than you may think. Spending the day in a pair of too small (or too big) shoes just for the sake of looking good might seem like a minor infraction, but it can result in serious foot problems. If you've recently experienced foot pain from your shoes, you should explore whether your shoes fit you correctly.

Poor Shoe Fit Is Common

Several studies have found that only about a quarter of people are wearing shoes of the right length and width. This is especially alarming when the studies were looking at elderly patients who may be at risk from falls when their shoes have a sloppy fit and people with diabetes who are at greater risk of diabetic foot ulcers from pressure and rubbing their shoes.

A 2017 study looked at older people with a history of lesions such as corns and calluses that indicate their feet are experiencing rubbing and pressure from their footwear. They found that only 14 percent were wearing the right shoes and 37 percent had evidence of neuropathy. The study cited ​research from 2007 of people with diabetes. Only 24 percent of the subjects in the earlier study had properly-fitting shoes when sitting. Even worse, only 20 percent had properly-fitting shoes when standing. The majority of the participants with improperly-fitting shoes were wearing shoes that were too narrow.

A 2010 study of people aged 60 to 90 found almost half of the women and over 69 percent of the men were wearing shoes that were too long for their foot length.

The Importance of Shoes That Fit

Wearing shoes that fit is not as easy as it sounds, as evidenced by these studies. These findings are particularly important for people with diabetes. One of the most common diabetes complications is neuropathy or nerve damage. Diabetic neuropathy tends to affect the parts of the body that are furthest away from the brain and spinal cord.

It isn't uncommon for a person with diabetes to experience a burning sensation, numbness or a loss of feeling in the toes and feet, which can eventually lead to ulceration or infection. Unfortunately, there aren't many effective medications that can reverse nerve damage, so it's even more important for people with diabetes to wear shoes that fit.​

Why Your Shoe Size Changes

It is natural for your shoe size to change as you age. Your tendons relax and your feet naturally spread. Women's feet are affected by hormones during pregnancy, which often results in an increase in shoe size. Your feet may swell if you have a condition or medications that make you retain water.

Even in young people, your feet swell slightly by the end of the day. They also swell when you engage in an upright activity such as walking, running, or playing sports. While your shoes may fit right in the morning or before your workout, they may be too tight later.

If you aren't sure whether your shoes fit properly, go to a shoe store and get sized by a professional. It's recommended that you measure your feet at least once or twice per year. It's smart to get measured any time you buy new shoes.

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