Are You Wearing the Right Shoe Size?

Does the Shoe Really Fit?

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We've all had a pair of shoes we've worn at some point in our lives that were either too small of too big. 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 wearing ill-fitting shoes can result in serious foot problems.

If you've recently experienced foot pain from your shoes, read on. The three following studies all sought to answer the same question: Does the shoe fit?

Small Shoes, Major Pain

A study published in a 2002 issue Postgrad Medical Journal examined 65 people with an average age of 82 in a general rehabilitation ward. Researchers measured the lengths and widths of participants' feet and compared those figures to the participants' reported shoe sizes. They found that 72 percent of participants were not wearing the right shoe size. Researchers also found a correlation between incorrect shoe size and an increased risk of self-reported pain and ulceration, or open sores on the skin.

Another study published in 2006 in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association looked at a group of 440 United States Veterans. Researchers measured the lengths and widths of the participants' feet and found that only 25.5 percent of those measured were wearing the right shoe size. 74.5 percent were not wearing properly-fitting shoes, which echo the results of the aforementioned study.

 Shoes that did not fit properly were defined as shoes that were either one size too small or one size too large when compared to the foot measurements. Researchers also found that participants with diabetic foot ulcerations were 5.1 times more likely to be wearing poorly-fitting shoes than patients without ulcerations.

A third study that was published in a 2007 issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice studied 100 people with an average age of 62, all of whom had diabetes. Researchers compared the lengths and widths of participants' feet to the lengths and width of their shoes while standing and sitting. Poorly-fitting shoes are defined as shoes that are half a size too short or too long and more than one width size narrower or wider than the participants' foot.

Only 24 percent of research participants had proper-fitting shoes while sitting; a mere 20 percent had proper-fitting shoes when standing, which is because the feet tend to spread out upon standing. The majority of the participants with improperly-fitting shoes were wearing shoes that were too narrow.

The Importance of Shoes That Fit

Wearing shoes that fit is not as easy as it sounds, as evidenced by these three studies. These studies may have examined a relatively small pool of participants, but there's something to be said for their shared finding: that approximately 75 percent of those studied were not wearing shoes that fit.

These findings are particularly important for diabetics. 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 diabetic 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. 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, or you could also get measure anytime you buy new shoes.


Burns SL, Leese GP, McMurdo ME. Older people and ill fitting shoes. Postgrad Med J. 2002 Jun;78(920):344-6.

Harrison SJ, Cochrane L, Abboud RJ, Leese GP. Do patients with diabetes wear shoes of the correct size? Int J Clin Pract. 2007 Nov;61(11):1900-4.

Nixon BP, Armstrong DG, Wendell C, Vazquez JR, Rabinovich Z, Kimbriel HR, Rosales MA, Boulton AJ. Do US veterans wear appropriately sized Shoes?: the Veterans Affairs shoe size selection study. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2006 Jul-Aug;96(4):290-2.

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