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How to Buy a Shoe

We can already hear you complaining a bit about the title of this blog.

“Who do you think you are! I’ve been buying shoes my entire life! Who doesn’t know how to buy a shoe!?”

Okay, okay, fair enough. Everybody knows how to buy a shoe.

But do you know how to buy a good shoe? You know, one that won’t:

  • Give you calluses or blisters
  • Leave your feet aching and sore at the end of the workday
  • Pinch your toes
  • Increase your long-term risk of bunions or hammertoes

That’s a little trickier. Because the truth is, a lot of us aren’t very good at buying good shoes. In fact, a staggering percentage of Americans are wearing shoes that are too small, too big, not right for their activities, or just plain bad.

If you want to buy a good shoe, you’re going to have to be a little bit more careful and discerning than “that one looks cute!”

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your shoe shopping from a foot health perspective. (We’ll leave any questions about style and taste up to you!)

How to Buy a Shoe

Shop in Person

The wonders of the Internet age have made online shopping ultra-convenient for just about any item you’d need, from a brand new phone or computer to a box of sticky notes or paper clips.

Shoes, however, are one item you’re still going to want to buy from a brick-and-mortar establishment. While online retailers are probably going to have more variety, there’s no substitute for being able to actually put the shoes on your feet and walk around in them.

Unfortunately, sizes aren’t always exactly the same for each shoe model or brand—or even two pairs of the same type. Even if you think you know your size, wearing the shoes in person and walking around in them can help ensure that you walk out with a proper fit.

Speaking of knowing your size …

Measure Every Time

Those shoe measuring tools aren’t there just for show. Every time you shop, you should measure both of your feet first. Yes, both.

For starters, your feet are not the same size and shape. We guarantee that one is at least a little bit larger than the other. For most people, the difference is close to negligible, but a difference of half a shoe size is not really that uncommon. (If your feet are different sizes, you don’t need to buy two sets of shoes—just fit to the larger foot.)

Two, your feet won’t necessarily stay the same size forever just because you’re an adult. In fact, feet do tend to slightly flatten, widen, and even lengthen a bit with age.

Lastly, remember that it’s not just the “number” of the size that you need to care about. Width matters too. Unfortunately, many shoe stores might only carry a given shoe in one or two width options, regardless of size. If you have particularly wide or narrow feet, you might not have many options.

If you can’t find a shoe store that carries options in your width, you might need to forget what we just told you and buy your shoes online—although you can still go to the store first to measure your feet, pick a style you like, and figure out the length you need before ordering the appropriate width.

Go Toward the End of the Day—or At Least After You’ve Been Walking for a While

Why does time of day or amount of activity matter?

Well, at the end of a long, active day, your feet will tend to swell a little bit—not necessarily a ton, but enough to make a difference.

If you do your shoe shopping when your feet are already a little enlarged, you’ll know that your shoes will still fit even at the end of a long, active day. On the other hand, if you fit your shoes first thing in the morning, they might start feeling pretty tight by dinner time.

Wear the Right Socks

The logic here is similar to “go shoe shopping at the end of the day.”

When fitting any shoe, make sure to wear the same type of socks you intend to wear with the shoe—not just whatever happen to be on your feet that day. (If you wear socks of varying thicknesses, choose the thickest pair you expect to use regularly with the shoes.)

Again, this is to ensure that the shoes will still fit properly in typical, real life circumstances.

Leave a Little Wiggle Space

So, we’ve talked a lot about when and how to fit, but how can you actually tell when the shoe is really the right size. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • You should leave around half an inch of space between the end of your longest toe (typically the first or second) and the front of the shoe. Toes should be able to wiggle fairly freely up and down and side to side.
  • As for width, the shoe should be snug but not tight, with a nice firm grip on the heel. You shouldn’t feel pinched, but the shoe shouldn’t be sliding around on your foot, either.
  • Shoes should be comfortable to stand and walk in from the moment you put them on, without needing to “break them in.”

Make Sure Your Shoe Is Activity-Appropriate

In a typical shoe store you can buy walking shoes, running shoes, basketball shoes, hiking boots, cross-trainers … you get the idea. These categories aren’t just casual style suggestions.

True, if you’re just looking for a comfortable everyday shoe, a basic casual or walking shoe is likely going to do the trick just fine. On the other hand, if you’re planning on wearing your shoes for specific sports or activities, you absolutely need to look for shoes made for that purpose.

There are reasons, for example, why basketball shoes are heavier, more cushioned, and higher-collared than, say, running shoes. Basketball shoes have to protect your feet and ankles from damage and injury as you jump, land, and pivot. Runners, by contrast, benefit from shoes that are lighter and more flexible.

A couple of side notes about specific footwear types we know you’re going to be asking about:

  • Sandals. Flat, flimsy flip-flops are a no go. Instead, look for sandals with more natural cushioning and arch support, as well as adjustable ankle straps. That way, the sandals support and stay on your feet.
  • Heels. If you absolutely must wear high heels, remember these simple rules. One, keep it under two inches. Two, the chunkier the better. Three, the less you have to wear them, the better.

Don’t Wait Too Long

We’re guilty of this one sometimes, too.

A lot of people hang on to their old pair of shoes up to (or past) the point where a quick glance (or sniff) would reveal that they’re well past their prime.

But even if you take immaculate care of your shoes, you can’t always tell at a glance when a shoe is worn out. You might keep them clean and free from obvious external wear, but if the cushioned midsoles have become compressed, your shoe isn’t going to give you the arch support you need anymore.

A typical walking or running shoe will wear out its impact protection after logging 300-500 miles (big range, we know), depending on the initial build quality, your weight, your gait, etc.

So, now you know how to buy shoes like a pro! We hope you’ll put your new skills to good use and start replacing some of those blown-out sneakers and sky-high stilettos in your closet with sensible and comfortable footwear.

As always, if your feet are hurting for any reason, make sure you call the Absolute Foot Care Specialists. We can do so much more than help you pick out a new pair of shoes. Our care options for foot injuries and pain include some of the most cutting-edge procedures and technologies available, including extracorporeal pulse activation treatment.

You can book an appointment directly online using the button at the top of this website, or give us a call at (702) 839-2010.

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