I review barefoot shoes for a living. So how do I determine if they fit well? Especially if you’re new to naturally shaped shoes, you might be unsure about this. Here are my 3 checkpoints.
First is length. Shoes should be long enough that your toes don’t run into the front, but not so long that the shoe is flopping and tripping you up. The sweet spot is often 1-1.5cm of extra length, but there’s no hard rule here. It comes down to how you feel in them.
Above Samantha is modeling 3 different sizes of sneakers.
- She knows the first is too small because when she steps her toes run into the front and sides.
- The second shoe is so long that she has to grip her toes or risk dragging the shoe on the ground.
- The third shoe has just enough space in front to allow for natural foot motion while walking.
Visuals helps, but remember that this comes down to how your foot feels inside the shoe. And it can sometimes vary by the type of shoe. For example:
- In sandals you don’t need as much extra length because the front and back are open. And sometimes the extra length here can trip you up. I am often a half or whole size smaller in sandals for this reason.
- In flats, loafers, & slip ons I like them to fit a little bit shorter than lace up shoes so they are secure, similar to sandals.
- In boots I usually factor in more extra length than usual so I can wear warm socks. My boots are often one size bigger than my usual shoe size.
Measuring Your Feet
If ordering online, you can try to minimize sizing errors by measuring your feet and factoring in the length you need. You can find detailed instructions for how to do that here!
Width & Shape
Second, I check width & shape. Does my foot have enough space to lay flat, the way it would if I were barefoot?
Above you can see three different shoes on me.
- I can tell the first shoe is too narrow and tapered for me by comparing it with my bare foot (and because my toes feel cramped!).
- The second shoe is too wide and feels floppy.
- The 3rd fits just right! No squished toes, but not too much extra width.
Like with length, there are no hard and fast rules. If your shoes seems to have a lot of extra space, but you feel great in them and can move without any issue then there’s no problem.
This fit rule is why barefoot shoes are my jam! Most “regular” shoes unfortunately don’t have a natural shape to them so don’t fit well – but here we take shaped & width seriously. Find a variety of options in different shapes and widths below:
Finally I check the security of the shoe. It should be securely attached to my foot so that when I move, the shoe comes with me. If I have to grip the shoe with my toes so I don’t walk out of it, that’s a sign it’s not a good fit.
This often comes down to the volume of your foot, so different people will fit best into different shoes. But it also varies by style – lace up shoes are much more adjustable and can be laced to fit securely. That’s why a sneaker is often a safe first barefoot shoe choice!
You can browse for options in different volumes here:
Sometimes I can solve fit issues with a few hacks. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Tongue Pads – These little gems have saved many a shoe for me. You stick them on the underside of the shoe upper to fill in extra space above your foot, which can keep you from sloshing around in your shoes.
- Heel Grips – If the back if your shoe is irritating you, or it doesn’t quite stay on your heel enough these can go a long way to increase your comfort.
- Socks – This might seem obvious, but socks can make too loose shoes fit better! And if you want to preserve your toe space, choose stirrup (toe & heel-less) socks.
- Spot Stretching – If you’ve got specific areas in your shoe that are just a little tight, you can strategically stretch only that area. I like to do this by pushing a small ball right in the spot that needs to loosen and then filling the rest up with tissue/papertowels to hold it in place.
My rule of thumb is that if things are just a little off, then fit hacks can make a world of difference. But if the shoes are really uncomfortable and ill-fitting, it might not be worth it and they should go back. If you want to explore more ways to improve the fit of your shoes, check these out.
My Fit Hacks For:
- Narrow Heels
- Low Volume Feet (too much space above foot)
- High Volume Feet (too tight above foot)
I wear shoes that fit securely, without flopping or sliding around, but that still leave enough space for my feet to move naturally. Oftentimes, this leads me to barefoot shoes – it’s hard to find options that respect my natural foot shape elsewhere. But there are also cushioned options with a wide toe box!
If you want to explore shoes that actually fit you’re in the right place. Simply head to my homepage to get started!
8 thoughts on “How Do I Know If My Shoes Fit?”
Of course you write this two days after my new shoes came, haha. I’m right in between sizes and have been stuck with shoes that have either been too big for me (like my Birkenstocks) or too small (like my Red Wings). I just got the Bohempia low top tennies from you and I said screw it, I’m keeping both and will just resell in my area if one ends up feeling off. Of course I went with the smaller size first and on the second day of wearing them I suspect they’re sliiiiiightly too small, mainly feeling it at the prominent point just behind my pinky toe and a little cramped across that part of my foot. Oh well! I’ll just get some of those heel pads for the bigger pair. I feel like I should be better at this at 37 years of age, but it’s always such a headache (and I measured my feet numerous times, also a learning process).
I was in my upper 30s before I realized I had a pinkie toe bunion- I went into a barefoot-friendly store and the store owner pointed it out! I then realized that some of my middle toes were beginning to cross over each other. I have never had foot pain, so it makes me realize that we can wear shoes without knowing they are damaging our feet. I can definitely tell there isn’t enough room when I wear CorrectToes because my feet hurt on the edges.
Have you considered socks with the individual pocket for each toe (like Injinji)? I believe those do a fairly good job of separating the toes.
Look at the excellent toebox width of those red shoes that Samantha is modelling. Those shoes are the BeLenka City. I wish there was a place in the U.S. (ahem…Anya’s Shop?) that I could order a canvas version of that shoe model.
There is a picture of brown shoes under the term security. The shoe that fits well, green check mark. What are those? Very cute. I want to find them. 😀
They are the Vivobarefoot Opanka! Not available in this brown color currently though.
BTW, I think I mis-spoke when I said “red shoes”. The shoe I’m talking about is clearly depicted here as some shade of purple (plum, etc). The canvas BeLenka City only comes in Sand (I believe), which is what I want to order from a USA retailer (if I could find one that has it).
It is the City in Plum which unfortunately isn’t being produced anymore. We carried them in our shop 2 years ago. I just checked Be Lenka’s website and you can still find them in a size 36 & 37 if you happen to be that size.