Finding Good Footwear

Topic Overview

The following tips on good footwear may prevent toe, foot, or ankle problems or injuries.

  • Have your feet measured regularly. The size of your feet may change as you grow older.
  • Have both feet measured. Often one foot is larger than the other. The shoes should be fitted to the larger foot.
  • Don't choose shoes based on the size marked inside. Sizes vary among shoe brands and styles. Pick shoes by how they fit your feet.
  • Choose a shoe that conforms as nearly as possible to the shape of your forefoot (the front, widest part of your foot).
  • Look for roomy footwear that has a wide toe box with more room for your toes and the ball of your foot. You should be able to wiggle your toes in your shoes.
  • Make sure your heel fits comfortably in the shoe with a minimum amount of slipping (pistoning).
  • Avoid high-heeled, narrow, and pointed-toe shoes if you can. High-heeled shoes increase pressure on the front of the foot. If you cannot avoid wearing pumps or high-heeled shoes, look for a pair that gives your toes more room.
    • Choose shoes with heels that are no more than 2 in. (5 cm) high.
    • Alternate these shoes with flat, roomy shoes to give your toes a chance to move freely.
  • Look for shoes made of materials that "give" or stretch. They will be the most comfortable for your toes and feet.
  • Look for shoes that do not have seams. This will prevent rubbing or irritation of the skin.
  • Consider laced shoes that have a wide, roomy toe box that will give your toes plenty of room to spread out. Athletic shoes are a good choice. High-top laced shoes may give foot and ankle support.
  • Consider sandals, soft leather flat shoes, slippers, or inexpensive cloth shoes for at-home wear. If you have an enlarged toe joint, cut a hole in the cloth shoes.
  • Plan to buy your shoes at the end of the day when your feet are most swollen. Foot size may vary half a size from the morning to the evening or after a day at work. And wear the type of socks that you will most often wear with the shoes to be sure they fit.
  • Stand during the fitting process because the foot gets longer when you stand. There should be one finger's width [about 0.5 in. (13 mm)] between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. For the most comfort, the shoe should not be more than 0.25 in. (6 mm) narrower than the width of your foot when you are standing.
  • Walk around the shoe store to make sure that the fit feels right in both shoes.


Current as of: November 16, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine
Gavin W.G. Chalmers DPM - Podiatry and Podiatric Surgery

Finding Good Footwear