How Much Space Do You Have in Shoes?

If you frequently suffer from ingrown toenails, bunions, or other foot-related problems, ill-fitting shoes might be the culprit. Shoes that are too big, too small, or don’t properly accommodate the width of your feet can lead to significant discomfort and pain. This discomfort can extend beyond your feet, affecting your ankles, knees, and even your back. Therefore, wearing shoes that fit correctly is essential for maintaining foot health and overall comfort.

How can you find the right shoes?

Shoes play various roles such as protecting our feet, providing cushioning, and offering comfort and style. Ensuring proper fit is essential for maintaining foot health and avoiding issues like bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, and stress fractures.

Consider these tips from Foot and Ankle Orthopaedic Surgeons for selecting the right shoes:

  1. Get your feet measured regularly, as foot size and shape can change.
  2. Fit shoes to your larger foot.
  3. Measure your feet at day’s end when they’re at their largest.
  4. Don’t rely solely on shoe size; consider the brand as well.
  5. Ensure the shoe shape matches your foot shape.
  6. Don’t expect shoes to stretch over time.
  7. Check shoe width for a comfortable fit at the ball of your foot.
  8. Ensure the shoe has sufficient depth for your toes.
  9. Leave 3/8″ or 1/2″ space between your longest toe and the shoe’s end.
  10. Always test shoes by walking in them.

Additional Tips:

  1. Choose shoes according to your activity.
  2. Look for well-constructed shoes with cushioned heels, firm soles, proper flexibility, soft and breathable materials, laces or straps, and suitable arch support.
  3. Opt for high-quality off-the-shelf orthotics if necessary, or consult a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon for custom orthotics for specific foot issues.

How to tell if shoes are too big or too small

Determining if shoes are too big or too small can be done by checking the space in the toe area. Ideally, there should be about a finger’s width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.

You can also assess the fit by slipping a finger between your foot’s heel and the shoe’s heel. Your finger should fit snugly in this space. If your finger slides in easily with extra room, consider going down half a size. If it’s a tight squeeze, try going up half a size.

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Consider to choose a well-fitting shoes not only help to protect your feet nut also prevent the shoes making noise when walking.

How much room do you have in Shoes for Children?

Scientific Studies

Klein et al. conducted a study investigating the connection between insufficient footwear length and hallux angle in preschool children in Austria. The study included 858 preschoolers, with concerning results showing that only 23.9% of children had a perfectly straight great toe position, 22.8% wore appropriately fitting outdoor shoes, and a mere 9.4% had properly fitting indoor shoes. A properly fitting shoe was considered to be 10-12 mm longer than the child’s foot. The study established a clear correlation between shorter shoes and increased hallux valgus angles.

Kinz et al. carried out a similar study examining children’s feet and shoes in Finland. They aimed to determine if children wore properly fitting shoes, concluding that shoes were often mislabeled. They recommended measuring both the child’s foot length and the shoe’s inside length to ensure a 10-12 mm gap. In a more recent study by Dr. Kinz and colleagues, the impact of too-short shoes on hallux angles was examined among preschool-aged children in Japan, involving 620 participants. The findings were alarming, with only 12.3% of children having straight big toe positions, 75.5% wearing outdoor shoes with insufficient length (and 84.6% for indoor shoes). This study reaffirmed previous findings, demonstrating that shorter shoes lead to greater hallux angles.

A significant study by Barisch-Fritz et al. in 2016 examined toe allowance for developing feet, involving 2554 children aged 6-16 years during standing and walking. Toe allowance was assessed considering foot extension (the difference between static and dynamic weight-bearing), walking advance (the movement of the most anterior points of toes), and growth rate (semi-annual foot growth).

The study concluded that toe allowance is influenced by gender and foot length. The 90th percentile of toe allowance was 9.8 mm for females and 11.5 mm for males, including growth rate, which accounted for the main differences between genders. The 90th percentile of semi-annual growth rate ranged from 3.1 to 5.6 mm, depending on age and gender.

These measurements were taken with children barefoot, and the study emphasized the importance of understanding that toe allowance in shoes depends on the overall fit of the shoes.

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What does it mean?

Dr. Kinz suggests that the optimal space inside a shoe is 12 mm (with a lower limit of 10 mm), which is a guideline to follow when choosing footwear. However, if you find yourself between two sizes, a slightly smaller space (around 2-3 mm less) may be sufficient if the following conditions are met:

  1. You wear the shoes without socks.
  2. The toe box shape aligns exceptionally well with your foot shape.
  3. The shoes have a spacious toe box with ample room for the big toe.
  4. The shoes are securely fastened around the heel, preventing foot sliding.
  5. There is sufficient space above the toes.
  6. Your heel fits well in the heel section without losing extra space.
  7. Your foot has a narrow shape with a steeper slope towards the pinky toe.
  8. The shoes are made of an extremely soft, sock-like material.
  9. You wear sandals (not closed-toe) – in this case, choose 7-10 mm to avoid tripping.

Various factors can impact the fit of a shoe, including its width and shape, how well it matches the foot’s shape, the degree of foot stretching during walking, whether socks are worn, foot stability within the shoe, heel fit, and space above the toes.

It’s important to note that the longest part of a barefoot shoe typically falls between the big toe and second toe. Consequently, the space in front of your toes might be slightly less than the measured allowance. The exact difference depends on the shoe’s shape (steepness of the toe slope) and the individual’s foot shape.

When should you choose more than 12 mm of space inside the shoe?

  1. Winter boots worn with thicker socks.
  2. Shoes with insoles that may reduce available space.
  3. When you are between sizes.
  4. If you need more space in the toe box area (e.g., more width or a non-ideal toe box shape) and can walk comfortably with the extra space.
  5. Hiking boots, as the foot may slide forward slightly when walking downhill in some shoes.
  6. For children whose feet are still growing.

Where is the limit?

Dr. Kinz suggests that 17 mm is too big, under 10 mm is too small, and 12 mm is optimal. However, there is no research on how these sizes impact feet and gait. Remember, the 12 mm guideline is only for closed shoes. For winter shoes with thick socks, add a few extra millimeters, and for open sandals, aim for 7-10 mm of additional space.

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For kids with growing feet

Purchase shoes with room to grow (e.g., 15 mm) and replace them when only 10 mm of space remains. Regularly monitor foot growth.

If a child stumbles in appropriately sized shoes, look for a more suitable model. The issue may be due to protective rubber at the front or a mismatch between foot and shoe dimensions, volume, or shape. In such cases, it may be necessary to compensate with less space in front of the toes, but finding a better-suited model is preferable.

Always check the space in front of your child’s toes with your finger when trying on shoes. If they struggle to walk with too much extra space, opt for less room and change shoes more frequently.

Q&A about How Much Space Do You Have in Shoes?

Is it OK to wear shoes 1 size too big?

Wearing shoes 1 size too big is generally not recommended, as it can cause discomfort, blisters, and an improper gait due to foot sliding inside the shoe. In some cases, such as wearing thicker socks or using insoles, a slightly bigger size might work, but it’s best to choose the correct size for optimal support and comfort.

Is it better for shoes to be tight or loose?

It’s better for shoes to be neither too tight nor too loose. Tight shoes can cause discomfort, blisters, and long-term foot issues, while loose shoes can lead to improper gait, lack of support, and injuries. The ideal fit should provide a snug yet comfortable fit, allowing some space for toe movement.

Is it better to size up or down in shoes?

When choosing between sizing up or down in shoes, consider the specific circumstances. If you’re in between sizes, consider the type of socks you’ll wear, the shoe’s material, and your personal preferences. Generally, it’s better to size up to allow for foot swelling and avoid discomfort, but make sure the shoe still fits securely without slipping or causing blisters. Always prioritize comfort and proper support over simply choosing a larger or smaller size.


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Olivia Cox
Hi, This is Olivia. I am the owner of F5Active - a refreshing blog with the unlimited power of positivity. I hope to share with readers my point of view, life experiences, adventures, and more. Apart from being informative, my blog will also provide insightful reviews, conducted by Andre - my co-author. My biggest wish is to see F5Active growing every day. Let's get on that journey together!

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