Ask an Expert: Your Questions About Shoe Size

On 8th May 2019

Welcome to Ask an Expert, a recurring feature on our blog where we turn to the experts to answer your questions about all things foot health and shoes. Have a question you’d like to ask our experts? Send us an email!

This week’s expert is Jerry Klein, pictured above on the left. Jerry is Apex Foot’s VA/Medicare Coordinator and Pedorthic Advisor. He is an ABC Certified Orthotist and Certified Pedorthist who has been practicing since 1976. In addition, he has led a pre-requisite program for those becoming ABC Certified Fitters of Therapeautic Shoes.

All of this is to say that when it comes to questions about shoe sizing, Jerry's your guy. Now, on to the questions!

I know that people generally get shorter with age, but I was wondering if this applied to our feet as well. Do our feet get smaller, and will we need smaller shoe sizes as we age? Submitted by Tyler G.

That’s an interesting question, and the answer may surprise you. While it’s true that we do get shorter with age, the exact opposite happens with our feet: they tend to get longer. There are many variables that cause changes in your foot size – activity level, weight changes or medical problems, to name a few.

In general, though, feet get longer because of the amount of force we exert on them as we move about each day. At a walking pace of about 100-125 steps per minute, each foot absorbs a force of roughly double our body weight with each step. Over time, all this repeated force causes the tendons and ligaments in the foot to lose elasticity. This can cause the arch to lower and the foot to elongate.

That’s why I always recommend people get their foot measured each time they buy a new pair of shoes to ensure they’re buying the correct size.

How do I know if a shoe fits properly? Submitted by Matthew H.

People usually think that the most important part of shoe fitting is whether their toes hit the front of the shoe. A proper fitting shoe should leave between 3/8” to 1/2” of empty space between the toes and the front of the shoe.

But that’s not the most important part of shoe fit – the most important aspect of shoe fit is ensuring that the widest part of the foot rests in the widest part of the shoe. With each step, the foot bends just forward of the widest part as you push off the ground. Well-designed shoes are engineered to accommodate this flex and work with the foot. It’s important to match these flex points so that the shoe and foot work together.

As far as the width of the shoe, there should be some breathing room in the front of the shoe to allow your foot to naturally spread out as you move about.

Do I need a bigger shoe if I wear orthotic inserts? Submitted by Sherry A.

You shouldn’t need to change your shoe size as long as the shoe is made with a removable insole. Orthotic inserts are designed to replace the shoe's removable insole and shouldn't affect the fit of the shoe.

With that said, if you have a flexible, flat foot and the orthotic is being used to hold up the arch in its proper position, the length of your foot may shorten.

Have a question you’d like to ask our experts? Send us an email!