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A Broadway Shoe Co. employee uses a Brannock device to size a foot. Nick Wagner / The Forum

Sizing ’em up: Finding correct fit important in picking footwear

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FARGO - If the shoes fit, wear them.

But if they squish your toes or slip off your heel, don’t bother.

“When you get a pair of shoes, you should be able to wear them all day. There shouldn’t really be that moment where you feel you have to kick your shoes off at the end of the day,” says Brittany Beauchene, co-owner of Broadway Shoe Co. in Fargo.

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More than a third of men and nearly half of women admitted to buying shoes that didn’t fit properly, according to a recent study by the College of Podiatry in the U.K.

Women are especially likely to buy too-small shoes.

A study by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society found that 88 percent of women in the U.S. wear shoes that are too small.

The biggest concern is usually that their feet will look large in their actual size, Beauchene says, so they buy a size too small.

“Don’t think about the shoe size. No one will ever know. Get the shoe that feels the best. It’s not going to look big on your feet,” she says. “Once you get it on your foot, you’re fine. It’s just like clothes. I think everybody thinks everything has to be small. No, wear what feels comfortable.”

Although there aren’t long-term health consequences for wearing ill-fitting shoes, Sanford Health podiatrist Dr. Timothy Uglem says there are short-term concerns like pain and blisters.

But how do you choose the right shoes?

Beauchene and Uglem share their top tips for picking shoes that’ll make your feet happy.

  • Size your feet.

If you tend to fluctuate between sizes, having your feet measured can help ensure a proper fit. Shoe size can change with age, too.

Broadway Shoe Co. uses the Brannock device for sizing. The common metal foot measurer has a version for men, women and children.

“We did a ton of research, and all of the different sizing guides say that’s the only one to trust,” Beauchene says.

  • Try ’em on both feet. 

Even if the shoes are the right size, they still need to feel good on your feet.

“Trying shoes on before you buy is important,” Uglem says.

And don’t forget to try them on both feet.

Shoes that mimic the shape of your foot often fit better, Beauchene says.

“If it’s not comfortable, it’s not worth it. Try on a bunch of styles to see what fits best,” she says. “I think people are over this idea of suffering for fashion. Practicality is huge.”

  • Fit the larger foot. 

Typically the right foot is a little bigger than the left.

Always buy shoes to fit the bigger foot, and use orthotics to make the opposite shoe fit well, too, Beauchene says.

  • Don’t be size-conscious.

“Fitting the length is first and foremost important. If your toes are squished in the front or your heels are slipping in the back, that’s an immediate sign that you need to figure something else out with sizing,” Beauchene says.

And your size might vary among brands, too.

Besides causing foot pain and possible damage to toenails, wearing shoes that are too small or too big deteriorates the shoe faster and they won’t last as long.

  • Choose quality. 

“Unfortunately, the case is usually the more you spend on a shoe, the better quality it is,” Uglem says.

Well-made shoes can last years, though. Typically, people should get at least three years of wear out of a shoe and five years of wear from a leather boot.

Looking at the price of a shoe and dividing it out over the years it’s going to last is a good way to break down the cost, Beauchene says.

“It’s hard to swallow that initial higher price point, but it’s going to last you longer and be more comfortable,” she says.

  • Leave wiggle room for kids. 

Parents tend to buy shoes a little large for growing children, and that’s usually OK, Beauchene says.

“I’ll step in and say something if the child can hardly walk in it. But there’s more wiggle room with kids shoes. Kids are so honest and blunt. If it’s uncomfortable, they’ll tell you,” she says.

And Uglem suggests parents don’t fight fashion.

“You can get what is in style, which your kids will like, even though it may not be the best shoe choice for them. One day when they are having discomfort with their feet, they will wear the correct shoes,” he says.

  • Know how much they’ll stretch.

Every shoe stretches a different amount, Beauchene says of leather shoes. And you can’t depend on a shoe to stretch significantly.

Brand representatives inform sales associates how much each shoe stretches so they can pass that information onto customers.

  • Gently used is OK.

If you’re considering wearing secondhand shoes, give them the same treatment you would new shoes.

“Make sure you have the comfort. Examine them to see if they have a lot of wearing in the sole,” Beauchene says.

If the sole is worn down, the shoes likely won’t last long and probably won’t be comfortable either.

  • Wear heels in moderation.

High heels aren’t bad for feet for short periods of time, Uglem says, but it depends on how tall the heel is.

A moderate or low heel (not more than 2 ¼ inches) is recommended.

“When you wear heels consistently, this may lead to pain on the ball of the foot or your muscles and tendons can adapt to that position,” Uglem says. “Otherwise, we do see injuries resulting from women falling off the shoe and injuring the foot with a sprain or more common a fracture.”

Beauchene recommends limiting high heel wear to a couple hours at a time.

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Anna G. Larson
Anna G. Larson is a features reporter with The Forum who writes a weekly column featuring stylish people in Fargo-Moorhead. Larson graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in journalism and joined The Forum in July 2012. She's a Fargo native who enjoys travel, food, baking, fashion, animals, coffee and all things Midwestern. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @msannagrace 
(701) 241-5525
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