The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

You May Not Know Your Shoe Size: How Our Feet Change Over Time

Posted by on Monday, August 11th, 2014


Have you measured your feet this year? We see patients with pinched nerves, corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, bunions, and hammer toes who believe they have had the same shoe size since their teenage years. While it’s true that the foot does grow rapidly until these years, it’s a fallacy that the feet remain unchanged from there on out. In fact, the foot size, shape and structure can change over time due to wear-and-tear, overuse, hormonal changes, injury, shoe choice, and genetics.

shoe size
Remember the old school Brannock Device? It may have fallen out of favor in shoe stores, but it’s still one of the most reliable ways to measure your shoe size. Image Source:

According To Research, Shoe Size Is On The Rise

The people of today are, on average, two shoe sizes larger than the people of the 1970s, according to a study released by the College of Podiatry in the UK. Sizes 12 and 13 (US) are the most common shoe sizes sold at Long Tall Sally, with size 15 now making up 10% of business. Thirty years ago, Stuart Weitzman used to sell most shoes in size 7, with sizes going as high as 10; today, they sell an 8 on average, and offer sizes up to 12. “We’ve all gotten taller and we need big feet to hold us up,” consulting podiatrist Emma Supple explained to the Wall Street Journal.

Another interesting finding in the UK study was that more than a third of men and half of women in the UK study admitted to buying shoes that didn’t exactly fit right.

U.S. Retailers & Shoe Manufacturers Team Up To Help Consumers Find A Better Fit

Nordstrom sometimes holds special in-store events for women who wear up to a size 14 and men who wear up to a size 20.

Stuart Weitzman says he won’t make a shoe narrower in the front than it should be for a sleeker look. “That’s like wearing a girdle,” he says.

Cole Haan tests the fit of a shoe 20 times over the course of 14 months during development. “Fit is our number one priority,” says senior director of product development Steve Beccia. They use fit models who match a standard women’s 6 and men’s 8.5, measuring the length, width and instep volume, and taking into consideration model feedback on how the shoes feel.

Matt Wilkinson, co-founder of Shoefitr estimates that shoppers do not get the best fit 45% of the time. His online tool uses 3-D imaging to take up to 300 measurements on a single style, creating a diagram to show where the shoe fits tighter or looser than average. Detailed information includes data on the arch type and footprint. The tool asks shoppers a few questions and recommends a size based on how that particular style fits.

Tips On Finding The Right Size Shoe

– Avoid shoes with a narrow toe box (front part of the shoe), which can cram your toes together and worsen bunion or hammer toe development.

– Beware of notoriously foot-injurers like stilettos and ballet flats, which can cause nerve damage or flattened arches, respectively.

– Don’t buy shoes that feel too tight and expect to “break them in.” That is a very widespread misconception!

– Always use a shoe horn when trying on shoes and look for a “swoosh” sound as the foot slides in.

– Consider shopping at retailers like Allen Edmonds, which offer different widths.

– If you have heel pain, look for shoes that emphasize arch support and sole cushioning.

– Check out this conversion chart when ordering shoes from overseas retailers or designers.

– Shoes should be about a thumb’s width longer than your longest toe, says Life Hacker

– Always fit shoes to the larger foot and try shoes on later in the day when the feet are most swollen.

– Stand and have your foot traced to find a truer size that takes into consideration factors like pronation or supination.

– When trying on shoes, stand on your toes, rock on your heels, and do a few swivel turns, advises wellness writer Stephanie Pedersen.

– Have a podiatrist measure your feet using a Brannock device, find a shoe store that still uses one, or buy one online here.

 Need Assistance? Our NYC Podiatrists Are Happy To Help!

Our NYC podiatrists offer in-depth counseling on shoe choice. We’ll let you know which brands offer the truest fit and styles that are comfortable, given your particular foot shape and condition. Book at our Manhattan or Westchester NY offices online.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.