Hard-to-fit feet
November 20, 2011 2:26 PM   Subscribe

I’ve had trouble getting shoes to fit for a long time, but it seems to be getting worse as I get older. Today, I outgrew my shoes in the middle of a two-hour hike.

Often to usually, shoes I try on are too snug in the front or too loose in the back. Sometimes, I have both problems at the same time. Trying on shoes is frustrating.

A few times, I’ve tried the little inserts that can be stuck in to help fill out the heel. But one doesn’t seem to do the job, and I’d rather not plaster in a bunch of them.

Usually, boots, sandals and boat shoes (somehow) work. But they don’t cover all situations for which I need to dress. Sneakers and lace-up type shoes used to work, but I guess age is making the front of my feet spread out too much. I’m outgrowing a pair of sneakers I bought about six months ago.

I think the front of my feet is a women's size 8.5 or 9. I don't want to wear clogs. I live in Albuquerque, if that makes any difference.

My questions:
1. Do shoe stretchers work on shoes that aren’t leather?
2. Do you know anything helpful about custom-made shoes? Such as how much they might cost or how to get the most value?
3. How much might I help myself by buying shoes late in the day or after walking X amount in the day? What is X amount?
4. Anything else that might help?

posted by maurreen to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total)
Have you been to a real, independent shoe store with salespeople who are trained to measure your feet? It sounds as though some of the problem is that you don't really know what size your feet are. A really good shoe store will be able to tell you your size and recommend brands and styles to match the shape of your foot.
posted by decathecting at 2:35 PM on November 20, 2011

As a wide-footed lady who tries to get away with mediums... Do you buy wides? Usually they are just bigger in the front. You may even need double wides.
posted by DoubleLune at 2:39 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Today, I outgrew my shoes in the middle of a two-hour hike.

Literally? Feet can swell when you're standing for a long period (or walking, or hiking). Maybe your feet are swelling unevenly. Try those shoes on again in the morning and see if they fit better. It might help to have shoes fitted in the evening.

If it's a really dramatic difference and you have obvious edema, that might be something to have looked at. It can be a sign of several serious problems.
posted by WasabiFlux at 2:44 PM on November 20, 2011

I have wide feet and narrow ankles. I've gotten to the point to where I don't bother to look for shoes at shoe stores. In shoes with widths I wear an 11 or 11.5, the last time I tried to buy a pair of Nikes I ended up with a 13.5 to get the width (I didn't buy them). I buy everything now at zappos.com, they have a lot of shoes that come in a range of widths, not just one. For sneakers/trainers i think New Balance is the only commonly available one that comers in widths.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:49 PM on November 20, 2011

Seconding DoubleLune and the possible need for wider-sized shoes. Or if you really did 'outgrow' those shoes in a 2-hour hike, your feet and/or ankles might be swelling & you should see a doctor about possible edema/poor circulation.

Many people don't realize it, but their foot size/shape changes as they age: just because someone wore a size 7-narrow or whatever when they were age 20, does not mean they'll wear a size 7-narrow or whatever forever. The more we use our feet over the years (ie, walking!), the more the bones in the foot spread out, and the more likely it is you'll need to try a wider shoe size. Heck, for an easy comparison, if you want to see what walking does to re-shape feet, just look at a newborn baby's feet: see how rounded they are? Whereas all of us who've been walking on 'em for years have flattened them out.
posted by easily confused at 2:50 PM on November 20, 2011

Best answer: Heart and Sole is a good store to get measured. They check for pronation and other problems. They specialize in sport shoes, but carry other types. A local store like this would be a good place to start, I think. I bought a pair from them a few years ago.
posted by annsunny at 3:15 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nordstrom started as a shoe store and their shoe department specializes helping in hard-to-fit customers. They will even sell you a pair of shoes in which one shoe is one size and the other a different size. For casual/hiking footwear, you could try REI. If you are a member of the latter organization (If you shop there, you really should be a member--there's no fee.), you can even buy inserts, cut them down to fit your shoes and if they don't work, you can still return them.

In either case, they will pull out a foot-measuring tool and you will have the pleasure of saying, "Oh, a Brannock Device!" which one doesn't usually have the opportunity to say.
posted by Morrigan at 4:00 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have the same problem as you - wide front of foot, narrow heel. For me, finding shoes that fit has basically become a numbers game - I try on a million pairs of shoes, and eventually I find one that fits. I have not had good luck shopping in brick-and-mortar stores because even given the best salespeople in the world, the subset of shoes that fit me is so small it's unlikely that the store is going to have a pair in stock that will fit. I buy online, from places that have free shipping both ways (this also gives you the chance to try the shoes on in the morning AND the evening!).

And when I do find that rare, rare pair of dress/work shoes that fits and looks cute, I take really good care of them - get the little heel dealies replaced when they starts to wear out, polish them regularly, etc. because WHO KNOWS when I will find a replacement.

(Also, I really love the newish Merrell barefoot line for sneakers/trail shoes - there is SO MUCH room in the toe and the heel is SO SNUG! But they offer no support at all and are expensive for how long they last, so they're certainly not for everyone.)
posted by mskyle at 7:12 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sling backs with adjustable straps. They can buckle or have snug elastic, but there's got to be something that makes them secure on the heel.

My mom, sister and I all have this problem which we call duck feet. The only thing that consistently works is slingback shoes.

Today I wore these.
posted by 26.2 at 11:31 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I asked a similar question a couple of days ago and the answers might help with your question 4.
posted by needled at 6:19 AM on November 21, 2011

It might help if you were more specific about what doesn't fit, especially in the front. Is your arch squeezed? Is your arch too high for the shoe?

shoes I try on are too snug in the front or too loose in the back

I have wide feet, so buying standard-width shoes does this to me: if the shoe is a large enough size to fit in front, it will be too long for me. I wear New Balance sneakers because they come in variable widths. And when I go to shoe stores for dress shoes I ask up-front which shoes come in larger widths so I know which ones are an option for me. As people have said, get measured, and consider different widths.
posted by Tehhund at 7:06 AM on November 21, 2011

I’ve had trouble getting shoes to fit for a long time, but it seems to be getting worse as I get older. Today, I outgrew my shoes in the middle of a two-hour hike.

I think you should get tested for osteoporosis.
posted by jamjam at 9:12 AM on November 21, 2011

I can't speak about your other issues, but this: Today, I outgrew my shoes in the middle of a two-hour hike.

Foot swelling is a common complaint for hikers, though two hours is a fairly short period to feel the effect. The way I compensate for this is to double sock in the morning and remove one layer at lunch time or so. This can be exacerbated by a morning-uphill, afternoon-downhill hike, as on the descent, toes get jammed into the front of the boot. Not fun.

The only cure is to buy boots/trail shoes with thick socks on and be prepared to change socks or remove a layer during the hike. Soft shoes are also more forgiving than treated leather. Those with wider feet will also want to pay special attention to the size of the toebox. There are many brands I can't buy because the boot lasts are all too narrow.
posted by bonehead at 9:40 AM on November 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks. These are all good suggestions.

Tehhund -- The front part that doesn't fit is my toes, and maybe to a lesser extent, the area right behind the toes, the widest part of the foot. The back part that doesn't fit is the heel. It either slips out or rubs up and down uncomfortably.

Everyone --

I especially want to try Heart and Sole, the Merrell barefoot line, and the two-sock solution.

I had gotten too used to being discouraged by shoe-shopping, but hopefully I can find salespeople who can actually help. Unfortunately, I think the nearest Nordstrom is a day's drive away.

The few times I tried wides, they were too big in the back. But I'll try again.

About the swelling -- The shoes were OK when I started out, but on the way back, my toes hurt a lot. I had no idea the swelling might be linked to a medical condition.
posted by maurreen at 10:50 AM on November 21, 2011

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