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Research Investigates: Do People Wear the Correct-Size Shoes?


Updated June 26, 2014

Research Investigates: Do People Wear the Correct-Size Shoes?

Does the shoe fit?

Photo © Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.
So what do you think, are people wearing the correct-size shoes? I think we have all been in a pair of shoes that were either too small or too large at some point in our lives. Foot problems can occur from wearing shoes that do not fit. This article looks at research studies that attempt to answer the question, "Does the shoe fit?" If you are feeling some pressure from your shoes, learn more about how to fit shoes and foot care.

The first study looked at an older population of people (average age 82) on a rehabilitation ward. There were 65 people in the study. They measured the length and width of the patients' feet and compared that to their shoe size. The researchers found that 72% of the people were not wearing the proper-size shoes. They also found an association between incorrect shoe length and increased risk of pain and ulceration (open sore in the skin). Foot health is very important in older people because of the increased risk of falls. The researchers conclude that footwear assessment in the older population is necessary to help try and avoid pain and prevent foot problems.

The second study was larger and had 440 people in the study. The research was conducted on U.S. Veterans. They also measured the length and width of the patients' feet and found that only 25.5% of the people were wearing the proper-size shoes. That means 74.5% had shoes that did not fit properly. Shoes that did not fit properly were defined as shoes that were one size too small or one size too large, compared with the foot measurements. The researchers also found that patients with diabetic foot ulcerations (open sores in the skin) were 5.1 times more likely to have poor fitting shoes than patients without ulcerations. This study also points out the importance of wearing shoes that fit to help reduce the risk of foot ulceration.

The third study involved 100 people who had diabetes and an average age of 62 years old. The researchers compared the length and width of the patients' feet to the length and width of their shoes while standing and sitting. In this study, the definition of a poor-fitting shoe was if the shoe was a 1/2 size too short or too long and more than 1 width size different than the person's foot. The researchers found that only 24% of the people had proper-fitting shoes while sitting and that number dropped to only 20% while standing -- the feet tend to spread out more when standing. They concluded that a majority of their diabetes patients were wearing poor-fitting shoes and that mostly the shoes were too narrow.

Wearing shoes that fit is not as easy as it may sound. These research studies are a small sample, but all three found that about 75% of the people they studied were not wearing shoes that fit. It is especially important for people with diabetes and neuropathy (loss of feeling) to be wearing shoes that fit. If you are not sure if your shoes fit properly, go to a shoe store with trained shoe-fitting professionals. It is recommended that you measure your feet once or twice per year. In fact, it would be ideal if you had your feet measured every time you bought new shoes.


Burns SL, Leese GP, McMurdo ME. Older people and ill fitting shoes. Postgrad Med J. 2002 Jun;78(920):344-6.

Harrison SJ, Cochrane L, Abboud RJ, Leese GP. Do patients with diabetes wear shoes of the correct size? Int J Clin Pract. 2007 Nov;61(11):1900-4.

Nixon BP, Armstrong DG, Wendell C, Vazquez JR, Rabinovich Z, Kimbriel HR, Rosales MA, Boulton AJ. Do US veterans wear appropriately sized Shoes?: the Veterans Affairs shoe size selection study. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2006 Jul-Aug;96(4):290-2.

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