Are Your Running Shoes Too Small?

running shoe splashing water
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You may not realize that you are wearing running shoes that are too small. Your running shoes should be a half size to a full size larger than your regular shoe size. This is necessary because your feet will swell when you run and you need plenty of room in the toe box when this occurs. If your toes are crammed in the front of the shoe, you could experience foot problems such as black toenails (which usually start as toenail pain), bunions, blisters, or foot numbness.

Checking the Fit of Your Current Running Shoes

To learn whether your running shoes are the right size, check the location of your big toe while you are wearing the shoes and standing up. If it's pushed right up against the front of the shoe, they're too small. Another easy way to check the fit is to remove the shoe's insert and stand on it. If any part of your toes ​are hanging over the end of the insert, your running shoes are too small.

How to Shop for the Correct Size of Running Shoe

When you're shopping for running shoes, make sure you go to a specialty running store and that the salesperson measures your feet. This may seem like an unnecessary step if your feet stopped growing years ago, but your feet size can change, even as an adult. It's likely that your feet are longer now than they were when you were a young adult. You can have high arches that have gradually fallen. Pregnancy results in a loosening of your ligaments that can also lead to your feet becoming longer or wider. Also, some people have two differently sized feet, so it's important that you measure both feet.

To get a proper fit, it's best to have your feet measured and try on new running shoes after you've done a long run, so your feet are already swollen. A knowledgeable salesperson will know which models run small or true to size and will bring you appropriate shoes to try on.

Be sure to wear the socks you usually wear running. Different thicknesses of socks can make a difference in which size of shoes is right. When you try on shoes at a specialty running store the salesperson will encourage you to walk around the store or even do some running on an in-store treadmill or immediately outside the store. This is an important time to note whether you feel your toes hitting the end of the shoe or being compressed in a narrow toe box.

Checking Online Reviews for Shoe Size Issues

Whether or not you buy your running shoes online, the reviews that other runners make can help you determine if a shoe runs small, true to size, or large. Often people will note whether they fit wide or narrow feet. Sites such as Zappos ask readers to rate whether the shoes fit true to size and width. This can be helpful so you know whether to order an even larger size. While you may love your current model of running shoe, the next version may fit differently. Be sure that you research the shoe return policy of the vendor so you know how to return shoes that don't fit you right.

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Article Sources
  • Athletic Shoes. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/athletic-shoes/.
  • Shoes: Finding the Right Fit. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00143.