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How Should Sneakers Fit?

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As a new runner, I did not know the first thing about running shoes. Luckily I had a running mentor to explain to me that it was not in my best interest to pick my running shoes by what I like to call the Prettiness Factor. Hear me out. Of course, we want shoes to be pretty or cute or stylish, but there are far more important factors to consider. So if you are asking yourself, “how should sneakers fit?” we have answers.

When purchasing a new pair of shoes you need to first consider how you run. Do you pronate or supinate? Do your feet need special support anywhere? Another thing to think about is the size and how roomy the shoes are. Sure, no matter what kind of shoes you are purchasing fit matters. But with running shoes, fit really, really matters.

Should Sneakers Be a Size Bigger?

That depends on your intent for the shoes. If you are looking for a running shoe, absolutely. However, if you are looking for a cross-training shoe, the answer is now. Think about an exercise like CrossFit, for example. When you are working out doing lateral motion, the last thing you want is to risk your feet sliding around in your shoes.

how should running shoes fit

Running, on the other hand, you need a little extra room. That is because as you run your feet are likely to swell, in particular, if you are doing significant distance training. Most runners size up anywhere from one half to full size for running specific shoes.

How Much Room Should Be In The Toe Of A Shoe?

When you have a shoe on and tied the way you like it, press down on the area of the shoe directly in front of the big toe. You should have roughly a half-inch at the end. If it’s a running shoe. you may need a little more wiggle room than that.

In fact, many people try the wiggle test. Can you comfortably wiggle your toes around inside the toe box? If you cannot, the shoes are probably too small.

Mid-Sole Fit

The mid-sole of the shoe should fit your foot like a glove, as the expression goes. One thing to remember, however, is if your feet feel mostly amazing with the fit of a shoe with one small place, you can often remedy that with a specific way to lace your shoes. The mid-sole fit is no exception to that. 

So pick choose that fit like a glove but if you can’t find a perfect fit through this area, err on the side of a bit too loose and strategically lace the shoes to be tighter in that area.

Heel Fit?

The heel of the shoe should also be snug. Not tight: snug. You do not want your feet to feel constricted but you also do not want to risk heel slippage. Although you can tie the shoes in such a way that they tighten up in back, this should not be your go-to plan.

When you put on shoes, whether it is for running, walking or cross-training activities, pay attention to the heel. If your foot seems to slip or pop up and/or out, they don’t fit properly.

Is It Better For New Shoes to Be Tight or Loose?

Try on shoes at the end of the day to ensure a proper fit. If you do that, your feet are more likely to be a little swollen like they will be when working out. If they fit well at that point in time, they are probably going to make your feet happier.

choosing the right shoes for training

Having said that, the shoes you choose may feel a tiny bit big when you lace up first thing in the morning. This is normal. Just plan to tie them properly to ensure your feet don’t move around.

You want enough room for your feet to expand a little without so much room that they will slide and move around.

Ensuring a Great Fit

So how to tell if a shoe fits? In the best circumstances, you would get the opportunity to take them for a test drive. After all, athletic shoes are not inexpensive. Most reputable stores that sell running shoes allow you to try before you buy, either on a treadmill or outside. While doing this you should get a good feel for if the shoes will work for you to do the activity you are planning!

If you are involved in another type of activity, such as cross-training, don’t be afraid to try some specific moves. A thing you could try is squats, lunges, or some type of activity that has you jumping. Make sure your feet feel comfortable through all of the activities you try. Things to think about:

  • Are your toes cramped?
  • Does your heel slip?
  • Is your foot sliding around?
  • Does it feel too tight over the top or midsection of the shoe?
  • Can you wiggle your big toe around?

Why Is Proper Fit So Important?

No matter how cute the sneakers are if they don’t fit, do not buy them! There are many good reasons to be sure your shoes fit properly. Sneakers that do not fit can result in a myriad of problems. For example, ill-fitting sneakers can result in bunions, blisters and/or calluses. You can also get ingrown toenails if your shoes do not have the right fit.  All runners have heard horror stories about black and blue or lost toenails.

Improperly fitting shoes can even lead to numbness. Don’t let this happen to you!

It is so important to be sure your sneakers fit properly and are appropriate for the activity you are planning to engage in. Finding the right shoe can help you to stay in the game longer. Of course, I am speaking figuratively, since we are not all participating in a game environment.

But whatever your favorite activity is, the last thing you want is to be sidelined! Keep your feet happy to ensure you can keep moving!


  1. Josh White, Four Essential Keys To Athletic Shoe Fit, Medical Journal
  2. Tammie Painter, How Much Room Should Running Shoes Have?, Website