How Should Running Shoes Fit, According to an Expert (2023)

The proper running gear can make a significant difference in your training and running results. From apparel that keeps you chafe-free to shoes that provide the right amount of cushioning and stave off blistering, proper gear should work to improve the running experience—allowing you to remain as injury-free and safe as possible.

To find the best fitting running shoes, educating yourself on shoe characteristics can help you invest in the right pair. Before you begin shopping, though, check out these running experts' tips on what to look for in shoe fit.

How Running Shoes Should Fit

Every runner has different needs when it comes to running shoes. In fact, everyone has different foot shapes, running goals, training efforts, and gait. That said, certain characteristics in shoe fit are universal. Here is what you need to know about the fit of your running shoes.

Overall Shape

The width and shape of the shoe should match your foot. To test this, remove the foot bed inside the shoe and stand on it to verify the width and shape are similar to your foot. If your foot is bigger than the foot bed, you may need a wider shoe otherwise, this shoe could cause blistering.

Top of the Foot

When trying on a shoe, first notice how the top of your foot makes contact with the top material of the shoe. Ask yourself if it feels comfortable or if it feels tight or restrictive. Too little movement along the top of the foot could become an issue.

“Some shoes have a lot of structure in that upper material for support or protection, which can make the shoe restrictive or cause pain,” says Matt Scarfo, NASM CPT-OPT, CES, PES, FNS, of Precision Nutrition Pn1 and a running coach.

Midfoot Fit

For the best cushioning effects, look for thick midsoles. They can reduce shock when you impact the ground.

When you try on a pair of running shoes, try running so that you can test the cushioning when you strike. Some running stores allow you to take a short run to try out the shoes before you invest while others encourage you to jog around the store. Ask if you can run a little in the shoe first.

Fitness and Nutrition News

Toe Fit

When you put the shoe on, test this amount of space you have with your thumb. According to Peter F. Lovato, DPM, FACFAS, a northern Illinois foot and ankle specialist, you should have one thumb breadth from the top of the toe to the edge of the shoe.

(Video) HOW SHOULD RUNNING SHOES FIT? A step-by-step guide to correctly fitting your running shoes.

Make sure your toes do not get bunched up in the shoe, which can lead to injuries. You also want to make sure your feet have room to swell when running.

Heel Fit

To check for fit, Timothy Woods, CCC, GMU, a fitness and nutrition specialist, lift your heel as you hold the back of the running shoe. Ideally, your running shoe should feel snug around your heel but leave some wiggle-room for your toes.

If your heel is slipping, one of two issues could be at play. First, the shoe could be too big if your heel moves around, which can be annoying and cause blisters. A second possible reason for a slipping heel is that you do not have your shoes laced properly.

Make sure you are using the eyelet on the shoe to ensure a snug fit on your shoe. If your heel still slips, the shoe is likely too big.

How Long Do Running Shoes Last?

Signs Your Running Shoes Are the Wrong Size

If you experience pain, injuries, or frequent blisters consistently when running, these issues could be related to the fit and size of your running shoe. Try not to ignore or run through any of these problems but instead interpret them as a signal that you may need another shoe size or a different type of shoe. Here are some common indicators that your running shoes might be the wrong size.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common injury among runners, sometimes associated with how hard you pound the ground as you strike. Thin midsoles can also contribute to this issue in some cases.

According to the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, softer or thicker midsoles can provide significant cushioning and reduce plantar vibrations as you touchdown. If you try thicker midsoles and you still have plantar fasciitis, you should speak with a healthcare provider about your symptoms.

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

(Video) How to Size and Fit Running Shoes | REI

Foot Structure

Lovato recommends that if you have any foot structure issues or deformities, such as bunions or tailor’s bunions, go up in size and width. Doing so, can help prevent aggravating your condition as well as reduce or prevent pain and discomfort.

“The fit [of your running shoe] should be snug, but not too snug,” suggests Lovato.

Another indicator that you may need a different size shoe, are signs of focal redness on your foot after a run. This could indicate that the shoe is too tight or rubbing in the wrong place.

Black Toenails

Black toenails can sometimes occur in long-distance runners due to improper footwear and heavy pounding. To mitigate this issue, Nick Winder, founder ofIllness to Ultra and a UESCA ultra running coach suggests trying to wiggle your toes slightly to determine if you have the appropriate foot motion and activation in the shoe.

Getting Black Toenails From Running or Walking


While your feet may naturally expand a little when you are running, too much swelling can be caused by friction from your shoes. If this occurs frequently when you run, you may need a different size shoe.

“You need around a 1/2-inch space between your toes and the end of the shoe to allow for foot swelling and forward foot motion in the shoe on descent,” says Winder.

However, if you have persistent swelling after exercise, you may want to talk to a healthcare provider. There could be another explanation for the frequent swelling you are experiencing.

How to Find a Specialty Running Store

(Video) Shoe Fitting 101: 3 Things to Consider When Fitting Shoes

A Word from Verywell

Ensuring you have the right running shoe is imperative for training, as this can help you avoid short- and long-term injuries. You should take your time when shopping and not simply purchase a pair of shoes based on style or name brand.

Likewise, a healthcare professional such as a podiatrist or orthopedist can provide information and guidance on how to select the right running shoe for you. This is especially true if you have any lingering injuries that disrupt your ability to train. In these situations, you might need more guidance on the best type and size of shoe for you, especially if you have orthotics.

How to Buy the Right Running Shoes: What to Look for

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much room should you have in a running shoe?

    You need room in the shoe to avoid injuries, such as blistering, black toenails, and painful friction. Experts recommend having approximately 1/2 inch of space between your toes and the end of the shoe to allow for any forward foot motion and swelling.

    Learn More:How You Can Prevent Blisters

    (Video) Running shoes size guide | TOP TIPS on how to get the right size

  • Are shoes supposed to be tight at first?

    Shoes do not need to be tight at first. Instead, you should be able to slightly wiggle your toes to ensure you have the correct foot motion. That said, the shoe should be tight enough not to slip, but loose enough to allow movement. Walk or run around the store and notice if your foot slips out of the shoe. If it does, move on to another pair.

    Learn More:How Long Does It Take to Break in Running Shoes?

  • Is it OK if running shoes are a little big?

    Running shoes should run a little big. Use your thumb as a guide. Ideally, you should have a thumb’s width from the top of the toe to the edge of the shoe for extra space. That said, they should not be slipping off your feet. You also can check to see how you have tied your running shoes to ensure they are secure.

    Learn More:How to Tie Running Shoes for a Secure Fit

    (Video) Which Run Shoe Is Right For You?

How to Care for Running Shoes to Make Them Last Longer


How Should Running Shoes Fit, According to an Expert? ›

A properly fitting running shoe should feel snug in the heel and midfoot, with wiggle room around the toes. While standing, check for proper length and width by pressing your thumb down next to the ball of your foot and around the toes. A good fit should allow for half to a full thumb's width of space.

How much room should be at the end of a running shoe? ›

Proper toe fit: You want a thumb's width of space between your toe and the end of the shoe. Midfoot and heel fit: You should have a snug (but not tight) fit at the midfoot and heel.

Is it better to size up or down in running shoes? ›

The further you run the more your foot will naturally expand. This means it's wise to have just a little extra room (about a thumb's width) between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. With this in mind, your running shoe should be around a half size larger than the shoe size you usually get.

How should a runner shoe fit? ›

For proper length, allow for at least 1/2 to 1 inch (a thumb's width) between your longest toe and the shoe's end. To get a feel for the proper width, you should be able to pinch some material at the sides or top of the shoe. Running shoe size is typically a half size larger than your typical shoe size.

Should running shoes be true to size? ›

What is this? The main reason shoe experts recommend sizing up your running shoes a half size is to ensure you have ample length in the shoe to accommodate natural swelling that occurs in the feet over the course of the day and while you run.

Is it better for running shoes to be tight or loose? ›

A properly fitting running shoe should feel snug in the heel and midfoot, with wiggle room around the toes. While standing, check for proper length and width by pressing your thumb down next to the ball of your foot and around the toes. A good fit should allow for half to a full thumb's width of space.

Is it bad to wear shoes half a size too big? ›

Other painful effects of wearing shoes that are too big include: Corns and calluses: caused by excessive pressure on the toes. Metatarsalgia: caused by too much pressure on the balls of your feet. Disrupted natural stride: resulting in Achilles tendonitis, arch pain, and pain in the calf muscles.

Is it OK to wear running shoes a size bigger? ›

Christine Luff from recommends going up half a shoe size because one's feet swell when they run and it is important to have plenty of room in the toebox. If one's toes are crammed in the front of the running shoe, you could develop blisters or black toenails.

Does 0.5 shoe size make a difference? ›

A half-size represents a 1/8” difference. It may not seem significant but is enough to distinguish between comfort and discomfort. Because there is no standardisation for shoe sizing, a half size difference will also depend on the brand of shoe. With some makes, a half size will be more significant than others.

Is it OK to wear shoes 1 size too big? ›

As we all know, if you wear a shoe that is too tight it will hurt your feet and lead to foot ailments, such as blisters, bunions and calluses. But wearing a shoe that is too big will cause us to walk in an unnatural and dysfunctional way. This can lead to serious foot problems.

Do running shoes stretch out over time? ›

Shoes will typically stretch all on their own as you wear them.

How do you know if you have the wrong running shoes? ›

Here are seven signs you're in the wrong size of running shoes:
  • Your feet are getting bruises or “hot spots” ...
  • You start noticing blisters. ...
  • Your running form has changed. ...
  • You start getting foot pain (usually on both feet) ...
  • Your feet feel squashed. ...
  • You keep getting lower body injuries. ...
  • You develop tendonitis.
Nov 16, 2022

Why do my feet slide forward in running shoes? ›

Runner's Loop

When your heel isn't held firmly, your foot can slip forward and bump your toes against the front of your shoes. Your fix is the runner's loop: Lace your shoes normally, crisscrossing them until you reach the second eyelet below the top on each side.

How much difference is a half shoe size? ›

A half size in shoes is only 1/8 of an inch in added length. Shoes size can vary for many reasons, from sports injuries to weight gain and age. It's not uncommon to go up a half size if your feet or arch height begins to become more flat overtime.

How do you know if your shoes are too small? ›

If your toes don't face straight ahead, seem crammed together, or are overlapping each other, it's likely your shoes are too tight. When shoes fit properly, there's space between each toe, and the toes face straight forward, not turned toward either side.

How much room should you have in a shoe? ›

Generally speaking, there should be about one finger's width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Another way to check this is to slip a finger between the heel of your foot and the heel of your shoe. There should be just enough space for your finger to fit nice and snugly.

Should running shoes be tight on top of foot? ›

Leave about a thumbnail's worth of space between the tip of your longest toe and the front of the running shoe. This can vary between ½ an inch to 1 inch of space. The amount of space will depend on a few factors such as your personal preference and the type of terrain you are running in. What is this?

How snug should sneakers fit? ›

Properly fitting sneakers will:

Have footbeds that are between 0.5 to 0.65 inches longer than your foot. Fit snuggly but not too tight. Provide wiggle room for your toes. Not push into your toenails.

Do insoles make shoes tighter? ›

Although often intended to help with posture problems and other discomfort, insoles are also useful to make shoes smaller by taking up extra space in footwear that's a tad on the big side. Full insoles are a fantastic solution if your shoes are too big across the length of your foot.

How much heel slip is normal? ›

When your foot bends to take a step in a new shoe, your heels should slip slightly. 1/8” movement is normal but can feel like much more. Loose slipping in the heels will not cause blisters when broken in gradually, but wearing shoes that are too small and tight will cause friction and then blister.

What is the difference between a size 9 and 9.5 shoe? ›

Length: There is approximately a 1/6" difference between each half-size (e.g., between 9 and 9.5, between a 9.5 and a 10, and so on) For every half size up, the width (across the ball) will increase by 1/8"

Are Asics and Nike the same size? ›

Nike running shoes are notorious for running on the small side, having a particularly narrow fit through the heel and midfoot. ASICS running shoes also tend to run fairly narrow, though compared to Nike, ASICS shoes will feel a bit wider.

How big of a difference do running shoes make? ›

"The theory is that these shoes work by improving running economy. Your energy cost of running improves by an average of 4%. This translates into an improvement in performance," adds Allen.

Is it better to go half size up or down in shoes? ›

If you have to go with a different size you're better going a half size up. Going smaller the shoes will be tight and uncomfortable. By the end of the the feet will hurt and if you're on your feet all day it will be even worse.

Can a size 8.5 fit a 9? ›

Assuming that you're talking about shoe sizes, an 8.5 shoe on a size 9 foot might fit, but it will be tight and uncomfortable, not to mention bad for your foot.

Can a size 10.5 fit a 10? ›

There is a significant difference between a size 10 and a size 10.5 shoe. A size 10 shoe is significantly smaller than a size 10.5 shoe, and as such, it will not provide the same level of comfort or support. If you are looking for a comfortable, supportive shoe, then you should opt for the larger size.

Is it better for shoes to be too big or too small? ›

Is it better to buy shoes that are a little bit too big or a little bit too small? Shoes that are too large, can be a hazard. Shoes that are too small, as long as they don't squeeze your feet much, may be okay. And that is because, chances are, they will stretch and fit perfectly after you have worn them a few times.

How much difference does 1 shoe size make? ›

When you measure your foot for shoe size, add about 0.6 inches (or 1.5 centimeters) to the length. If you're between sizes, we recommend going up. As you can see, the difference of one whole size is only about a half-inch (less than 1 centimeter). The difference of a half size is—at most—a quarter of an inch.

How do you know if your shoes are too big? ›

Shoes that are too big may likewise give you blisters caused by the friction of your foot moving around. If your shoes are too big in length, you might notice your foot sliding backwards and forwards, while shoes that are too wide will cause your feet to slide from side to side.

How long does it take for running shoes to break down? ›

It's best to not forcefully speed up how long it takes to break in a new pair of running shoes; going too many miles too quickly may cause injury. Instead, wear the shoes around your house, then on a treadmill, then for a light 2-5 mile jog outside. It should only take 5-10 miles to break in a pair of shoes.

How long should you let running shoes rest? ›

The most often-cited reason for practicing shoe rotation is to give time for the shoe's foam to recover from a run. Allowing your shoe a day to “rest” lets the foam cells that make up the midsole of your shoe decompress, enabling the shoe to last longer, or so the theory went.

Are running shoes supposed to be bendy? ›

As a general rule, the shoe should flex at the same locations that the foot flexes. If you hold the shoe firmly by the sole at the heel and bend the front of the shoe upwards, it should only flex at the ball of the foot (at about 1/3 the distance from the front of the shoe - Fig. 1).

Why do Hokas hurt my feet? ›

Hoka shoes have been reported to causing foot pain in some wearers because of their thick cushioning, which can cause strain on the tendons and ligaments of the feet. This issue is particularly common for runners with high arches or flat feet.

Why are my new running shoes hurting my feet? ›

This is usually because the shoes are too tight, inhibiting blood circulation in your feet. Your toes and soles feel like they are burning. This may be because the shoes' soles are too stiff.

Should your heel move in running shoes? ›

Ideally, your running shoe should feel snug around your heel but leave some wiggle-room for your toes. If your heel is slipping, one of two issues could be at play. First, the shoe could be too big if your heel moves around, which can be annoying and cause blisters.

Should your feet point straight forward when running? ›

Slight out-toeing is totally normal. Your feet probably won't be 100% straight when you run. But it's important to keep correct landing mechanics. If you're a heel-striker your foot should land on the outside of your heel and push off from the big toe.

Is it normal for my heels to slide up and down in running shoes? ›

If your shoe does not fit properly you could experience heel slippage. This could mean your shoe is simply too big or too long. Make sure you have your running shoes fitted by a running shoe specialist to alleviate this potential problem.

Should there be extra room in running shoes? ›

Leave about a thumbnail's worth of space between the tip of your longest toe and the front of the running shoe. This can vary between ½ an inch to 1 inch of space. The amount of space will depend on a few factors such as your personal preference and the type of terrain you are running in.

Should your toes touch the end of your shoes when walking? ›

As a rule of thumb (or toe), you should have about 3/8″ to 1/2″ of room from the tip of your longest toe to the end of the shoe. Your big toe is not automatically your longest toe.

Is an inch of toe room too much? ›

There should be about half an inch between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe. If you have small hands, this is about the size of the tip of your index finger. If you have large hands, it's about the size of the tip of your pinky finger. For many people the big toe is the longest.

How can I tell if running shoes are too big? ›

Sliding or shifting: If you can feel your heel slide up and down or the front portion of your foot slide or shift around, your shoes are too big or too wide. Blisters: Blisters happen when your foot moves around within your shoe. Blisters on the ball of the foot are a sign your shoe is too wide.

How do you know if your running shoes are too small? ›

Clear Signs Your Running Shoes Don't Fit Properly
  1. You can't get your shoes off without completely loosening the laces. ...
  2. Your toes graze the front of your shoe after a long run and/or your toenails show bruising signs. ...
  3. You experience numbness or strain on the top of your foot. ...
  4. You have corns on the side of your toes.

How do I know if my shoes are too big? ›

The easiest way to tell if a shoe is too big or too small is to take a look at how much room there is in the toe of the shoe. Generally speaking, there should be about one finger's width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.

Should toes be curled in shoes? ›

Curled toes are stronger than flat toes and will help you stand on small foot holds. You never want your toes to be so curled that it feels like you're standing on your toenails – that's a sure sign that your shoes are too small. In contrast, a shoe that's too large will shift when you're standing on small foot holds.

Should my toes point forward when I walk? ›

Try to keep your legs in line with your hips and toes pointing forward, not inward (pigeon-toed) or outward (duck-toed). as if they were running. Even if it makes you feel self-conscious, this is the most efficient way to walk—especially at higher speeds.

How should sneakers fit in the toe? ›

The toe box should be wide enough that you can slightly wiggle your toes without having so much room that the foot slides around. If your toes feel cramped or are pressing up against the front of the shoe, it's best to size up.

What does too much toe out feel like? ›

More toe-out will reduce understeer. Despite its benefits, the toe angle can have some draw-backs. Excessive toe settings can cause the steering to feel shaky and unstable. It will also cause excessive tire wear.

Should shoes have a little toe room? ›

Your toes need wiggle room so that you don't get blisters, calluses or damaged toenails. You should be able to wiggle your toes comfortably in the toe box and if you aren't sure how much room is enough, use the “rule of thumb” when purchasing new shoes.


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