How Should Sandals Fit? Your Guide to the Best Fitting Sandals
According to a study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, as many as 72 percent of people wear the wrong size shoes. That’s more than 2 in 3 people.
The study also found a strong connection between wearing the wrong shoe size and foot pain or disorders. If you want to avoid future problems with your feet, it’s important to ensure you wear the right shoe size.
Sandals are no exception to this rule. Improperly fitting sandals can lead to blisters, irritation or conditions like plantar fasciitis. So how should sandals fit anyway?
Here’s what you need to know.
- More than two-thirds of people wear the wrong size shoes, which can lead to foot pain and disorders like plantar fasciitis.
- Properly fitting sandals should be comfortable and supportive with proper arch support, no overhang, and not have tight-fitting straps that rub or cause irritation.
- Signs that sandals are too big include slipping, blisters, and altered walking, while signs that sandals are too small include overhang, tight straps, and foot pain. It’s important to measure your feet to find the right size and check brand’s shoe size conversion chart.
Signs of a Good Fit
Well-fitting sandals should be comfortable and supportive. Look for these signs of a good fit before making a purchase.
- Width — Your foot should fit comfortably within the sandal. If the edges of your feet align with the edges of the sandal, you can probably stand to go up a size.
- Length — Your toes and heels should sit inside the sandal with no overhang. If your heel extends past the sandal’s sole in the back, the straps will likely dig into your foot as you walk. Additionally, if your toes or heel hang over the front or back, the sandal’s sole can’t protect them, making them susceptible to injury or snagging.
- Arch Support — Not having proper arch support forces your feet to work harder than necessary to support your body. Over time, this can lead to foot problems such as plantar fasciitis. You can help prevent these painful problems from developing by wearing shoes with proper arch support. If you already have a foot condition, it’s even more important to wear shoes with proper arch support to help prevent avoidable pain.
- Material and Straps — Avoid tight-fitting straps that rub or cause irritation. Remember that you’re less likely to choose to wear uncomfortable shoes. Don’t buy sandals just because they look good, buy them because they feel good. If the straps are a little too tight, see if the material will stretch. Leather and plastic tend to stretch while other fabrics don’t.
- Purpose — Make sure the sandals you’re buying meet the purpose you intend to use them for. Hiking sandals, for example, should feature a durable outsole with non-slip treading. Sandals for a night out can be more fashionable while providing comfort.
How Should Sandals Fit in the Back?
In the back, sandals should support your entire heel with no overhang. There shouldn’t be any tight straps that can rub against or irritate your foot when you walk.
Signs Your Sandal Is Too Big
If you notice any of the following telltale signs, your sandals are likely too big.
- Slipping — Does your foot slide forward or backward in your sandal as you walk? This can be a sign that your sandal is too big. Your foot should move with your sandals, not against them as you walk.
- Blisters — In some cases, you may even notice blisters on the soles of your feet where you apply extra pressure to stop sliding. If the sandal features a back, you may also notice blisters on your heels. These can pop up when your foot rubs against the shoe’s back as it slides in and out of the shoe as you walk.
Altered Walking — If you need to change the way you walk to compensate for sliding or take smaller steps to prevent the sandals from sliding off, this is a surefire sign that the sandal doesn’t fit.
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Signs Your Sandal Is Too Small
Are your sandals too small? Make sure you’re on the lookout for these warning signs.
- Overhang — The sandal’s sole should comfortably fit your entire foot. The sandal is too small if your toes or heel hang over the front or back.
- Tight Straps — Straps that dig into your heel or over the top of your foot are a sure sign the sandal is too small. If the sandal features adjustable straps and you need to adjust to the largest size, try going up a size.
Foot Pain — If you experience foot pain while wearing the sandal or immediately after removing it, it is too small. While this may seem like a minor issue to suffer through in exchange for fashionable shoes—it’s not. Over time, ill-fitting shoes can lead to more significant foot problems like ingrown toenails or heel spurs.
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How To Find Your Shoe Size
Ready to find your perfect sandal size? Get ready to measure. If you think you already know your shoe size, it’s recommended you re-measure every once in a while. It’s normal for your shoe size to change.
We recommend measuring your feet in the evening because your feet tend to swell as the day goes on. It’s better to have a shoe that is slightly too big in the morning but fits well throughout the day versus a shoe that fits well in the morning but becomes too small from swelling feet.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Grab a piece of paper big enough to fit your entire foot.
- With a pencil, trace around the entire perimeter of your foot.
- Using a measuring tape, measure the length and width of your foot. The length is the distance from the top of your toes to the back of your heel. The width is the distance between the widest part of your foot.
- Repeat this for the other foot.
- Compare your measurements to the brand’s shoe size conversion chart.
Our sandal fit guide can help you find your size—whether you’re in the U.S. or international.
Should You Size Up or Down for Sandals?
If you notice your measurements are a half size bigger for one foot than the other, don’t worry. It’s normal to have slightly different-sized feet. Always size up and purchase your shoe based on the size of your larger foot.
Additionally, you may notice one big difference in how sandal sizing works when compared to typical shoes or boots: Many stores only offer sandals in full sizes. Since sandals don’t need to securely enclose the entire foot, there is less danger of slipping if the sandal is slightly too large compared to standard shoes.
Tips to Make Your Sandals Fit Better
If your sandals are a little too big or a little too small, you may still be able to make things work. Here are a few strategies you can try to help make your sandals fit better:
- To help break in leather sandals that fit but are stiff, rub soap on the leather to soften the material.
- If your sandal is too small but made from stretchable material—like leather or plastic—use a hairdryer to speed up the process. Put on a sock and then the sandal. Blow hot hair from the hairdryer onto your feet to help stretch the sandals.
- Freeze your sandals with plastic bags full of water inside the strap or toe box. As the water freezes, it will expand and stretch the sandal.
- Use a ball of foot cushion with sandals that are slightly too big to help stop your foot from sliding as you walk.
- If your sandal is slightly too big and has a back, use a heel gripper cushion to prevent your heel from sliding in and out of the sandal as you walk.A cobbler can help make strappy sandals that are too big fit better by tightening the straps.
Choosing the Right Sandals for You
Your sandal should work for you and your unique foot concerns. Here are some tips to help you choose the right sandal for your problem areas.
- Wide Feet — Consider staying away from sandals that cover the top or sides of the foot. While it won’t always happen, sometimes these sandals can irritate wider feet throughout the day. Open-toed sandals provide more freedom and wiggle room for wider feet.
- Narrow Feet — If you have narrow feet, you may particularly enjoy sandals with adjustable straps. These can cinch down to fit your specific foot shape and provide greater confidence that your foot will stay firmly in place when walking.
- Health Concerns — Choosing the right sandal is extremely important for those with foot problems like plantar fasciitis, flat feet or heel spurs. Look for sandals that offer excellent arch support, cushioned soles and adequate heel height (thin soles don’t provide adequate support). The right shoe can help reduce foot pain.
So how should sandals fit? Your sandal should be comfortable with no tight straps, hold your entire foot and offer adequate support to keep your feet healthy.
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A study on footwear and pain. Incorrectly Fitted Footwear, Foot Pain and Foot Disorders (July 2018).
At KURU, we’re on a mission to help you Heel Better™ with footwear technology designed to relieve foot pain, so you can live a life you love. Since launching our innovative technology in 2008, we’ve received more than 29,000 five-star reviews from thousands of customers who tell us their KURU shoes helped them with conditions (such as plantar fasciitis) and got them back to doing what they love. Explore our guide to the best shoes for plantar fasciitis to find a pair that fits your needs.
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