Are My Shoes Too Big? Can I Wear Oversized Shoes?

“If you want to know someone, walk a mile in their shoes.” But what if their shoes are a few sizes too big? Just about everyone knows the pain of wearing small shoes – too tight, pinches the toes, leaves blisters on the heel. But what about oversized shoes?

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to wear oversized shoes. They might feel more comfortable if you have bunions, blisters, or swelling foot pain from walking. If they’re for your child, you might be waiting for them to grow into new shoes. Or, they might be the only size available in a style you love.

Little girl wearing oversized men's shoes

If any of these is true for you, you might be wondering, can wearing shoes too big hurt you? Unfortunately, any ill-fitting shoes are bad for your feet. Finding the right pair of shoes is paramount for preventing foot problems.

What happens if your shoes are too big?

Wearing bigger shoes might seem harmless, but it can cause several problems. One of the most common risks is bunions. Ironically, trying to find relief from bunions is one of the reasons why you might want to wear bigger shoes in the first place. You’re particularly vulnerable to bunions and hammertoes if you scrunch up your toes to keep shoes on your feet.

You probably know you can get blisters from tight shoes, but you can get them from oversized shoes as well. Blisters result when your feet rub against your shoes. Properly fitting shoes stay in place as you move, but if the shoes are too big, you will almost certainly have painful blisters by the end of the day.

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
  • Damaged or lost toenails: your toenails bump against the front of the shoe as you walk, causing damage
  • Higher accident risk: feet sliding around in big shoes makes you more prone to falls – especially on stairs

If you’re an athlete, shoes that are too big can cause performance issues. You won’t run, kick, climb, or move at your optimum ability. You even open yourself to injuries or developing muscles incorrectly for your sport. Even if you’re just a casual runner or jogger, you want to make sure your running shoes fit properly.

What kind of shoes should I be wearing?

Finding the right shoe can be tricky, especially if you have bunions, low or high foot arches, or wide feet. Rather than finding the right shoes for their feet, many people just buy larger shoes to compensate.

What are the best shoes for bunions?

While extra space for your bunion might sound like a good idea, you can actually make the bunion worse if your shoes are the wrong size. For optimum bunion comfort, your shoes should be well-fitted with a wide toe box. Custom inserts or orthotics for your shoes can provide support and pain relief for your bunion.

Child in sneakers

How to size children’s shoes?

It’s okay to buy oversized shoes for kids, right? They’ll grow into them!

Actually, no. Blisters, corns, and sprained ankles caused by oversized shoes aren’t an adult-only phenomenon. If little Timmy is running around the playground in shoes that are too big, he’s at increased risk of tripping, falling, twisting an ankle, or falling off the playground equipment.

It can feel frustrating to buy shoes you know your kid will outgrow in a few months, but it’s the best option for their delicate, developing feet.

Is it okay to wear bigger shoes when you’re pregnant?

Pregnancy causes all sorts of changes in your body – including changes to your feet. Many people find their foot size increases during and after pregnancy or that they need larger shoes to fit their swollen feet. But that doesn’t mean you should be buying shoes a size up in advance!

During pregnancy, make sure you’re buying shoes with good arch support. When your current shoes begin to get too tight, get resized for a new pair.

How to make shoes a size smaller?

So you already bought the oversized shoes and there’s no returning them. Now what? If your shoes are only too big by a half-size or one full size, you can try some of these tactics to make them fit better:

  • Insert a full-size shoe insole
  • Add heel strips or liners
  • Insert toe cushions
  • Try wearing thicker socks

You could also try this “hack” to shrink the shoes themselves. Get the shoes wet (either with a spray bottle or just fully dunking in water) and then dry them. Repeat until shoes have sufficiently shrunk.

How to measure shoe size?

Sometimes, a shoe might look and feel good when you’re trying it on, but it ends up being too big for practical, everyday wear. You can combat this issue by knowing how to accurately measure your shoe size.

You can usually get your shoe size measured at the shoe store, and the associates there can help accommodate any special foot needs. Shoe size is measured from the back of the heel to the tip of the longest toe.

To see if you have the correct length, stand up while wearing the shoes. There should be a finger’s width of space between the tip of your big toe and the end of the shoe. Alternatively, see if you can slide a finger behind your heel inside the shoe. 

For the width, you should be able to slide the shoe onto your foot entirely with a minor or moderate amount of resistance. Undo any laces, buckles, or other fasteners first. If your foot slides in and out easily, then it is probably too big.

Man trying on leather dress shoes

How to size dress shoes

Dress shoes need slightly different care than casual or athletic shoes. Leather shoes will feel a bit tight to start and need to be broken in before wearing them out-and-about. This is because the leather will loosen over time. So if you buy your dress shoes a bit too big, they’re only going to get worse.

When going to the shoe store for dress shoes, bring along a pair of socks. Dress socks are often a different thickness than day-to-day socks, so make sure the shoes are a perfect fit with the correct socks.

Why Choose University Foot and Ankle Institute for foot and ankle care?

If you’re struggling with any foot or ankle issues, our expert team is here for you. Our podiatrists offer the most advanced podiatry care and the highest success rates in the nation. We are nationally recognized foot and ankle specialists and leaders in researching, diagnosing, and treating all foot and ankle conditions and common injuries.

For a consultation please call (877) 736-6001 or make an appointment online now.

University Foot and Ankle Institute is conveniently located throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area as our foot doctors are available at locations in or near Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Sherman Oaks, West Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Northridge, Downtown Los Angeles, Westlake Village, Santa Barbara, and Valencia.


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