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Shoes – such an integral part of our daily lives. But how often do we really think about what our footwear can do for us? Or more importantly, how our footwear can be hurting us. When we’re young, often we get our feet sized and shoes fitted appropriately. But how many of us can say that we’ve checked our fit once we’re adults? 

We carry our shoe size in our mind’s compendium of life’s important numbers. But unlike other numbers, like our date of birth, our shoe size is not as fixed as we may believe it to be. A shoe size is as variable as the sizing of a pair of pants. Each brand can have a different interpretation of sizing to another. Then let’s factor in the conversions between European, US and UK sizing – yikes!

What can happen if we wear the wrong size shoe? 

If you’re wearing the wrong size shoe, you will quickly find out how footwear can hinder foot health. Perhaps you’ve already experienced this yourself. Everyone has that pair of shoes in the back of their closet that they don’t wear because they cause blisters. There’s a high chance those shoes don’t actually fit you. Blisters are our number one indicator of whether our shoes are fitting or not. 

Ignore a poor fit and you’re likely to get a build up of hard skin called a callus, or worse, a corn. Going deeper than that, a tight-fitting shoe can bind your foot so much that you damage your nerves. If you’ve ever experienced burning, tingling or numbness when you wear your shoes, there’s a high chance you’re wearing the wrong shoes. 

Appropriately fitted footwear can be a game changer for your foot health. To learn more about what you’re looking for when fitting your own shoes, book in with one of our podiatrists in your local area. 

Do my feet keep growing?

Not in the way you think. The bones have finished growing once you reach adulthood. However, feet still change over time! Every step you take is an assault on the complicated network of structures we call feet. As a result of changing loads and activities across our lifetime, our bones, muscles and ligaments will change. When they grow stronger, our feet might take up more room in our shoes, needing a wider fitting, or an extra size in length. Hormonal changes, like those that occur with pregnancy, can result in changes to ligament laxity, sometimes resulting in splaying of the forefoot. With age, muscle mass reduces (called sarcopaenia) and we may find we need a narrower fitting shoe. All of this (and more) results in a foot shape that changes over our lives.

Footwear can play an important role in looking after those structures. The materials of a sole could absorb that impact so that your joints can last longer. The insole could have a contoured arch that supports the soft tissues of your feet so that they aren’t overloaded. The stiffness of the heel counter could brace your hindfoot to resist ankle instability as you walk. The uppers may have stretchy material over the big toe joint to allow room for a bunion. The toe box might be deeper than average to create space for curly or bent toes. We know the laces are there to hold your foot still to stop you slipping and sliding, but the location of the eyelets can support the midfoot, or protect the ankle. 

While it is easy to think that your shoes are little more than fashion items that protect your feet from sharp or hot surfaces, the reality is athletic footwear is designed with performance-enhancing technology. Enhancements in running shoes have been credited to helping Olympians run faster, jump higher and play harder than ever before. A recent paper by Dyer (2020) questioned whether footwear technology had so greatly advantaged runners that they should be regulated so as to keep it fair on past record holders and athletes not wearing the same shoes. The good news for us, as consumers, is that this technology is not reserved for elite athletes. The shoes we purchase at our local shoe store (or instore at My FootDr retail stores) incorporate this same technology. The intelligent minds behind this tech blend it so seamlessly with fashion now that you won’t fully recognise the scope of it. So next time you’re browsing for shoes, spare a thought to the researchers and innovators that have helped those shoes reach you!

I’m in the right shoe, now what?

Perhaps you’ve gone through all this and you’re in a beautifully fitted pair of shoes. Just because they have all these features, doesn’t mean they last forever. Like anything under repetitive stress, the materials in a shoe will wear out. 

You’ll start to feel the impact again when the soles start losing their rebound and cushioning compresses over time. The uppers will stretch and become less secure with wear, perhaps even going so far as to develop holes or tear. Glue will lose its adhesiveness eventually which may lead to separation at the seams. 

Please don’t wait until it’s too late to replace your shoes! Ignoring the signs of your shoes wearing down can lead to injuries in your feet. That might be something as simple as slipping over when the tread has worn smooth. It could be something more insidious, like repetitive strain from uneven compressed areas of the sole making you walk unnaturally. If your feet hurt after wearing shoes that used to be comfortable, this is a warning sign. Check your shoes regularly for wear and pay attention to the signals your feet give you.

That’s all a bit complicated, how do I know if I’ve got it right?

We have a wide network of experienced podiatrists that can answer that question for you. Book in to your local Healthia podiatrist to learn more. 


Dyer, B. (2020). A pragmatic approach to resolving technological unfairness: the case of Nike’s Vaporfly and Alphafly running footwear. Sports medicine-open6(1), 1-10.

Hébert-Losier, K., & Pamment, M. (2023). Advancements in running shoe technology and their effects on running economy and performance–a current concepts overview. Sports Biomechanics22(3), 335-350.

Menz, H. B., Morris, M. E., & Lord, S. R. (2006). Footwear characteristics and risk of indoor and outdoor falls in older people. Gerontology52(3), 174-180.

Willwacher, S., Mai, P., Helwig, J., Hipper, M., Utku, B., & Robbin, J. (2024). Does advanced footwear technology improve track and road racing performance? An explorative analysis based on the 100 best yearly performances in the world between 2010 and 2022. Sports Medicine-Open10(1), 1-9.