Today, we’re answering this common question: How to wear shoes that are too big? Whether you’ve bought sneakers online and got the size wrong or you’ve inherited a pair from a friend, you need to fine-tune the fit.
We’ll help you by showing you different hacks to fix the size.
Issues With Wearing 1 Size Bigger Shoes
Some argue that wearing a shoe one size bigger will prevent the development of conditions such as bunions and hammertoes. However, this isn’t a sensible idea.
When wearing correctly fitted footwear, you achieve a stable platform for your feet to support your body. You create optimal alignment from your feet to your knees, which minimizes wear on your joints and tendons.
But, when the shoe doesn’t fit, either too big or small, you’re impairing the platform. With tight shoes, you’re running the risk of blisters, calluses and bunions.
When wearing shoes that are too big, your feet aren’t receiving proper assistance, meaning that they must overwork to support your body. This, in turn, causes you to walk in an unnatural and often dysfunctional way that leads to foot-related issues. Read more about the effects of wearing shoes that are too big.
This is why, for comfort, it’s imperative to measure your feet before buying new shoes. Sizes often differ between brands and types, so follow the brand’s recommendations. For boots, please read our guide: how should boots fit.
How to Wear Shoes Too Big
Making shoes that are too big fit is a lot easier than with shoes that are too small. Below we’ve gathered easy hacks and a few, more involved methods, requiring some time and thought. Please keep in mind that it depends on how big the shoes really are—if they’re several sizes too large, there’s not much you can do.
Easy Hacks for Wearing Big Shoes
1. Wear Thick Socks
If your shoes are one size too big, pairing them with thicker socks can help. This is one of the easiest ways to wear large shoes.
You can exchange a thin pair of dress socks with crew socks, for example. If it’s winter, or cold out, you could even pair two or three socks for extra filling. However, be aware that this may fill out the length, but the width can also feel snugger.
- This hack works best with athletic shoes or boots. Dress shoes are likely to become too snug.
- If you’re prone to sweaty feet, or it’s hot out, avoid using this hack. You’ll feel very uncomfortable.
2. Try Insoles
Insoles are soft padded inserts that you place inside your shoe on top of the footbed. Various types are available, depending on what you need, such as cushioning or additional support.
We generally use insoles to combat discomfort and posture problems, but they’re quite handy when dealing with size issues. Also, they’re relatively affordable, so it isn’t a huge investment.
- If possible, try the insole before purchasing to ensure that they’re comfortable and help resolve your problem.
- Try insoles in footwear such as dress shoes, heels and open-toed shoes.
3. Use Stuffing
If you need a quick, inexpensive solution, then try a shoe filler for shoes that are too big. You can utilize almost any material, including cotton balls, toilet paper, thin rags or tissue paper. Crumble it together and place it in the toe section of your shoe.
This hack prevents your feet from sliding backward and forward while you walk. It’s easy to do but won’t fill up the width of the shoe—unless you also prop materials along the sides.
- This hack works best with boots, flats or closed-toed heels.
- Avoid trying this if you’re going for a long walk or workout. The material will become gross or uncomfortable to wear.
4. Heel Strips
Heel strips are adhesive pads that you attach to your heel or shoe to improve uncomfortable footwear. They can add partial padding, similarly to an insole. However, their strip-like design allows you to place them virtually anywhere in your shoe to fill out extra space. It’s an idea worth trying for that odd pair of heels.
5. Ball-Of-Foot Pads
We mostly use ball-of-foot pads to make shoes more comfortable to wear, and they’re great for correcting large sizes. They work similarly to insoles but aren’t as awkward or uncomfortable to wear. They’re also inexpensive and easy to get hold of.
- Ball-of-foot pads work well with heels and flats.
- The pads are available in various colors, so it’s a good idea to pick one that complements your shoes.
More Involved Hacks for Wearing Big Shoes
1. Shrinking Shoes With Water
If your shoes are too big, you can use water to shrink them. If done correctly, this can provide great results, but it’s essential to be aware that there is a risk of damaging them. Because of this, check the care label—if your shoes shouldn’t be cleaned using water, avoid this.
Here’s what you need:
- Spray bottle or bucket.
- Hairdryer (optional).
- Socks (optional).
This is what you do:
- Start by getting your shoes wet. If they’re made from leather, use a spray bottle—for canvas or athletic shoes, let them soak in a bucket.
- Once they’re wet, place them in the sun to dry. If it isn’t sunny, you can use a hairdryer on its lowest setting. Keep it at a distance to avoid damaging your shoe.
- When they’re dry, try them on and assess the size. If needed, repeat the process until you’re pleased with the fit.
- For leather shoes, condition them afterward using a leather conditioner. Consult the care label to ensure they’re compatible with your shoe.
With leather shoes, try to let them dry on your feet. After spraying them, put on a pair of wet socks and insert your feet in the shoes. Wear them until they’re dry (it may take all day), and the material will mold according to your feet.
When dry, condition them with a compatible conditioner.
2. Attach an Elastic Band
If you have experience with sewing, you can attach an elastic band to tighten the shoe. Stitching elastic bands at the back pulls the material together, making it more snug around your foot. You can also attach them to the sides, but use strong elastics.
This is what you do:
- Find your spot inside the shoe. Then stretch the band along the area as much as possible.
- Carefully sew the elastic band in place while keeping it tight. A good idea is to attach a safety pin to the loose end.
- Once you’ve attached both sides and let go, the band should draw the materials in, giving it a smaller fit.
You can combine this method with the shrinking hack above. Shrink your shoes first and then attach the band afterward if needed.
3. See a Professional
Consult a shoe repair professional (cobbler) when all else fails. Sadly, they aren’t always easy to find, but a quick Google search should help.
However, cobbler services are usually expensive, so unless you have a budget for it, only bring your most valuable shoes. This could be costly dress shoes or heirlooms.
Watch this helpful video on more tips for correcting big shoes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should Sneakers Be a Size Bigger?
Sneakers shouldn’t necessarily be one size bigger—it depends on what you’re using them for. If you’re wearing them casually, then no, it’s best to go with your size. However, if you’re using them for sports, such as running, you can go half a size to one size up.
Due to the increased blood flow during exercise, feet tend to swell, which could make your shoe feel uncomfortably tight. Still, measure your feet and follow the manufacturer’s suggestions.
Watch this video for helpful tips on how to size your feet for running shoes.
Can I Wear Shoes Half a Size Too Big?
Although half a size may not seem significant, it can have an impact on how you walk. The shoes may slide and rub on your heels, which could lead to blisters.
On the other hand, some people have asymmetrical feet, where one foot is half a size bigger than the other. In those instances, it’s recommended that you buy according to the larger foot. Then use insoles or stuffing to fill out the other.
How Can I Tell If My Shoes Are Too Big?
Big shoes aren’t always obvious until you’ve left the store and go for your first walk. So to tell whether the size is incorrect, while seated, try to feel where your big toe sits in the toe box. Ideally, there should be a small gap (about the width of a thumb) between your longest toe and the shoe’s front.
If the material compresses to the footbed when you press down, the shoes are too big. If there’s no gap, they’re too small.
How to wear shoes that are too big? You have a range of methods you can use, differing from quick and easy hacks to more involved approaches. Your success, however, depends on how large the shoe is—if it’s several sizes too big, consult a professional.
We hope you found a useful hack. Please leave a comment below and feel free to share our guide.