Is It Better to Buy Shoes Bigger or Smaller?

Buying shoes may sometimes not be a sure bet compared to shopping for apparel. With clothes, you can go a size up when uncertain then easily adjust it to your liking later if necessary. However, when it comes to shoe shopping, you have to be more certain since it’s usually impossible to adjust them.

This brings us back to the unanswered question: Is it better to buy shoes bigger or smaller? The short answer is that it depends. 

However, this article will answer this question in detail by addressing different aspects that you should consider when determining whether to buy shoes bigger or smaller.

is it better to buy shoes bigger or smaller infographic

Should You Buy Shoes Bigger or Smaller? Factors to Consider 

There are two key factors that you should consider when determining whether to buy bigger or smaller shoes. They include the type of shoe and the material of the shoe.

Type of Shoe

Each shoe type has its ideal fit for the purpose you intend to use it. In general, shoes used over extended periods of time and for rigorous activities, such as sports or mountain climbing, should have a small allowance. This is because, during such actions, the foot may expand and require more room.

Such shoes include sneakers and hiking boots. If these shoes are a perfect fit and the foot expands during the activities, it may lead to foot injuries such as blisters.

Another type of shoe that may require a slightly bigger fit is winter boots. These shoes need sufficient room to accommodate the heavy socks worn during the cold seasons.

Some shoes require you to go for the perfect fit to ensure your comfort. Such shoes include heels and flats. Smaller heels may lead to calluses and blisters, while bigger heels may cause a lot of strain on the foot as you walk, leading to ankle aches and foot pain.

However, you can also find shoes that generally don’t have severe repercussions, whether you go bigger or smaller. These are casual shoes that are worn around the house, such as slippers or flip-flops. Nonetheless, it’s advisable to go for the right fit for your comfort and safety when buying these casual shoes.

Red high heels

Shoe Material

The reason why the material of the shoe matters when determining if it’s better to buy shoes bigger or smaller is because some materials expand over time while others shrink. On the other hand, others remain the same over their lifespan.

For shoe materials that expand, you should go for a slightly smaller shoe. Stretchy materials, like leather, are susceptible to expanding.

Other fabrics, such as those made of textile, are not stretchy and often tend to shrink. This change happens especially after washing them. For such shoes, it’s better to go slightly bigger to have enough space for your foot if the shoe shrinks.

Other Factors to Consider

In addition to those mentioned, other factors should be considered when determining is it better to buy shoes bigger or smaller.


If it’s during warmer seasons such as summer, our feet are more likely to swell due to the high temperatures. In this case, it’s better to go for oversized shoes to have enough room for your feet.

In colder seasons, we tend to wear heavier and thicker socks with our shoes to shield ourselves from the cold. During such weather, it’s ideal to go for bigger shoes as well.

Perfectly fitting shoes are ideal for regular temperatures, i.e., not extremely high or low.

Different Foot Sizes

For instances where one foot is significantly larger than the other, it is advisable to opt for the bigger size.

Time of the Day

You have probably heard that the best time to shop for shoes is in the afternoon. This is because your foot expands on hot afternoons due to the warmer temperatures, making it the perfect time to go shoe shopping.

If you go earlier in the day, you may end up choosing a shoe that’s too fitting, leaving no room for foot expansion later in the day.

How Much Bigger Should You Buy Shoes?

Now that we have established that there are instances where buying oversized shoes is better, the next question is how much bigger should you buy shoes?

Shoes such as sneakers, hiking boots and winter boots require additional room to allow for any expansion over time as they are worn during certain activities. However, going bigger than necessary can lead to foot injuries due to a lack of foot motion control and uneven weight and pressure distribution.

Experts recommend going a half a size up when buying sneakers. This additional room allows for sufficient blood circulation in the foot to minimize swelling.

How Much Room Should Be at the End of a Shoe?

Experts recommended leaving up to an inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoes for all-day comfort.

Perfectly fitting sandals

Picking the Right Shoe Fit

Picking the right shoe size involves the following simple steps:

  1. Measure your shoe size, preferably in the afternoon. Make sure that you go with the bigger foot size.
  2. Check both the depth and width of the shoe. The depth of the shoe should be enough to accommodate all toes comfortably, while the width should fit the ball of your foot or the widest part.
  3. Ensure that there is enough room at the end of the shoe.
  4. Perform a test run. Wear the shoes and walk around with them to ensure that you are comfortable and they fit comfortably to your liking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should Your Toes Touch the End of Your Shoes?

It’s recommended to leave up to an inch between your longest toe and the front end of the shoe. This is roughly equivalent to the width of your thumb. Your toes shouldn’t touch the end of your shoes to create sufficient room without feeling constricted. 

Is It Bad to Wear Shoes One Size Bigger?

When buying sneakers, it’s recommended only to go half a size up. Going a size bigger isn’t advisable as it may lead to foot injuries. However, it’s usually okay to go a size bigger when buying kids’ shoes as they tend to outgrow them pretty fast.


Buying bigger shoes is ideal when shopping for sneakers, hiking boots and winter boots as they require room for foot expansion. Smaller shoes are only ideal for cases where the material may stretch. However, such cases are usually rare.

Ultimately, if you are not buying sneakers or hiking/winter boots, you should go for perfectly fitting shoes to ensure maximum comfort as you go about your day-to-day activities.

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