Sometimes, you need to know how to make big shoes fit. Whether it’s because you’re borrowing someone else’s shoes, picking up a one-of-a-kind thrift store find, or you picked out the wrong size, there are some times when we’re just stuck with a shoe that’s slightly too large. Thankfully, there are several strategies you can use to make large shoes fit you better (and make them safer to wear, also)!
If you try to wear big shoes without any extra support, you can end up with unstable footing. Large shoes tend to flop around, and you could end up twisting an ankle or worse if you don’t walk carefully in them. Not only do the strategies in this guide help you make these shoes feel better, but they’ll help you walk more safely in them, too. For these reasons and more, if you’re planning to wear big shoes, it’s essential to know how to make big shoes fit.
Making Big Shoes Fit
Necessarily, to make a large shoe fit like a smaller shoe, you must make up some of the extra space in the boot with something that isn’t your foot. Many different things can accomplish this task, but which one will be appropriate for you will depend on the season, what shoe you’re planning to wear, and what resources you have on hand.
Wear Multiple Socks
One of the age-old methods for making big shoes fit smaller feet is to wear more socks! A thick pair or several layers of socks can serve as a buffer, filling up extra space in the shoe and giving you more stability. However, whether or not extra socks will be an option for you depends on the time of year.
If you live in a climate that experiences winters, you’ll probably see great success from this strategy. Winter boots tend to be a bit larger than regular shoes, and wearing a few extra layers of socks in the wintertime is a great way to keep your feet warm, too. However, be on the lookout for foot sweat, and make sure to clean your boots if they start to get stinky.
Stuff Your Shoes
If you’re wondering how to make big shoes fit, the good news is that there are all sorts of things you can put inside your shoes to make them fit better. Of course, the most basic way to do this is to go after them with a filler material, but you can buy liners or insoles designed to take up some space, too. If you’re looking to take up a bit of room, try stuffing your shoes with anything like the following:
- Cotton balls
- Toilet paper
However, this method is the least permanent of the fixes we provide here, as your material may not even last a day. It all depends on how much your feet sweat, how hot the day is, and how active you are on your feet. That being said, this method is excellent for mitigating the back-and-forth sliding that comes with wearing too-large shoes.
Loose-stuffing your shoes is a great place to start, but once you have a handle on how much stuffing and support you need, it’s time to move on to more permanent solutions. Toe fillers exist as a sturdier, more comfortable alternative to the materials we mentioned before, and they’re inexpensive, too. Some of these include:
- Heel strips or supports
- Extra insoles
- Arch pads
Extra insoles are another excellent option for reducing the space inside your shoe. Most insoles have a considerable amount of body to them, and the lifting action provided by the insole will help your shoes fit more securely. However, be careful when choosing your insole type, as some models will compress more while others will not. Material, shape, and size all come into play.
For dress shoes and high heels, heel strips and arch pads might be the extra boost you need to get a secure fit. Heel strips are made to be worn on the heel of your foot, protecting it from chafing and providing a bit of padding, too. Arch pads work like a partial insole, supporting your arch but not taking up quite as much room as a full insole.
Whatever you use to pad your shoes, make sure it’s secure, healthy, and comfortable. You don’t want your sizing solutions chafing at your feet or your toes!
See a Professional
A professional cobbler is the only way to have sure-fire sizing change for your shoes. A cobbler will be able to add custom inserts to your shoes to fit them to your feet better, and their replacements will be permanent, too. However, a cobbler’s services will, predictably, be much more expensive than any of these other options.
If you plan to wear your shoes a lot or they have sentimental value, hiring a cobbler may not be a bad idea, such as for dress shoes or family heirlooms. However, if the boots are inexpensive or you don’t wear them often, your solutions, temporary or not, might be enough to see you through.
Do Some Sewing
If you have some skill with a needle and thread, you may be able to make some semi-permanent changes to your shoes on your own. Elastic bands, for example, can be sewn into the inner edges of shoes to make them fit more snugly, but this takes a bit of expertise to get right. If you mess up, you’ll end up with holes in your shoes!
Shrink Your Shoes
Shrinking your shoes, if you can manage to do it, is the next best thing to taking your shoes to a professional cobbler. However, shrinking your footwear can be a risky and unpredictable endeavor. There’s no way to know exactly how your shoes will warp and shrink before you start the process, so they could potentially turn into something unwearable.
If you’d like to try shrinking your shoes, spray them with water, then allow them to air-dry. Check the label of your shoes before you begin, though! Additionally, don’t ever leave your shoes in the sun to dry. While it might seem like a superior method of drying them, it may end up warping the shape or fading the color of your shoes.
Large Shoe Tips
Regardless of whether you fill the space in a shoe or not, the size of the shoe’s outside is unlikely to change. This means that the way you walk in bigger shoes needs to be a bit different than how you would walk in small ones. There are a few things you need to remember to do when wearing big shoes to make sure you don’t trip, twist an ankle, or end up on your behind!
Firstly, be sure to remember that a more substantial shoe will be longer, wider, and deeper than the footwear you usually wear. While your normal stride might account for your usual shoes, a pair of shoes that’s a size or two bigger might drag against the ground in places. If you ever wore an older sibling’s or parent’s shoes when you were a kid, you know what this feels like. Wearing a shoe that’s a size or two too large feels like this but to a lesser extent.
As such, you should be aware of the way you walk while wearing bigger shoes. You’re more prone to stubbing your toe or twisting your ankle because of the loose way the footwear fits.
Try not to wear extra-large shoes if you’re planning to walk far in them. No matter what you do to stuff your shoes or add padding to fix the fit, they will never fit the same way footwear in your size would. Even a cobbler may not be able to replicate the perfect fit, depending on the shoe.
These shoes can slide around and chafe in strange places, not to mention being more dangerous. If you’re planning to hike or walk anywhere on an incline or with unsure footholds, always make sure you wear a snug, well-fitting shoe. Don’t wear them for any athletic activities, either!
Above all, know your limits! If a shoe is a size or two above yours, you may be able to make up for a bit of room, especially if the footwear runs small, to begin with. However, there’s no way to make up for a very significant size difference. If you tried, walking in the shoes would be dangerous anyway.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to cap your limit off at an absolute maximum of two sizes above your usual, but it’s always ideal to stay below that. Try not to go more than one size above if you can help it, as this minimizes your chance of injury.
That being said, keep in mind that shoe fit within a shoe size naturally varies as well. Most people can wear about one full size up or down from their usual size without padding, depending on the shoe’s fit. Some shoes are just made smaller than others, while others are created to be roomier. If you can’t try a shoe’s size in store to be sure of a good fit, make sure to check online reviews, as these can sometimes tell you whether or not a particular shoe runs true-to-size.
Health Risks of Large Shoes
We’ve gone over some of the adverse effects of wearing overly-large shoes in this article already, but it’s not just injury that you should be wary of. Large shoes can cause health problems and even foot deformities down the road, too. Primarily, wearers will have to watch out for things like:
- Nail injury
- Back problems (from bad posture)
- And more
While keeping a large pair of shoes that you can’t get rid of likely won’t cause much trouble in the long run, especially if you wear them infrequently, don’t make buying large shoes a habit. We’ll dive more in-depth into the health effects that can come with ill-fitting shoes in this section.
A hammertoe is an unnatural bend in the joint of a toe that can be caused by several different things. If you’re wearing big, ill-fitting footwear, you may find yourself trying to “grip” the insole of your shoe with your toes to keep them from sliding around. This constant gripping leaves the muscles in your toes out of balance, which can contribute to hammertoes.
The same problems with hammertoes can arise with other ill-fitting footwear, too. For example, if you wear high-heeled shoes often, you might find that your toes end up crowded into the front end of the shoe. This is especially true for high heels that don’t fit, as your weight distribution across the rest of the shoe will be incorrect, leaving most of your weight on your toes. Crowding your toes into the end of a shoe can also result in hammertoes (too-small shoes can be a culprit, too).
Hammertoes are less likely to develop in low-heeled or adjustable shoes, but the risk is still there, especially if your feet tend to slide back and forth in your shoes. Think about it: if your foot is pushing forward and jamming your toes into the front of your footwear with each stride, you’re just as likely to develop an unsightly and uncomfortable hammertoe.
Blisters and Calluses
Blisters happen when friction repeatedly affects a patch of skin on the body. While you can develop blisters anywhere, your feet tend to be especially susceptible because of how frequently they move. This is even truer when wearing large shoes, as they’re more likely to shift and flail around while they’re on your feet.
Some people choose to intentionally buy bigger shoes because they believe they’ll leave them less susceptible to shoe blisters. While this can be true in some ways and for some shoe styles, more often than not, it just results in blisters in different places. While you might get blisters in common areas, such as the toes and ankles, when wearing snug shoes, large shoes will end up leaving blisters in other high-friction and high-shock areas.
When your feet get blistered often enough, calluses will start to develop instead. When an area of skin gets exposed to abrasion or pressure regularly, the body responds by fortifying that skin into a callus. While calluses generally aren’t harmful from a health standpoint, they are usually considered ugly.
While nail trauma is generally an issue with small shoes, any shoe where your toes are repeatedly forced into the toe end of the shoe can result in nail trauma. High-heeled shoes, of course, are the foremost offenders, since your toes are forced into the end of the shoe by your own weight.
There are several types of nail trauma that you might see from ill-fitting shoes. These include:
- Onychoatrophia: thinning or shrinking of the toenails, especially in the pinky toe
- Onycholysis: Separation of the nail from the toe itself
- Beau’s Lines: Wrinkles or depressions in the toenail that occur from repeated jamming
Because you walk differently in overly-large shoes, this can result in changes to your gait that can permanently affect your posture. If your natural gait is impacted by the shoes you’re wearing; your body might unconsciously attempt to compensate by changing your spinal position. Over time, this can result in back issues, permanent posture changes, and pain.
As such, when wearing ill-fitting shoes, it’s essential to be extra-cognizant of your posture. Make sure to keep your back straight at all times and actively walk with a heel-to-toe motion. Reminding yourself to maintain good posture while wearing ill-fitting shoes is a great place to start, but unfortunately, it cannot prevent all posture issues from occurring.
Think of how the top of your neck connects to your feet. Your spine runs down, links to your legs, and then moves to your feet. If you traced this relationship, you could connect a line from the tips of your toes to the bottom of your skull.
Your feet have a natural arch in them, and this arch is reflected in the line you just drew. However, ill-fitting shoes will often have this arch support in the wrong place, throwing your spine out of alignment. Even if you’re entirely aware of your posture changes throughout the day while wearing large shoes, you could still end up with a sore back because of this relationship.
While wearing large shoes for a day or two probably will not hurt you in the long run, it’s not something you should make a habit of doing. As human beings, we depend on the health of our feet to move around and live our day-to-day lives. Having the support of a well-fitting pair of shoes is paramount in keeping our feet (and our bodies) happy, healthy, and functional long-term. However, when that’s not entirely possible, knowing how to make big shoes fit better is the next best thing!