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Are High Heels Supposed To Fit Loose or Tight? 8 Important Questions About Buying And Wearing Them, Answered

Meghan Markle wearing shoes too big

Duchess Meghan Markle has been in the news for wearing her shoes loose with heel gaps. I have no insider information about her shoes, however this photo may have been taken in the morning, a time of day when feet are naturally skinny and shoes fit loose. Her shoes may be a perfect fit later in the day when her feet are more ‘chubby’.  Her shoes could be a perfect fit all day long from morning until night if she put foam inserts into them that hold the heel of the foot inside the heel end of the shoe to prevent heel gaps.   

The fit of high heels is a dilemma. Buy them with a snug fit so they stay on your feet – and suffer the consequences when you stay late to a party and your feet are so painful you can’t even walk, let alone dance! 

Or buy them with a loose fit so you can easily wiggle your toes - and suffer the consequences when you wear them to a morning wedding – and just as you are leaving the church you lose a shoe on the stairs nearly twisting your ankle!  

In 2014 BUSTLE wrote “ If heels are loose, the muscles in your toes will have to overcompensate to keep your shoes on, and this is bad for your feet. Heels should neither be too loose nor too tight. Play Goldilocks when shoe shopping — they should be juuuust right.”  This is good advice.   However in the same BUSTLE article there is bad advice that you can “ train your ankles to provide better support”.  It is bad advice to tell women that they can somehow train their ankle bones  to be able to wear 5” heels.  That cannot be done, either you can wear heels over 3” or you can’t - just like some people have feet that can ballet dance and some can’t.

Is there a middle ground, and if so what is it? The holy grail of fitting is to have high heel shoes that fit perfectly from morning ‘til night on feet that are ‘skinny’ in the morning and ‘chubby’ by evening. These eight tips will help you choose shoes and wear them so they fit right:

  1. Buy shoes that fit perfectly at the end of the day – not in the morning. Shop in the late afternoon or evening for shoes when you feet are at their ‘chubbiest’. If in doubt about shoe fit always go up a half size, never go down a half size.  If you are shopping in the morning make allowances by buying shoes that are on the loose side. 
  1. Buy all your high heels with as perfect fit as possible with a ¼” to ½ “ space in front of the longest toe , and fit your shoe to the biggest foot. The longest toe is not always the big toe, so go with whichever toe you have that is longest.  Go up a half size if in doubt about the best fit. You should be able to wiggle your toes inside the toes box when you stop even after walking about. 
  1. Try on heels in the store and walk in them for at least ten minutes before buying them. They should be well balanced so you can walk easily in them without any part of your foot being pinched, rubbed or squeezed. (Stuart Weitzman says if they don’t pass this test don’t buy them. He also says the only thing you should do to your shoes after buying them is add foam inserts. ) The soles of high heels should flex or be rounded (rocker soles) if the shoes are platform heels.  If the shoes have narrow wedge heels or are mules make sure you can walk easily without feeling like you are tipping over or are working hard to keep the shoe on your foot.  There is a myth that ,” wedges are more comfortable because weight is more evenly distributed throughout the shoe, giving you more balance” this is not true.  The greater comfort from wedges is only due to the larger surface of the heel touching the ground which makes it more stable to walk on. The weight of a wearer in any shoe is distributed according to the height of the heel, whether wedge or stiletto, not the shape of the heel. The higher the heel, wedge or stiletto, the more weight is shifted to the ball of the foot by gravity acting on the foot.  
  1. Try on all shoes you bought online, even if you think you are sure of your size and you are buying a familiar brand. It’s important to try on shoes every time you buy new ones because your feet never stop growing.  Your feel will never again be as small as they are today!  Women who wear heels infrequently may be surprised to notice that shoes they wore comfortably to a special event a few years ago don’t fit anymore. This is quite normal.  Throw out or give away any shoes that feel tight that you have been keeping in your closet. Wearing shoes, especially high heels that are too tight or too high are a major source of foot deformities according to foot specialists.  See website   
  1. Reject any heels that fit tight anywhere - especially around the toes. If high heels have pointy toes buy a larger size than normal to have room for the forefoot and toes to spread out from side to side.  NEVER EVER EXPECT TO GET HEELS TO FIT BY ‘BREAKING THEM IN’ OR STRETCHING THEM.  (The one exception to never stretching shoes is to ‘spot stretch’ an otherwise well fitting shoe to accommodate a foot deformity like a hammer toe or bunion.  This can be done by using a wooden spoon warmed up in hot water and applied to the small spot that needs to be made bigger. This works only on soft leather shoes, it won’t work on patent leather plastic shoes.)   
  1. Make sure the heel end of the shoe fits snugly around your heel by trying on various brands of shoes. If you can’t find a snug fitting shoe heel buy shoes with straps or ankle ties. For mules and slides make sure the vamp fits without gaps or you risk losing a shoe. Outfit slides or mules with foam shoe inserts to stop gaps - plus help to keep them on your feet.   
  1. Add sculpted rebounding PORON foam shoe inserts into all your high heels. Effective inserts will hold the foot back from sliding forward due to gravity, stabilize the shoe,  plus cushion the ball of the foot – and will fit invisibly under the foot.  Inserts for high heels should fit without crowding the foot or making the toes feel tight, should be customizable to your unique foot length so the ball of foot cushioning falls in the right place, should not press up into your arch,  should not cause wobbliness by being slippery or cause loss of balance by fitting under the heel forcing the foot upwards and making the ramp steeper.    For well functioning high heel inserts see   or  on or on   
  1. If all else fails buy low heels! If you have trouble wearing heels because your ankles hurt this cannot be helped by any type of high heel shoe inserts, even of the very best type.  For painful ankles the best thing is to rest them.  High heel shoe inserts, even sculpted rebounding foam that contours to the foot will provide comfort by stabilizing heels and cushioning the ball of the foot, but will not help relieve ankle pain resulting from an over flexing of the ankle.  Keeping feet stable in heels may prevent some ankle pain or shin pain if it is resulting from muscle cramping due to trying to keep shoes on the feet but not if it is from over flexing.  Over flexing puts the ankle bones out of proper position for holding the weight of the body and the only solution is to wear shoes that have lower heels, usually about 3” or less.  Low heels and flats are also made more comfortable with inserts to cushion the ball of the foot from the ground, to keep the foot from pushing forward into a narrow toe box or to keep mules or slides on the foot.   For lovely, stylish leading  shoes with low heels see Aquazzura shoes at


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