How to Modify Your Shoes to Better Fit Your Feet

A local track and field coach had a young runner who was experiencing a problem during practice, her feet were falling asleep. One day, the numbness and tingling was so uncomfortable and distracting that she finally asked for help. The coach pulled off the runner’s shoe and removed the shoe liner/insole to increase volume. He then had the runner run a lap around the track. Following the lap, the runner reported improvement, but not 100% resolution. The coach asked the runner to remove her shoes one more time so he could make a few cuts to the upper material. Worried and confused, the runner refused to let her coach cut her shoes. The coach laughed and said, “Well, if you bought a dress and it didn’t fit, wouldn’t you get it altered?!”

Like the situation above, most people are uneasy with the idea of modifying footwear. Unlike the fit of a dress, suit or pants, for example, we accept the standard shoe size off the shelf and do very little to customize it. This is not something we have to live with. Below are some tips and tricks to improve the fit of your footwear. Whether you need to snug up your shoe or increase the amount of space, these modifications can help!

First, let’s start with the basic differences between male and female footwear. If we strip away color, overall style and aesthetic, the fundamental differences are clear.

Women’s shoe & liner (left) Men’s shoe & liner (right)

Men’s footwear typically has a wider and blockier shape overall, and is less tapered at either end of the shoe. Women’s footwear is constructed to have a narrower width, with significantly more taper from heel to toe. These differences aim to fit the average male and female foot types, but fail to accommodate everyone. If you’re a woman with a ‘wide’ foot, you may benefit from wearing a comparable sized men’s shoe. By switching to a men’s shoe you’ll have a better fit for your forefoot, but may struggle with the fit of your heel. Due to the blocky construction used in men’s footwear, here are some tips to snug-up the heal, instep, or overall volume within a wider or larger shoe:

Play With The Laces.
There are many lacing techniques to help keep your foot happy in a larger or wider shoe. The initial eyelets can be skipped, which starts the lacing further from the toes. Additional eyelets can also be skipped to avoid pressure points. There are even some lacing techniques to help secure the heel.


Use Padding.
Adhesive felt or foam can be added within the roomier parts of the shoe, particularly around the heel or along the ankle. Cut strips or pieces of felt or foam to create a custom and snug fit.


Insert Tongue Depressors.
For ‘shallow’ feet or a low instep, adding tongue depressors along the top of the foot or under the laces can help fill the void. This prevents the foot from lifting or sliding around.


Alternatively, you may have the opposite concern. If you require additional room in a shoe, here are some tips for you:

Remove Sock Liner or Insole.
Just like our runner in the opening story, if you need more room in your shoe just remove the 1-2mm foam liner. This drops your foot deeper into the wider portion of the shoe, creating additional volume.


Stretch Shoes.
With a ball and ring stretcher, press or expansive device, you can create more room within shoes by stretching the upper material. Stretching devices can be left within shoes for 12-36 hours to create your desired width.


Cut Shoes.
With a small blade, scissors or exacto knife, cut the shoes at each pressure point. For more information on shoe modification and cutting, please see our modifications page.


Whether your goal is to increase shoe volume or get a more intimate feel, these suggestions will keep your feet happy inside a variety of naturally shaped footwear. Check out our recommended shoe list as well as additional foot-healthy information on

29 thoughts on “How to Modify Your Shoes to Better Fit Your Feet”

  1. Are there specific shoes that fi correct toes that are soft on the bottom I can’t go barefoot or minimalist as my feet feel as if they are ripping open with every step I bought crocs but they made me work my calf too much increasing my pain.

    1. Hi Kimberly!
      Great question. On our Correct Toes Approved List here: , you will find a variety of shoes that all have a wide toe box and are zero-drop (or as close to it as possible), and they all range in how much cushioning there is on the bottom of the shoe. Altra recently came out with a new running shoe called the Escalante that has a rather-squishy cushioned sole. Other moderately-cushioned models of Altra include the Men’s One 2.5 or the Men’s Superior.
      Please let us know if you have any other questions!
      best regards,

    2. Using the tongue depressor (shown in the article) and/or a metatarsal pad in your Crocs can help keep them from moving around on your foot. The calf pain could be from extra work trying to keep them on. Anyway, it’s worth a shot for only a few dollars of felt padding.

  2. What shoes do i need for gym using weights and cardio machìnes,walking and jumping?
    Female age 43
    Fibro sufferer
    Sprained both ankles over the years so need support
    Slip disc in l4 l5
    Main problem mortons neuroma in right foot somewere between big toe and 3rd toe…have ghosts runners but find them too chunky and not good for squating..

  3. Are there any suggested insoles? I am wearing Lems insoles in my Olukai Nohea’s because, while I loved the squishy-ness of the Olukai inserts, they greatly exacerbate my plantar fascitis by cutting into my heel where my arches have fallen. I’d love a suggestion for best all-purpose inserts! 😀

    1. Hi Jill! You have the right idea already! Lems insoles are some our favorites–they’re fairly comfortable and have the benefit of being fairly inexpensive as well!

  4. Great post and very informative for me, needing a very wide toe box, but a very narrow heel.
    Could adding felt (or similar) around the sides and back of the shoe cause blisters where the felt meets the shoe or at the top edge of the felt?

    Many thanks for all the great info!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Bella! It definitely can, it just really depends on the extent to which your foot is moving around in the shoe. Generally the felt is malleable enough that it doesn’t rub too much.

  5. I have extremely long and narrow feet and wear a 12 2A to 4A. None of the shoes that are recommended to go with correct toes are my size. What shoe would you recommend modifying? It’s my second day using the product and my toes got itchy from new blood flow as I walked this morning so I can see this will work of I can find the right shoes.

    1. Hi Terry!

      Thanks for checking out the article and for trying out Correct Toes. It is encouraging to hear that you’ve already seen positive effects. In terms of shoes, try women’s Vivobarefoot shoes–specifically the women’s Primus Lite or the women’s Mata. Size 46 Lems Primals should also work fairly well. One of these shoes will almost certainly work, and you can continue on your way to healthy, strong feet!

      Hope this helps!

  6. My big toes (all my toes really) angle from 10-30 degrees to the outside. My left foot in particular rub on the outside of the toebox in just about every shoe. Will this device correct that angling?

    1. Hi Brandon,

      I appreciate you checking out our blog! Correct Toes are perfect for aligning wayward toes. Give them a try–with our thirty day guaranteed return policy, there’s no harm in checking them out. Have a great day!

  7. I just received my Correct Toes and I’m really excited about them (although they don’t fit in any shoes I own). I went to Vivobarefoot to try on the Primus Lite and the Prinus Trail FG, but neither would fit in the toe box area in a size 39. (The women’s 40 was too big and the men’s equivalent was enormous.) I tried taking the insole out, but it was totally uncomfortable like that. I am looking for shoes to train, hike, and eventually run in. I have looked at your suggested shoes for women, but compared to the men’s options, there are so few. Is there a reason for this? Do you have anything you could suggest beyond what’s on the list? Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Noelle,

      We’re sorry to hear you’re having trouble finding shoes! In general, women’s shoe options tend to be more narrow than their male counter part, which is why there aren’t as many listed on our shoe list. Have tried Lems or Altra yet to see if either of those brands are a better fit? We’ve recently tested the Topo ST-2 and found that they fit with CT, so you might want to give them a try as well.

    2. Hi there. I’ve looked and looked and there are very few options in women’s shoes – disappointing with all the super cool styles out there today. Since going natural – which has completely changed my foot condition- I wear Altra women’s Torin 2.5. Ugly but my feet don’t ache and I don’t limp.

  8. Why not just make wider shoes seems like an easy option…? If you advocating correct toes why not build a shoe that fits wide feet with correct toes on… as the shoes that are supposed to be wide – aren’t wide enough!?

    1. Hi James,

      There are several companies that make shoes that are widest at the ends of the toes and that fit with Correct Toes, however each persons feet are unique and sometimes making a few tweaks to a shoe can make all the difference. These are just a few adjustments that we suggest that can help shoes fit more comfortably.

  9. I have had great improvement in straightening my toes while using Correct Toes and Lem shoes size 46.
    My issue is that I cannot wear the Correct Toes in my Lems shoes or my Altra Esclante as my feet are both too wide while wearing the Correct Toes to feet in to either shoe. Help please!

    Thanks for your Help

    1. Hi Gary–There may be some ways to modify your shoes or your Correct Toes to help them fit better. If you email with your issues and send some photos of your feet with Correct Toes on they can help troubleshoot with you. If modifications aren’t an option they can also give you some other shoe brands/styles that may fit better with your feet.

  10. This is a great post. It’s not always as simple as sizing up. For a long time I have been sizing up in Vivobarefoot shoes. IMO Vivo makes the most flexible barefoot shoe on the market that works with Correct Toes. The problem with sizing up to get more width is that you also get more length. For the longest time I’ve been walking around with 1.5 inches of space between the front of the shoe and my biggest toe. The width is perfect, but I trip all the time because of the extra length and it feels like I’m wearing clown shoes.

    I’ve been recently experimenting going down in Vivobarefoot, from a size 45 to a 44. I’ve noticed that the 44 feels more like my size and I feel more nimble in them, but feel there could be space in the toebox, so I’m going to stretch the leather. Hopefully in the future Vivobarefoot will make their shoes with a wider toe box, until then, I’ll stretch away!

    1. You’re right, sometimes sizing up doesn’t solve the problem. We love Vivo, and hope to see some wider toeboxes in the future. Luckily stretching shoes can be a good solution in the meantime!

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