How to Modify Your Shoes to Better Fit Your Feet

Shoe_modifications

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.

Mens-vs-womens
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.

Lacing_gif

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. https://www.correcttoes.com/shop/accessories/metatarsal-pad.html

Heel_padding

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.

Tongue-depressor

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.

remove-liner

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.

ball-stretcher

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.

Cut-shoe

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 correctoes.com.

14 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: https://www.correcttoes.com/foot-help/shoe-list/correct-toes-approved-shoes/ , 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..
    FOOT HURTS WALKING BARE FOOT

  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!

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