A lady wearing a leopard print top is showing another lady with blonde hair looking at a running image on an Ipad

It is important that your running shoes are fitted properly to prevent common irritations, especially in the forefoot. Too often I see runners who have worn shoes that were too small for their running life to date.

A Podiatrist’s Thoughts

I find that women’s running shoes in particular are often fitted too small, most likely because women fit their running shoes similarly to how they fit their casual shoes, which is right against the end of their toes.

This would be OK if the shape of the toe box of all running shoes was more like the shape of your feet, i.e., square. Instead, most running shoes come to a rounded point, so fitting them in this way involves squashing the forefoot and toes.

How to Fit your Shoes

Fitting your running shoes tightly to the toes also does not allow for any forward drifting of the feet inside the shoe. If you run on an undulating road or a steep downhill trail, too tightly fitted shoes can lead to blisters, toenail bruising, and even the loss of toenails on long runs.

The tight fit causes the toes to be bunched together in the shape of the toe box.

Our toes are quite malleable and can put up with a bit of pressure, but sustained pressure can potentially lead to long-term deformation: claw toe, bunions, and nail deformities.

Short-term pressure can cause problems such as ingrown toenails, peripheral digital and interdigital blisters, corns, and callouses.

Another problem with fitting your running shoes tightly to your toes is that with a decrease in length there comes a decrease in width. This can compress the nerves that run between the metatarsal bones and into the toes, potentially leading to a common forefoot nerve condition called Morton’s neuroma.

Below are six key fitting points to consider when you try on running shoes in a store:
  1. Always stand to test the size of the running shoes, because your feet lengthen and expand when you stand.
  2. Ideally, wear socks or ones very similar to what you usually run in.
  3. Have an adult thumb’s width between the longest toe and the end of the shoe’s toe box. This may mean you have to go 1–1.5 sizes longer than the actual length of your foot. For most, this will be a larger size than what you are used to for your casual shoes, so don’t be alarmed. It is better for your feet, and you will get used to it.
  4. You should be able to feel both sides of the widest parts of your forefoot within the toe box, but the foot should not bulge out the sides; neither should you be able to pinch material on either side.
  5. Once the laces are tied, the eyelets should be evenly aligned width-wise to the opposing eyelets and you should not be able to see either edge of the tongue, a sign that the running shoes are too narrow for your feet.
  6. There should not be any slipping of your heels up and down as you do your test run in the store. If they do slip, they may be too big and/or the laces have not been tied tightly enough. If the size has been deemed as appropriate but the heels still slip, try a special lacing technique called the ankle lock, described further on, that can sometimes help with this. Failing this, try on a similar running shoe that may have a better heel counter shape and design for your feet. This is one of many situations where a local running-shoe store can help you.


Sports & Spinal Podiatrist Aleks Baruksopulo is the Author of The Runner’s Foot Guide: Shoes, Feet, Myths and Tips. For more valuable Podiatry running advice and great tips, you can purchase Aleks’ book at Amazon here.

Aleks is also available for Sports, Running and Exercise consultations on the Gold Coast. Bookings can be made here.