Did you know that a heel that’s 2.5 inches tall increases the load on the front of your foot by 75 percent? That’s a huge amount of pressure to be putting on a tiny area! You see, a slight heel can have massive consequences.

Even if you don’t wear heels, you’re not guaranteed to have healthy feet. In fact, more than 2/3 of American adults experience pain and other foot issues in their lifetime. Why do so many people suffer?

A lot of it comes down to the shoes that we wear. High heels, flip-flops, sneakers with narrow toe boxes… what we call ‘normal shoes’ may all create issues. That’s why finding fitting shoes is an important part of maintaining your overall well-being.

The more time you spend in compromising footwear, the worse off your feet will be. To learn more about the damage caused by ill-fitting shoes, keep reading below.

Signs of Ill-Fitting Shoes

How can you tell if a shoe doesn’t fit correctly? Many people can feel when a shoe is too tight, too loose, or otherwise uncomfortable. Listen to your body first: if there’s pain in your feet, something’s not right!

If your shoe is too tight, it might feel cramped in the toebox or heel. If it’s too loose, your foot might slide around and feel unsupported. Pay attention to shoe width as well as length. Avoid heel drop, no matter how small.

A shoe that fits your foot incorrectly can cause lasting damage. Beyond immediate discomfort, they can change the shape of your foot and lead to complications down the road. Here are some of the most common symptoms of ill-fitting footwear.

Foot Pain

Your shoes shouldn’t cause you pain. If they do, try to figure out where the pain is coming from.

Pain in the toes suggests a shoe that is too small or too tapered at the end. This squishes your toes together and causes discomfort and cramping. Neglecting these signals will eventually lead to shoe-shaped feet!

Pain on the bottom of your feet could be caused by too much tension in the foot arches. When there’s a lot of tension in the feet you better steer clear from flip-flops. Flip flops let your toes (especially your big toe) claw more than necessary just to keep the sandal on the feet.

If your pain is in your heel, your shoes might be rubbing against your skin and causing sores and blisters. If the bottom of your heel hurts, it could be a sign of plantar fasciitis. This inflammatory condition causes stabbing heel pain and can best be treated with rest instead of orthotics.


Blisters are a definite sign that your shoes aren’t the right size for your feet. Rubbing and friction caused by poorly-sized shoes create these painful nuisances.

Blisters are particularly common with new leather shoes, which tend to be stiffer than well-worn sneakers. Some shoes can take several weeks to fully break-in.

Ideally, there shouldn’t be any rubbing at all. No shoes should give you blisters every time you wear them.


Bunions are large bumps that form on the side of your foot, right at the base of your large or little toe. They are often painful, and they cause your toe to point inward and could impede toe mobility. Many people also feel embarrassed by the noticeable appearance of bunions.

As you might be able to guess, bunions are most often caused by footwear that is too small. However, they can also occur as a result of medical conditions like arthritis.

What Is Functional Footwear?

Functional footwear is footwear that puts your natural foot shape and foot health over appearance. Unlike expensive designer heels or dress shoes that are made for style but without concern for foot health, functional footwear is designed to promote foot strength.

More importantly, it takes the current state of your feet in consideration. With functional shoes appropriate sole thickness makes them better suitable for compromised feet.

Minimalist Shoes

Many people believe that shoe technology (think ‘air’, ‘gel’ etc.) and cushy insoles are great for foot health. And while orthotics can help relieve long lasting pain in the short term, there is much more value in training your feet to support themselves.

Minimalist shoes help your feet build strength by closely mimicking the feeling of walking barefoot. Some varieties of “barefoot shoes” even feature a glovelike design such as Vibram Five Fingers. They provide some protection from the elements, but they offer little support.

Instead, they have a thin sole that allows your Achilles tendon to fully extend. When worn regularly, they also help improve arch strength. In barefoot land ‘thin and flexible’ is the adagium.

Contrary to barefoot maximalists, we believe minimal or barefoot shoes are not for everyone. They’re definitely not for you if the fat pads in the ball of your foot are gone for example.

Toe Freedom

When you give your toes room to breathe, you protect your feet from blisters, pain, bunions, and other disfigurements. Proper shoes should have a wide toe box. It’s one of the most important parts of the shoe. Toe freedom gives your big toe more room to extend laterally and function like an anker stabilizing the body in motion.

Our feet don’t naturally come to a point in the middle, so why are so many shoes pointy? It all comes down to fashion trends. Avoid pointy flats, heels, and sneakers, no matter how cute you find their design!


For some people, minimalist shoes are a comfortable way to build foot strength. But for others, high arches or other foot conditions may have you looking for more support.

In some cases insoles can help you achieve the support you need. As long as they’re flat, not interfering with your natural stance and stimulating foot function.

If you have injured your foot you might need special support to make walking comfortable. If you struggle with plantar fasciitis or metatarsalgia, you’ll want to use specific pads and insoles to ease your pain.

Be aware you’re always looking to improve proper natural function instead of developing compensation patterns that may worsen a foot condition in the long run.

Find Healthy, Functional Shoes for Your Feet

To fix or stay away from foot problems, you should always shop for a shoe that will fit properly. Consider function over form when buying your next pair. High heels and pointy flats might be fashionable, but they’ll leave you with damage that could last a lifetime.

Instead of hopping on the latest footwear trend, choose fitting shoes that give you support and comfort. Follow the tips in this article to pick shoes that are right for you. Your feet will thank you!