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

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