Is it Better to Buy Shoes Bigger or Smaller?

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Losing sleep over a pair of shoes you saw online but cannot figure out what size you should be getting?

May I just say- been there, done that. It is a common struggle that we face not because we are not sure of our foot size but because we all have had experiences of terribly uncomfortable fits even after buying the exact same size as our feet.

Which brings us to the godforsaken dilemma- should we buy shoes a size bigger or smaller?

Bigger or Smaller: Which Size to get?

Even though shoes are an integral part of our outfits, they are definitely not similar to clothes. Buying the wrong size or getting a terrible fit cannot be fixed by simply a trip down to the tailor’s or in an afternoon spent by the sewing machine.

So, to decide if you need to buy your shoes a bit bigger or smaller, the following things must be kept in mind:

  • Materials: This is super important when you decide to buy a pair of shoes, one of the most significant reasons why you should be careful whether to go a size bigger or smaller. Not even a whole size, even half a size bigger or smaller plays an important role. Materials are what make up a shoe, so you have to put attention as to whether they stretch or not.
  • Leather: Firstly, to decide which size to get, check what material the shoe is constructed of. For example, leather is a stretchy material. It will stretch with pressure and strain. So while buying leather shoes, you should opt for half a size smaller as they will get bigger as you wear them.
  • Synthetic: For shoes made of synthetic materials, buy the right fit as in the exact size as your feet are. Synthetic materials do loosen up a bit with time, but not enough for you to buy a size bigger or smaller because you might end up with either too tight or too loose-fitting shoes.
  • Textile Fabric: On the other hand, shoes made of textile fabric may shrink. especially when they come in contact with water. So for such shoes, you could pick shoes that are half a size bigger for a perfect fit in case they shrink. However, if a stretchy fabric is used, go for half a size smaller!
    So this means to decide on the size material is very important! Keep that in mind!

Type of Shoes

What kind of shoes you are wearing is also a deciding factor for shoes. Different types of shoes require a different fit, which is why you should keep the purpose and type of shoes you will be buying.

Shoes that you wear for a few hours do not need to be bought a size bigger, but if their purpose is to be worn for long hours, for example, for work or for sports- it is better to buy half a size bigger.


Because over the hours your feet can swell due to the pressure, and the exact right fit may become too tight and uncomfortable at that point.

To make it easier to understand, I will list a few types of shoes and discuss what size is preferred for them:

01# Sneakers

Sneakers, or shoes made for athletic purposes, should always be bought at least half a size bigger. Firstly, as I have mentioned previously, with longer hours of wear your feet swell so that is when the exact fit becomes uncomfortable.

Secondly, for sports, you need to have good blood circulation in your feet. Snug fits can hamper that. Wondering if not wearing socks with shoes will fix that? Umm, no!

Lastly, you need to keep in mind that the socks you wear would take some space. So keeping all this in account, you should opt for a bigger size while buying such shoes.

02# Winter or Snow Boots

The main point here is- you wear thicker socks in winter compared to other times of the year. Which is why snug feet would be too tight when worn with socks. Opt for half a size bigger at least, but in the case of leather winter boots, the exact feet size is recommended as they will stretch with a few times of wear.

03# Hiking Boots

Hiking or climbing boots are great when they snugly fit your feet but do keep in mind that you may be wearing them for long hours, and along with socks they might get too tight.

The best way to decide what size to buy is to try them on in the evening with socks on. If they fit perfectly- great! If not, go for a bigger or smaller size.

04# Heels, Pumps, or Stilettos

Heels, pumps, or stilettos should always be bought exactly according to the size of your feet. But make sure they are not so tight that they can give you blisters.

However, keep in mind that the higher the heels, the more prone they will be to push towards your toes. So in such cases, get shoes with enough toe space, but not necessarily do you have to get a smaller size.

05# Flip-Flops & Slides

Footwear as such tend to be loose fitting in general, so I would suggest to go for maybe half a size smaller, but it is not absolutely necessary.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day the combination of material and the kind of shoes you buy- both these factors should be considered when deciding on a size!

What Happens if the Shoe is too Tight?

Well, besides being uncomfortable, they will definitely hamper the blood flow to your feet. Additionally, you can develop foot conditions like bunions, and even get painful blisters.

The friction can also leave scratches, and your feet will be in pain even after you take your shoes off.

What Happens if the Shoe is too Loose?

Well, mostly the main problem would be the uneasiness of walking. It will feel like they might come off, but they will not cause any major issues- other than the fact that they might make you trip, so watch out for that!

On a brighter note, if loose shoes are close-toed, you can always stuff some paper tissues in there for a tighter fit! And in the case of stretched out leather shoes, a little vinegar trick can help!


I hope as we have reached the end of this piece, you have gained some idea that will help you decide what size you want to get for your next footwear purchase!

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