This is a question that is commonly asked, more for interest in the actual reasons that necessitate proper footwear than from the obvious observation that small shoes cause discomfort and agitation. We’ll answer this question at length and tell you how you can get shoes that are supportive, comfortable and attractive right here at XL Feet, but first, we’re going to use a scenario to illustrate the necessity for footwear that fits right.
First, we’ll need to set a few parameters. Let’s say that you wear size 14 men's shoes, or that at least you should be, when you can find shoes that fit right. Let’s also say that it’s relatively easy for you to find a pair of size 11s or 12s, that you can just about squeeze your foot into. We’re not in any way suggesting you try this, but to illustrate the exigency of footwear that fits, we’re going to go ahead with a hypothetical scenario.
For the purpose of this ‘thought experiment’ for lack of a better word, we’ll assume first that you wear size 14 men's shoes and that you can and have found a pair of size 12s that you can actually fit into and move around without terrible pain. Again, we’re by no means suggesting that you attempt this, but only using it to illustrate the very real problems associated with shoes that are too small.
Now, we’re going to say that this pair of size 12 shoes is a pair of hiking shoes and we’re going to take an imaginary hike down a flat country trail. No hills, no rocks to scramble over, no otherwise dangerous obstacles to navigate. Just a flat sand trail. We’re also going to make this a moderate length, say 8 miles, and we’re not going to include any imaginary excess of gear in this situation. What that means is that we won’t even give you a fictional day pack. It’s a short trip, so all you’ll be lugging along is a fictional bottle of water if you so choose.
For anyone who has ever done this, the memory will be all too real and painful. For those of you that haven’t, just listen carefully, and please, don’t try it in real life. The purpose of this is solely to explore the problems you will experience if you wear shoes that are not sized properly to you.
So you’re going to take a nice lovely 8-mile hike over flat country and you don’t even have to carry a pack. Congratulations, because it seems like an easy obstacle and a pleasant walk in the park. Even though you wear size 14 men's shoes, you squeeze into those size 12s and begin your leisurely stroll.
Now, we don’t know exactly what parts of your foot are experiencing the most friction since each person is unique and this situation is fictional. But the truth is, the first step you take on that trail will cause parts of your foot to grate uncomfortably on the shoe, even if it’s a quality pair of hiking shoes that would otherwise support a person who would actually fit them. Within the first thousand feet of the trail, you probably won’t be in any pain, but you’ll definitely become aware that something is wrong with your shoes - they’re too tight, they’re squeezing your feet, your toes are rubbing against the toe box, or even getting a little numb. Any or all of these could be occurring at once.
Again, within a thousand feet you probably won't be in any actual pain, but you’ll start to become aware of where exactly your shoes are too tight. At first, you’ll just notice construction or rubbing in areas like your toes, ankle or heels. Once you start to approach the end of the first mile, you’ll start to feel the beginning of real discomfort. If you’re not experiencing any numbness in your toes (which is actually fairly uncommon) you’ll probably notice that the sides or tops of your toes are grinding against the inside of the toe box. The case may be that your heels are rubbing raw. More likely than this last scenario is the probability that your ankles are chafing painfully against the collar of the shoe.
At first, say within a mile or maybe even two, this will just be uncomfortable. You probably won’t even have blisters yet or even break the skin. You’ll just notice if you look, that these hot spots are red and uncomfortable. As you start to round that second mile, or even get toward the beginning of the third mile, those hot spots will transform into actual blisters, or in certain cases the chafing will break your skin and leave you raw and bloody.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to take the pressure off, and even if you’ve brought moleskins or similar treatments for common problems like blisters, the excessive pressure in your shoes will probably circumvent these treatments. Worse yet, there’s no way to ‘finish a trail’ without your feet. Every step you take will, unsurprisingly, be taken on your feet, and each step you take will worsen the discomfort. Sadly, it will only get worse from this point. You still have five miles left.
Round the third mile and continue onto the fourth, and your blisters won’t be getting any better. Once they break you’re just going to be in for a surprising amount of pain with every step you take. Terrible enough in the short run, those broken blisters and chafing will only be opening you up to infection. For the purposes of this experiment, that’s not a real threat, but in the backcountry, it would be.
Now, you’re in for a whole lot of pain with every step you take and you’re only halfway through the hike. Every single step causes grinding and grating of broken blisters and chafed skin. As you get on and through the fourth mile, things get even worse.
By this point, the pressure and strain on your toes and ankles have become chronic. On top of the sharp pain of any blisters or cuts, you will really start to feel the strain on your feet and ankles. You’ll be developing pain in your toes and ankles that will feel at first not entirely unlike the feeling you get days after a strenuous workout. As you continue to move through the trail, you may begin to feel the onset of a condition that is somewhat like tendonitis in its sharpness.
Get through miles five, six and seven and you’re on to the home stretch. It sure won’t feel like it, though. By the point that you’ve put more than five or six miles through shoes that are too small and therefore, too tight and can’t support you properly, that strain will translate through to other parts of your body. You see, it won’t just be your feet and ankles that hurt terribly by the time you finish with even a short hike like this. It will be your entire lower body.
Your feet will be stressed not only with constriction from shoes that don’t fit right. But another problem of shoes that are too small is that they don’t offer your entire body the support it needs. If you insist on wearing shoes that are too small, over time during a hike like this you will strain your knees and even your hips. By the end of even a short hike over easy terrain with the wrong shoes, your knees and hips can feel like they’re actually on fire. In fact, you can cause such damage to them that you can even experience problems like tendonitis or arthritis from straining them so. By the time you finish that trail, you’ll be so happy to be done that it will be a relief like no other.
Now, this scenario has been carefully crafted to omit certain stressors that would undoubtedly make the experience even more hellacious. What if this imagined hike took place in mountainous terrain where nimble footwork was required for balance or navigation? Imagine in the country was harder or more inhospitable. Imagine if this hike was a 20-mile hike, or worse. This hike could have been part of a multiple-day expedition or a camping trip. Consider then, that in that scenario you might be carrying 30 or 40 or even 50 pounds on your back. All that force goes straight through your body and down into your feet. In many ways, this scenario could have been worse, and believe us, it’s bad enough as it is.
We understand that this is an extreme situation. We also understand that no experienced hiker (hopefully no one at all, actually) would buy a pair of shoes two sizes below their size and try to complete a hike with them. We also understand that the everyday rigors of life sometimes consist of no more than light walking, standing or even sitting. The vast majority of the time, you don’t need the same level of protection and support from your shoes as you would need in this given situation.
Spend too much time at work or around the house in shoes that don’t fit, and while you won’t be in the acute pain of a backpacker laboring under miles and miles, you’ll be in for trouble. There’s no need for you to predispose yourself to conditions that can easily be prevented like joint pain and blisters from wearing small shoes. Now, we also understand that the need for shoes that fit often causes people to resort to smaller shoes as an alternative. Yes, it has been very hard to find shoes in large sizes. Sizes beyond 13 can feel like they’re absolutely impossible to find, and that has been true in the past.
Be that as it may, there’s absolutely no reason you should be wearing any shoes other than size 14 men's shoes if that’s your size. You won’t always be traversing the backcountry, but if you put enough miles into any shoes that don’t fit properly, you can expect to experience the trials of the aforementioned situation, or worse. Shoes that are too small can cause blisters, corns and arthritis, even when you’re not backpacking in them. And, just the same, you could be putting the rest of your body at risk of injury when you wear shoes that just don’t fit. Here at XL Feet, we understand that, and we understand how difficult it can be to find shoes that fit when you need larger sizes. That’s why it’s all we do. It doesn’t matter whether you need shoes for the trail as explored herein, dress shoes for work, boots for the yard or just slippers for the house, we’ve made it our mission to get those shoes in large sizes to you, our customers.
Therefore, you can see the multitude of reasons that you absolutely should be wearing shoes that fit. Obviously, by not doing so you will be uncomfortable and possibly even exposing yourself to injury. Wear shoes in the wrong size and you’ll be foregoing the support and protection your feet and the rest of your body needs. And while previously it may have been difficult for you to find shoes that fit, with our generous stock here at XL Feet, it will be easy for you to find the shoes you need in your size.
So take a look through our offerings right here on our site. We have sneakers and running shoes for the gym and athletic activities, as well as shoes, boots and snow boots for the trail and for camp. We offer work boots to protect your feet when you’re doing yardwork or you’re working in the field. If you need dress shoes for formal occasions or for work, you can find them right here too. You’ll even be able to get slippers and other slip on footwear for the house. Everything’s right here, and you’ll find all the brands you were looking for before as well. Only this time, you’ll be able to get yourself that pair of shoes in your size.