Buying Men’s Shoes  – by Jim Edwards, an Experienced Master Shoe Fitter

You’re on a special occasion and wearing those ‘new” shoes that are “killing” your feet! (You can’t  concentrate.) You just can’t wait for the day to end, so you can get out of your shoes! How did you get such uncomfortable shoes? They FELT and LOOKED comfortable in the store. You could have used this list by avoiding these 15 mistakes buying Men’s Shoes.

Buying mens shoes isn’t like buying a t-shirt, jeans or a pair of socks. The comfort and fit are not universal. Every shoe feels different to every person. It effects foot health, which in turn affects your entire body’s condition. Although shoes are massed produced – your feet aren’t! Each foot has similarities, but many differences. Each determines how comfortable you will be.

As a Master Shoe Fitter I’ve observed 15 common mistakes people buying men’s shoes. Recently during a sale, I sold 57 pairs of shoes in a day. Only a handful of people cared about the fit. I wonder how many people will eventually find out the shoes they bought, hurt their feet? Here are some thoughts about how to avoid most shoe-buying mistakes.

1)   Buying shoes in the morning. Your feet swell as the day goes by. If you purchase your shoes in the late afternoon or evening, when your feet are most swollen, your shoes should never be too tight. Hint: To assure a good fit, always take along a pair of socks you’d normally wear and put them on to evaluate new shoes. Don’t buy from stores that don’t insist you wear socks or “footies” before trying on shoes. You don’t want to pick up a foot disease.

2)   Didn’t take time to try on both shoes. There are 3 reasons why you should:

a) Occasionally, someone puts a wrong-sized shoe in the box.

b) Rarely, there is something very uncomfortable about one of the shoes, i.e. sharp piece of dried glue, a nail, a wire or the insole is cut, bent or twisted.

c) Finally and very rarely, the manufacturer or distributor could mislabel the shoes. Therefore, always try on both shoes! Then watch carefully to make certain the salesman puts the correct shoes into the box. It’s smart to again check the shoes and sizes to make certain you are getting the correct shoes!

3)   Not being able to return uncomfortable shoes. Before buying, ask your salesman if they allow returns for full cash refund! – Then verify it from the store. This can usually be found on the back of a receipt. A) Will the store allow return of shoes if they are in new condition? B) How long do you have to return them? If they won’t allow a return, if becomes a gamble. I’m not a gambler, so wouldn’t buy from that store. You can also try selling the shoes on the Selling apps if the store does not seem to take back the item. Consider all your options before you proceed to make a purchase.

4) Not trying out your shoes before venturing out to an important event. Wear your new shoes on carpet at home for an hour or so before venturing out of the house. You can’t return shoes that you’ve worn or ruined, so first make certain they’re comfortable.

5)   Buying vinyl or plastic shoes. Feet have 250,000 sweat glands on each foot. This is more than on any part of the body. Up to ½-pint of sweat is produced daily. Some medical people call feet “the third kidney. So, where does all this water go? Since temperatures reach 110 degrees in the shoe, it’s like a Central American jungle. Fungus and bacteria will grow in this friendly environment.

Vinyl and Plastic uppers and/or insoles allow water to “pool up” in your shoes. Leather on the other hand absorbs and allows the water to spread out or “wick” in every direction. It then allows faster evaporation. Buy shoes that have only leather uppers and insoles (foot bed liners). They breathe better, last longer and look better. They also can be polished, rejuvenated and repaired more easily. Shoes will smell “fresher” after you have worn them repeatedly.

6)  Buying shoes based on price. My wife bought a cheap ivory shoe to match her outfit. Because the shoes “killed” her feet, she never wanted to wear her beautiful outfit. Finally, she threw them away. It cost her not only the price of the shoes and much discomfort, but the price of the not being able to wear her outfit. Without comfort, many people can’t even think straight!

(Conversely when I tried to buy a “work boot,” (understanding the importance of good footwear), I decided not to let price stand in the way. However, every expensive boot I tried on really hurt my feet. I finally bought a pair that was the least expensive. Why? Because they were the most comfortable.)

7) Don’t make your decision based on price – high or low! Shoe price should never be your #1 priority.

I like this analogy I once found:


Is like buying oats. If you want nice, clean, fresh oats you must pay a fair price.  However, if you can be satisfied with oats that have already been through the horse, well that . . .

Comes a Little Cheaper!

8)         Considering all shoes measure the same. Buying athletic shoes? Remember, Nikes run 1 size smaller. Normally wear a 9? Try on a 10! If you’re used to wearing Nikes and need to buy a dress shoe, the size you’ll need will be 1 size smaller. Wear size 9 Nikes? A size 8 standard shoe should fit well.

9)         Buying from a self-service shoe store or self-service shoe department. Don’t buy from a self-service shoe store. I often hear buyers say they want to buy a “cheaper” shoe. CHEAPER is seldom good. It implies poor quality. I have yet to find a self-service shoe store or department store that has anything but lower-priced, poorer-quality shoes. With no supervision, customers without socks may try on shoes leading to the possibility of spreading foot disease. Finally, there’s no shoe expert to measure feet or give advice on shoe quality/durability. Buy from a good shoe retailer to make certain shoes fit well and keep feet healthy.

10)         Buying Shoes On Line. Each individual shoe is different and may run small, narrow, wide, long, etc. The price may be a little lower, but you don’t get to try on the shoes, nor make fitting comparisons. You cannot take advantage of a shoe expert who knows shoe/foot idiosyncrasies to give you solid advice.  Purchase from a good shoe retailer making certain shoes fit well to keep your feet healthy.

(Don’t be a “cheapskate” having a shoe salesman fit your foot, then buying the shoe on line to save $5. You’re better than that! How would you feel if someone pumped you for information, then bought from someplace cheaper. Everyone’s knowledge is worth a few $$ if it helps you.)

11-  Choosing style over comfort. This leads to bunions, hammer toes, corns and calluses. I’ve had a number of ladies ask me if I had a certain stylish shoe in anything between a 6 and an 8! That’s 2/3 of an inch difference! Those shoes will be uncomfortable and do damage to their feet! Make the decision to buy only shoes that fit your feet and are comfortable.

12- Sending your wife/girlfriend to buy your new shoes. Would your wife ever send you? NNNNNNOOOOOOO! You don’t know what would match her outfit. Well, guess what? She doesn’t know what fits your foot without you trying them on. Buy your shoes in person so you can make certain they fit!

13- Settling for a regular width shoe when you have a wide foot. Customers with wide feet may demand a shoe that is unavailable in wide. When they try to jam their foot into it, they experience little comfort. However, as soon as I place a wide with shoe on their foot, there’s usually a sigh of relief. If you have a wide foot, buy shoes available in wide widths. If the shoe you desire doesn’t come in a wide width, seek another shoe elsewhere. You’re only other choice is to try a larger size.

14- Selecting a size based on length only. Many shoppers purchase shoes on the basis of length only. They press on the toes, or say “Are your toes touching?” –  “Do you have enough toe room?” There are at least 12 other key shoe fitting factors. (About the width of a thumb between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe is correct.) Don’t be in such a hurry to buy any low-priced shoe. Again, purchase from reputable skilled retailers who know their product and properly fit shoes.

15- Buying shoes only with a mirror shine. We take up to 4,000 steps daily, so shoes must flex that same amount of times as well. Shoes with hard surfaces that can be shined with a mirror finish, often crack and break on the vamp (portion covering the toe joint). After being worn just a few times, the vamp area can become downright ugly. Get over the shine requirement and purchase on comfort and durability!

16- Buying Used Shoes. When worn, shoes take a pounding (up to 4000 steps a day). Since everyone’s feet are slightly different, the former wearer’s foot pattern has been pressed into the shoe’s sole and insole. Your feet will not fit into that same exact wear pattern. This will cause foot pain. Also, you don’t want to get any foot disease the former owner might have had. Frankly, I wouldn’t use anyone else’s toothbrush, underwear or wear their shoes. My advice – Don’t buy used shoes.


Shaquille O’Neill wears a size 22 or 24! However, his great size has made him wildly successful and rich. He has to pay big money for his shoes. If you’re a very special person with an unusual sized foot (undersized or oversized) find shoe outlets that cater to your size and support them, so they stay in business! I understand this is difficult for you, but each of us have our own idiosyncrasies, that we need to accommodate. Men with extra long arms pay more for shirts. Some of us need glasses which is a major expense. Men with extra-short legs pay more to have regular sizes tailored. My advice? Embrace your size, then budget for it. Never cheat yourself with poor quality.

Here’s a rule of thumb: In Buying Men’s Shoes – Even if shoes are for style, they should fit comfortably. If they don’t you’ll be in pain and eventually get corns, calluses or bunions.

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