How to Make Shoes Smaller – Expert Tips!

Shoes all around. Portrait of a young woman sitting on the floor surrounded by shoes
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You probably don’t need to be told this, but buying shoes that fit you properly is important.

But sometimes big shoes happen. Whether your favorite trusty pair of loafers seem to have stretched over time, or maybe someone gifted you a pair of shoes that were just a bit too big, or maybe you ordered online and were too lazy to return.

If you are wondering how to make shoes smaller, I’ve got you covered! With the help of some expert advice from Dr. Bruce Pinker, a board-certified podiatrist and foot surgeon, I’m going to look at how to make shoes smaller and fit better.

We can’t physically shrink your shoes, of course!

But in this article, I’ll go over several tips to make your shoes fit better.


Meet the Experts

Is it OK to Wear Shoes 1 Size Too Big?

If you’ve found yourself with a pair of shoes that are a little larger than your regular shoe size, you might be wondering if it’s really such a big deal.

Unfortunately, wearing shoes that are too big for you can cause all kinds of problems.

Dr. Pinker, Podiatrist and Board certified Foot Surgeon says: “If one wears shoes that are too big, there is a chance that they will develop foot blisters from the friction produced while the shoe moves around on the foot during ambulation. Also, there is a chance of tripping and falling and getting injured if shoes are too big.”

If one wears shoes that are too big, there is a chance that they will develop foot blisters from the friction produced while the shoe moves around on the foot during ambulation. Also, there is a chance of tripping and falling and getting injured if shoes are too big.”

Dr. Bruce Pinker

Blisters are not just an issue if your shoes are too small. Blisters form from your shoe rubbing against the skin.

Properly fitting shoes will stay in place and won’t rub.

The friction from shoes that are too big rubbing against your foot can also result in misshapen toenails, unusually dark toenails, and calluses and corns, especially on the back of the heel as the foot slides up and down with every step. The blisters caused by the constant rubbing also have the potential to become infected and lead to even greater complications.

Over and above the increased risk of injury from falling, blisters, calluses, and corns, shoes that are too big for you will cause you to walk differently.

Having to scrunch up your toes as you walk to keep your feet from sliding around in them and trying to hold the shoe on your foot can, over time, cause bunions and hammertoes.

With a shoe that is too big, the constant sliding in the shoe and your toes repeatedly hitting the front of your shoe as you walk can also cause damaged, ingrown, and lost toenails.

It can also lead to other painful conditions, such as arch pain, neuromas, and Achilles tendonitis.

The way you walk in shoes that don’t fit properly will not only affect your feet, but will also eventually start to affect other parts of your body, like your knees, hips, back, and neck.

How To Make Shoes Smaller

If you’re stuck with a pair of shoes that are either just a size too big or maybe just a little too wide, let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to make those shoes fit you better. It’s best to avoid all of the problems that can result from wearing shoes that are oversized.

And click here for a primer on the anatomy of a shoe.

1. Extra Socks

It may seem like the most obvious idea for filling up the extra space in loose shoes, and the solution is only as far as your sock drawer! Wearing a thicker pair of socks, or even a couple of pairs, is an instant hack for making big shoes fit more snuggly.

This is a great option for closed-toed shoes and boots with long pants. But if your problem shoes are a pair of sandals or pumps, you may want to try one of our next options.

2. Insoles

A full insole is a great way to get shoes that are all around just too big the entire length of the foot, to fit a little tighter. There are lots of different types of insoles out there that are designed for different purposes. You can also get insoles made with different materials, like gel and memory foam.

Although often intended to help with posture problems and other discomforts, they also have the secondary benefit of taking up unused space in your shoe, so you have options…

Foam Insoles

Foam Insole

If you’re for just comfy and snug-fitting shoes, foam insoles are ideal. WALK HERO Foam Insoles  feature a deep heel cup to stabilize your foot, while silicon and foam padding cushions every step.

They are extra supportive and cushioned, which is especially great if you are on your feet for long periods of time. They’re also designed with a 3.5-centimeter arch support.

Unlike a lot of other insoles on the market that are designed to be “low-profile” to slimly fit into properly fitting shoes, these are a little thicker than most, which is great if you are looking for a pair to help fill some space!

Plantar Fasciitis Feet Insoles Arch Supports Orthotics Inserts Relieve Flat Feet, High Arch, Foot Pain Mens 10-10 1/2 | Womens 12-12 1/2
  • ★LASTING COMFORT - arch support...
  • ★DEEP HEEL CUP- to maintain correct...

Gel Insoles

Gel Insole

Looking to put a little bounce in your step? Gel insoles will give relief to your joints and help evenly distribute weight with their shock-absorbing, cushioning gel. Dr Scholl's Massaging Gel Advanced Insoles  with their Responsive Wave Cushioning gives you both cushioning and energy rebound.

Leather Insoles

Leather Insole

Leather insoles are breathable and moisture-free. Leather insoles cushion and support your every step. Leather insoles are supple, comfortable, breathable and contour to your feet better than synthetic materials. pedag Viva Universal Inserts  have a semi-rigid arch support and an active charcoal filter to help reduce moisture and odors.

Pedag Viva | Leather Arch Support Inserts | Handmade in Germany | Plantar Fasciitis Relief | Metatarsal Pad | Heel Cushion | Activated Charcoal for Odor | Tan | Women US 10/ Men 7/ EU 40
  • Arch Support & Plantar Fasciitis Relief...
  • Full Foot Support- Viva insoles provide...
  • Medically Awarded - The Pedag Viva has...
  • Quality Materials and Handmade in...
  • Universal Fit- From Women's 5 through...

Cork Insoles

Cork Insole

Cork is the ideal material for providing optimal arch support. As the base of an insole, it molds to the shape of the foot over time, creating a more comfortable, supported step that’s unique to every person. Cork is also a light, breathable material, absorbs moisture, is naturally shock resistant, and provides cushioning while walking and running.

SOLE Performance Thick Cork Shoe Insoles  are sustainably made from recycled natural wine corks and feature a Polygiene coating for odor control made from recycled silver salts.

SOLE Performance Thick with Metatarsal Pads Plantar Fasciitis Insoles, Men & Women - Arch Support Inserts for Foot Health and Heel Pain Relief, Orthotic Shoe Inserts Men & Women
  • SOLE footbeds are recommended by...
  • Clinically proven to reduce plantar...
  • Zero drop, deep heel cup and dynamic...
  • Met pad adds support by keeping...
  • Made with recycled wine corks from...

Thermal Insoles

Felt Insole

Take the chill out of winter with a pair of thermal insoles. Thermal insoles come in a range of different materials. These Alpaca Wool Felt Insoles  are lightweight & durable and their special felt weave prevents them from collecting moisture, dirt, and odors.

Soft Alpaca Wool Felt Winter Warm Shoe Boot Insoles - Natural Wool Felt Insert for Men and Women (Men 9 Womens 10)
  • Warmth & Resilience: Alpaca fleece is...
  • Alpaca Felt Inserts: These alpaca wool...
  • Lightweight & Durable : These insoles...
  • Easy Care: Easily cleaned by dusting or...
  • Perfect fit: Our insoles are made with...

3. Heel grips

Sargarita Heel Grips for Womens Shoes That are Too Big,Heel Cushion Inserts for Women for Loose Shoes,Heel Pads for Shoes Heel Protectors,Shoe Filler to Make Shoes Fit Tighter. (Light Apricot,3 Pairs)

Heel grips are the way to go if your shoes fit well everywhere else, but you have a bit of a gap at the back of the heel and your foot tends to slide out.

Heel grips are a small, padded strip that is secured onto the inside of the heel cup to provide extra grip and prevent your feet from slipping while you walk, reducing the chances of painful blisters.

Heel Grips  come in a variety of materials, from silicone and gel to latex, suede, and other fabrics.

Sargarita Heel Grips for Womens Shoes That are Too Big,Heel Cushion Inserts for Women for Loose Shoes,Heel Pads for Shoes Heel Protectors,Shoe Filler to Make Shoes Fit Tighter. (Light Apricot,3 Pairs)
  • MICROFIBER HEEL GRIPS: Made with high...
  • EXCELLENT CHOICE: If you are unable to...

4. Toe inserts

Toe Inserts for Shoes Too Big, 4 Pairs Shoe Inserts for Women Men, Foam Toe Filler, Shoe Fitters, Black and Beige

If you find yourself sliding forward in your shoes, which often happens in heels, especially if they are a little too big. Don’t be stuffing the toe of your shoe with toilet paper or cotton balls – try a toe insert for a much more comfortable option.

Toe inserts , sometimes called toe fillers, fill the empty space in the toe box of the shoe to prevent your foot from sliding forward.

Toe Inserts for Shoes Too Big, 4 Pairs Shoe Inserts for Women Men, Foam Toe Filler, Shoe Fitters, Black and Beige
  • Foam Shoe Inserts: made of soft foam and...
  • Shoe Filler for Loose Shoes: make shoes...
  • Effective Foot Pain Relief: toe inserts...
  • Shoe Inserts for Women Men: toe filler...
  • Washable and Reusable: shoe toe inserts...

5. Ball Cushions

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Perfect for sandals, dress shoes, pumps, and high heels, ball cushions are small pads that are placed under the ball of your foot to add a thick layer of cushioned padding and support, easing the extra pressure on the ball of the foot from heeled shoes.

They also provide a little traction to prevent your foot from slipping forward as well as raise the front of your foot up, which is ideal if your extra shoe space is between the the top of your foot and the top of your shoe.

There are Ball cushions that you can place into the shoe , and there are ball cushions that No products found. before you put the shoe on.

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6. Heel Cups

Heel cups

Heel cups are specifically designed to ease the pain of plantar fasciitis and heal spurs. They are usually made from a gel-like material and cup the heel of the foot, hence the name.  Heel cups  will also help to occupy the empty space inside the shoe. 

Dr. Scholl's Heel Cushions with Massaging Gel Advanced // All-Day Shock Absorption and Cushioning to Relieve Heel Discomfort (for Women's 6-10, Also Available for Men's 8-13)
  • Designed for people who experience...
  • All-Day Shock Absorption and Cushioning...
  • Built with Massaging Gel Technology,...
  • Fits any shoe. No trimming required

7. Tongue Pads

Tongue Pads

Why not turn things upside down? Instead of adding an extra layer on the bottom to fill the gaps, add one on the top!

Tongue pads  are made of a thick material and stick to the underside of the shoe tongue [link to parts of a shoe article] and rest on the top of your foot.

Felt Tongue Pads Cushion for Shoes (Medium - 3 Pair)
  • SOFT & COMFORTABLE: This pack of 3 pair...
  • FORM FITTING: No one likes wearing loose...
  • SELF ADHESIVE: Applying these Soft...
  • ONG LASTING USE: Our large cotton pads...

8. Get Professional Help

If your shoes are a pair you simply do not want to part with, but they are just a bit too big for the previous solutions, take your shoes to a proper shoe repair professional (aka a cobbler). They will be able to conceal heel grips, tongue pads, or insole padding underneath the lining.

Is It Better To Size Up or Size Down?

Generally speaking, for most shoes, you should get your size and neither size up nor down.

According to our expert Podiatrist and Foot Surgeon, Dr. Pinker: “The proper fit of footwear is to have 3/8 of an inch of distance from the end of the longest toe to the end of the shoe, and the width should be snug, but not tight.”

If you are thinking about buying shoes that are a little too big because they are soooo cute and you just simply HAVE to have them, but they don’t have them in your size – just don’t. Doesn’t matter how cute the shoes are, because you know what’s not cute? Blisters, bunions and hammertoes!

Those will happen whether they’re too big or too small.

Shoes have one primary purpose – to support your feet. It shouldn’t be the other way around.

Yes, it can be tempting to go for looks over comfort sometimes. And in the past, that would have been more understandable because there weren’t as many options, or at least options available to us.

But you really have no excuse now. Even if you live on the North Coast of an Indonesian Island in a tiny isolated fishing village in the middle of nowhere, you can still order just about anything on Amazon and they’ll get it to you!

And if you find shoes that you LOVE, but they don’t have them in your size – keep scrolling. There will be another pair you’ll love just as much… or at least more than you’re going to love the blisters and the bunions and corns and calluses you’re going to get from wearing a pair of shoes that don’t fit you properly.

Exceptions To The Rule

There are two exceptions to the rule of buying shoes that actually fit your feet.

1. Leather Shoes

I’m talking particularly about leather dress shoes.

Leather shoes can sometimes feel really tight when they are new. Leather dress shoes (and boots) often require a breaking-in period because the leather may feel too tight in the beginning, but will stretch over time.

Unless they are causing you unbearable agony, don’t be tempted to size up if they feel just a little too snug at first because they will stretch.

2. Sneakers & Work Boots/Shoes

If you are actively involved in sports or work in a position where you spend a long time on your feet, it’s actually recommended for shoes that have an upper that is made of a stiffer material, to size up a half size bigger than you’d typically wear.

If you are standing or doing sports or weight-bearing activities for prolonged periods, fluids accumulate in the feet due to gravity, causing them to swell slightly. This might make your shoes uncomfortably tight.

Foot swelling can also happen from sitting for prolonged periods, but that is because of poor blood circulation, not gravity.

If you find your feet swelling from sitting all day at your desk job, you don’t need bigger shoes, you need to get up once an hour and just walk around for five minutes.

Take Away

Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly can lead to a lot of problems not only with your feet, but eventually to other parts of your body because the foot bone’s connected to the leg bone. The leg bone’s connected to the hip bone. The hip bone’s connected to… you get the idea.

If you have shoes that are just a little bit oversized, we’ve shown you how to make shoes smaller and fit more comfortably with loads of options, so you can avoid all of the issues that come as a result of wearing shoes that are too big.

Written by Jacqueline Ames

Jackie is the resident fashion and nail design guru at Luxe Luminous. With a degree in Management and a deep-seated passion for the glamorous styles of the 50s and 60s, Jacqueline offers a unique fusion of business acumen and vintage fashion flair in her captivating articles.