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How do you know if a sandal is too small?

Last update: 2024-06-01

Having properly fitted sandals is important for comfort and health. Ill-fitting sandals that are too small can cause pain, blisters, calluses, and other foot problems. Here are some signs that your sandals may be too small and tips for finding better-fitting ones.

Sandal season is here but before slipping on your favorite pair, it's important to ensure they still fit properly. Feet change over time and sandals stretch out with wear, so getting your feet re-measured annually can help avoid squeezing into shoes that are now too small. Wearing sandals that are too tight constricts the feet, reducing blood flow and causing irritation and injury. Being attentive to signs of poor fit can spare you from pain and damage. This article will cover common indicators that your sandals are too small and provide advice for finding a well-fitted pair.

Signs Your Sandals are Too Small

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    Toes Hang Over the Edge
    . With too-small sandals, the toes have nowhere to go but off the end. Even a few millimeters of overhang puts excess pressure on toes and nails.
  • Foot Spills Over the Sides. Sandal straps can cut into the sides of feet that are wider than the footbed. Spilling over the edges indicates the sandals are pinching your feet.
  • Red Marks. Ill-fitting sandals dig into feet, leaving red pressure marks across the top or between toes. These are warning signs of excessive friction.
  • Calluses and Blisters. Repeated rubbing in tight sandals causes thick, hardened patches of skin known as calluses. Blisters occur from excessive friction. Both conditions are painful and can lead to infection.
  • Pain in the Ball of the Foot. Too-narrow sandals cram the foot forward, concentrating weight on the ball and toes. This can cause burning pain, especially under the big toe joint.
  • Heel Slips Up and Down. If your heel frequently slides up while walking in sandals, they are likely too short. This leads to rubbing in the heel and ball of the foot.
  • Difficulty Staying in Place. You should not have to grip sandal straps or scrunch toes to keep them on your feet. Sandals that lack rear support or fasten too tightly are challenging to walk in.

Finding Better Fitting Sandals

If you notice any of the warning signs above, it's time to find sandals that properly fit your feet. Consider the following tips:

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  • Get Fitted In-Store. Visit a shoe store and get your feet professionally measured each year. Have an expert help select well-fitted sandals in your new size.
  • Shop Later in the Day. Feet naturally swell during the day, so sandal shopping in the afternoon will accommodate this. Ensure there is ample room for swollen feet.
  • Prioritize Rear Support. Opt for sandal straps around the heel and ankle to prevent sliding up and down while walking.
  • Choose Adjustable Straps. Sandals with buckles or Velcro make it easy to customize the fit as feet expand and contract.
  • Try Brands with Wide Sizes. Seek out sandal brands offering multiple width options to find a comfortable match for wide feet.
  • Add Inserts if Needed. Custom orthotics or over-the-counter inserts can take up excess space if your feet have shrunk.

Outline for How to Know if Sandals are Too Small

Toes Hang Over the Edge

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  • Toes spilling over the sandal's edge put excess pressure on toes and nails. Even a few millimeters of overhang is problematic.
  • Squeezing toes into a too-short sandal can cause ingrown toenails, jamming injuries, and displaced toes.
  • Look for a wider, rounder toe box to accommodate toes comfortably.

Foot Spills Over the Sides

  • Feet wider than the sandal's footbed will spill over the edges.
  • This pinches the feet along the sides. Pressure and friction here leads to blisters and calluses.
  • Measure your feet across the ball and choose sandals with a footbed wide enough to prevent spillage.

Red Marks on Feet

  • Ill-fitting sandals dig into feet and straps rub, leaving red pressure marks.
  • This indicates friction spots that will worsen into painful blisters or calluses if worn repeatedly.
  • Leather sandals should mold to your feet without leaving marks. Marks signal poor fit.

Calluses and Blisters

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  • Calluses form as defense against repeated friction on the feet. They build up into hardened, thick patches of skin.
  • Blisters occur when friction detaches layers of skin from each other, filling with fluid.
  • Both conditions are very painful. Popped blisters also risk infection. Properly fitted sandals should not cause these problems if worn with socks the first few times.

Pain in the Ball of the Foot

  • Narrow-toed sandals cram feet forward, concentrating weight on the ball and toes.
  • This leads to burning pain and inflammation, especially under the big toe joint (bunion area).
  • Seek wider toe boxes and use inserts to reduce excess pressure on the ball of the foot.

Heel Slips Up and Down

  • Loose sandals that don't stay on feet as you walk cause heels to slide up and down.
  • This generates rubbing and friction in the heel and ball of the foot that can lead to blisters.
  • Opt for sandals with rear ankle straps or fasteners to prevent heel slippage.

Difficulty Staying On

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  • You shouldn't have to grip straps or scrunch toes to keep sandals on your feet.
  • Poor rear support and inadequate fastening leads sandals to shift around and fall off.
  • Ensure sandals have sturdy ankle and heel straps. Fasten straps securely but not too tightly.

5 FAQs about Sandals Being Too Small

1. Are sandals supposed to be loose?

Sandals should be snug but not tight. Feet naturally expand during the day, so sandals bought in the afternoon and worn with a little sock give room for expansion. The rear and midfoot region should not allow heels to slide but the toebox can have some wiggle room for toes.

2. Can sandals stretch with wear?

Yes, leather and plastic sandal straps can stretch and deform over time, becoming looser than when new. Fit needs to be rechecked yearly as sandals stretch and feet change size. Inserts or tighter buckles can take up excess space in stretched out sandals.

3. Can I put bandaids on blisters from sandals?

Bandaids help protect popped blisters while healing but they don't address the underlying cause - poor sandal fit. Prevent blisters by choosing better-fitting sandals and wearing socks the first few times to allow gradual break-in until the leather molds.

4. How much bigger should sandals be than your feet?

As a general rule, sandals should be about 1/4-1/2 inch longer than your feet to allow wiggle room for toes. They should not be so big that heels are slipping up and down while walking. Measure feet annually and buy sandals to fit current size.

5. Can I stretch sandals that are too small?

There are home remedies like wearing thick socks, freezing with water, heating with a hair dryer, or using a shoe stretcher that attempt to stretch sandals. However, if sandals are sized more than 1/2 size too small, these efforts may not work well or last permanently. It is better to size up.


Finding open-toed sandals to match healthy and happy feet requires paying attention to signs of poor fit. Don't ignore red marks, foot overhang, and slippage that signal your sandals are too small. Measure your feet annually to accommodate size changes. Shop later in the day when feet are swollen. Seek appropriate width sizing and models with adjustable straps to dial in the perfect fit. Well-fitted sandals support feet properly and won't cause painful blisters or calluses. Give your feet room to relax and enjoy sandal season by ensuring your pair fits properly.

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