The Ultimate Sneaker Size and Fit Guide

The Ultimate Sneaker Size and Fit Guide
'Special Air Mission 2800' by the Dufala Brothers

Getting a pair of shoes that fit properly can be a vexing experience. There are no true standard sizes – one brand's 9.5 is another brand's 10.5 – and don't even get us started on how much wider some shoes are than others! Copping the wrong-sized pair of kicks is a disheartening experience, especially when they're a grail you've been hunting for or a rare pair that you know you'll never be able to size swap. The only true way to know what size kicks you need is simply trying them on and walking around, but in our world, that's not always an option: it's called un-DSing!

To make sure you're striding through your sneakerhead journey in comfort, we've asked you for your opinions and combined them with our expertise to give you a few rules of thumb for getting kicks that fit. There are no links to print-out size charts or instructions on how to use a Brannock device here, just some easy-to-remember tips that'll help you get a solid fit and specific advice for the weird fit situations that only sneaker lovers find themselves in. Just like SF founder Woody always says, 'keep your laces loose!'

Tommy Cash x adidas Superstar


If you've ever tried to wedge your foot into a sneaker that's a half size or full size too small, you know the pain of having your toes jammed up against the toe cap. It hurts with every step, and in most cases, the shoes won't stretch out enough to alleviate more than a little bit of your discomfort. Shoes that are a half size or a full size too big are no bueno as well: apart from the sloppy fit that'll have your feet sliding around like they're on a skating rink, they'll also crease far faster than a properly-fitting pair. Imagine the horror of a cooked toebox on your Air Jordan 1s after just one or two wears – that's what's awaiting you if your joints aren't the right size. Don't be one of those bozos who'll wear any size available just for the purpose of getting a fit off.

An easy rule of thumb (no pun intended) to ensure your shoes fit OK is making sure you have roughly a thumb's worth of space in front of your big toe, and can fit a finger behind your heel without too much effort. Need to fill up some room? Double socks or an extra insole can always do the trick. Crease protectors like Force Fields and Sneaker Shields are an option as well. They'll keep your toeboxes largely crease-free, but you should make sure you still have enough room: if you don't, they'll waste no time in putting your toes to sleep.

,Martine Rose x Nike Air Monarch


Much like length, width is another key determining factor in how a shoe fits. Too wide, and you'll have to choke your laces to the point that the lateral and medial eyelets are almost touching to keep them secure. That's dirty white Air Force 1 behaviour, and not something you should aspire to. Too narrow, however, and they'll feel like you're busting out of the sides. You don't want to put your pinky toe through that sort of agony either!

Look for a fit that's snug, but not tight, and doesn't give you the 'muffin top' effect where you're spilling out over the midsole. Unlike length, which doesn't really change with wear, your shoe's width will likely increase a little over its lifespan, unless it's made of a stout synthetic material or features some sort of weather-resistant liner. In the event that your shoe is lined with something like GORE-TEX, you can always go up half a size to get a more roomy fit.

Kerwin Frost x adidas Superstar 'Superstuffed'


Width is side-to-side, and volume is top-to-bottom. Volume issues tend to arise more in performance footwear, as your foot naturally swells during any type of sustained athletic activity, but it can also make for an issue in the sneakerhead sphere. If a shoe doesn't have enough volume, the top of your foot will press against the tongue – making for an undeniable feeling of discomfort.

This is one of the simplest problems to solve. Either wear a thinner sock (yes, we know you love your Kapital knit socks but there's a time and a place for everything) or explore some alternate lacing methods – which leads us nicely to the next point.

New Balance 997


'Keep your laces loose' may sound like a simple idiom, but there's an art to it! If your laces are too loose, you'll suffer from excessive heel drag and be clomping around like a disinterested middle schooler. If your laces are too tight, you may as well throw out all the length and width advice provided above. Let 'em breathe baby, let 'em breathe!

Our simplest solution to this is to take the time to re-lace your shoes when you get them. Too often, people will grab their factory-laced kicks out of the box, tug on the top couple eyestays to get a little extra room and go from there. For casual wear, there's no need to tie your joints up so tight that you could play a whole basketball game either.

If you have the patience to properly lace your kicks when you get 'em, you'll be rewarded with a sharp-looking 'waterfall' that's narrower towards the bottom and wider towards the top, loose enough that they can be slipped on and off with minor effort but secure enough for any and all daily activities. If you're going to be rocking a great pair, you might as well do a great job of lacing them! If that sounds like too much hassle – or if you desire a more technical look – you can always opt for speed-lacing sneakers from a performance brand like Salomon as well.

New Balance 992

Miscellaneous Tips and Tricks

  • Look for high-quality materials. Besides providing the 'elevated' look that archive pages froth over, if a shoe offers a premium construction it'll maintain its shape longer and likely fit better as well.
  • Don't hesitate to swap out the flimsy, shitty insoles that come in most sneakers for something with a little more cushion and substance. Not only will they help fill up a little extra room if a shoe is too big, they'll also give you extra arch support and comfort. Nobody will know the difference, but you'll definitely feel it.
  • There's no need to duck walk to preserve the life of your kicks. Creases and scuffs – though they should be avoided where possible – are part of a sneaker's story – and you can spare yourself a lot of discomfort as well.
  • If you read this whole article and are still stuck with a pair of ill-fitting shoes, we've got a guide to cover that as well. Click here to check it out.
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