The Proper Shoe for You

Ch. 1   Ch. 2   Ch. 3   Ch. 4   Ch. 5   Ch. 6   Ch. 7   Ch. 8

Chapter 8: Proper Fit and Finding What's Best for You

We defy the prior thinking of conventional shoes. Improper shoe sizing and shape is the primary cause of ingrown toenails, bunuins, corns, hammer toes, and hallux valgus.

A proper fit accounts for the natural expansion of the foot upon ground contact. Excess waste is eliminated, along with everything that inhibits your foot's natural motion. So your foot is free to move and work the way nature intended it to; the way of its own barefoot motion.  
Toe wiggle freedom

  • roomy wide forefoot
  • closeness to the ground
  • full ground connection
  • flexible sole


On sizing...most get it wrong

First, abandon the notion that you have a shoe have a foot size. Shoes are made all over the world and apply different shapes and standards.

If you measure your foot seated with a traditional measuring device like a 
Brannock Device and base your size on that you will likely beoff by 1-2 sizes when applied to a running or hiking shoe.  One shoe size is only 1/3 an inch.  The Brannock is a great starting point.
Also critically important is that the Bannock device measures the widest part of the shoe at the ball. Infant feet are widest at the ends of the toes, not the ball of the foot. The natural alignment of the human foot is where the metatarsals directly align  with phalanges (toes) and get wider than the ball of the foot.

Here is why most size too small:

  • When a load is applied to a foot either by running (3x body weight) or with a pack weight your foot will spread in length by up to half an inch

  • You need at least an 1/8 inch or more space on heel and toe for any sock.

  • You want 1/3 to 1/2 an inch in front of your big toe to allow room for loading and splay

  • Your foot will splay 15% in width under load.

  • Your foot is widest at the toes and unfortunately most shoes are not shaped this way.

Tips on sizing.  Note...I've never had a customer return and say their shoes were too big.

  • Do not assume you are the same size as a previous shoe.
  • Take your time and try several shoes on. Go run in them. Do NOT try them on sitting.
  • Always try both shoes on. If feet are slightly different size fit the larger foot.
  • Take the shoe removable insole out and see how your foot fits against the insole as a there room at the toes or is there overlap off the insole.  If no room to spare or if overlap this shoe will not fit.
  • Keep going half size up until the shoes are obviously too big.
  • Try on shoes at end of day when feet are most flattened and swollen
  • Try on with the type of sock you will wear for activity.
  • For women, you may fit better in a mens shoe for width. 
  • Do not lace the shoes up tight.  Allow spread in the midfoot and forefoot.

Remember the Grinch.....his shoes were too tight.  Don't let that be you.  Be loose, free, and happy in your shoes. 
cram toes (poor fit) --vs-- real foot and wiggle room(good fit)

Be "Barefoot" all Day

So what do we recommend for you? Be barefoot or as close to barefoot all day. If you are a runner the time you spend on your feet all day is just as important to your health, strength, alignment, and foot function as the time you spend running. You might say it is more important if you are spending several hours a day on your feet in work and leisure activity and struggling to squeeze a half hour run in.

We Challenge you not to listen to us, but to listen to what your body is telling you. Try to go flat for a month. For daily walking and leisure activity there is nothing on the market close to Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot. Try them on and your feet will immediately feel a difference. Keep them on for a month and your whole body will feel a huge difference as muscles are woken up by the new communication with the ground. I have nothing but a pair of leather Lesotho for a year and they are still in great shape and feel better everyday.  Cannot bear to part with them, as they are my feet now when I need to wear shoes.

Running shoes should be flat also. We have a range of shoes to meet your specific running needs:


We carry very minimal Terra Plana Evo's along with Brooks and New Balance trail flats. Additionally, we have more protective and responsive shoes from industry innovator Newton and trail favorites Inov-8.

But remember to learn good posture and mechanics along with shoe transitions and make changes gradually. Listen to your body's messages and be your own best coach. For a great read on transitioning to more minimal shoes read Running Times piece by Brian Metzler.

Remember your goal is fun, play, discovery and "No Pain...Thank You" not "No Pain...No Gain".

To view a large file on all aspects of healthy running and walking go to the homepage of and download the presentation from the "training" page.

Here's to healthier and happier running.


Mark Cucuzzella MD, FAAFP
Associate Professor Family Medicine
West Virginia University Department of Family Medicine

Race director Freedom's Run

Owner Two River Treads- A Center for Natural Running and Walking

113 W. German St

Shepherdstown, West Virginia 25443

A special thanks to Andrew Rademacher of Stem Footwear for his collaboration in producing this inclusive piece.

Content used with permission from Mark Cucuzzella ( and Andrew Rademacher (