size is just a number

In my lifetime, I have worn so many different sizes. In my closet, at this very moment, are clothes that cover a range of numbers. I fit in everything from an 8 to a 12, depending on the brand, article of clothing and personal preference of fit. I have been in both 00 and 18, both of which were unhealthy for my body. Thing is, labels are on the inside, and while people could guess the size of another person’s clothes if they were feeling up to it

At almost 42, I’ve really stopped paying attention to any kind of perceived value to those numbers and goes with what fits and (hopefully) with what flatters my figure.


That being said, there is one number I never thought to worry about: my (running) shoe size.

The other day, I read a post on social media about a woman who had her first official fitting for a pair of running shoes. It was a great experience, except for the part where they measured her and found she would need two and a half sizes larger than what she was currently wearing. She left the store without purchasing shoes, and made some fairly unflattering comments about “large” shoe sizes in the process.

I remember customers like this from my time working in a running store. Usually it was woman in their 60s or older (although sometimes men of the same age), who were absolutely adamant that I was reading the Brannock device incorrectly, and that all the shoes I showed them in the size on which they insisted were made poorly because they were (shockingly) too small. It baffled me that they were more interested in an arbitrary number on the inside of the tongue of a shoe than in a comfortable and supportive fit.

In the industry, the recommendation is to wear running shoes a half size to a full size larger than the measurement of the foot. Obviously, this depends on brand and model, but it’s the generally accepted rule of thumb in the running community. There are outliers in people who prefer a more snug fit, but traditionally, you want a shoe with some wiggle room for toes and space for swelling. The shoe shouldn’t rub or lift off easily, but it should be

I have never given much thought to my feet. They are attached to the ends of my legs, and I guess I like them well enough. They move me from place to place, balance me, ground me. They’re doing their thing competently enough and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the point.

I’m about 5’10” tall. I will never be mistaken for “dainty”. I think my smallest adult shoe size has been 8.5, but as the years pass and I’ve experienced aging, pregnancy, postpartum and even more aging, my feet have grown. In regular shoes, I wear a 9.5 or 10, and in running shoes, a 10.5. I never thought it was a bad thing, mostly because I have no control over the size of my feet. They just kind of are. I don’t feel beastly or lumbering, and the size of a well-fitting shoe would never be a determining factor in a purchase for me.

Heck, I barely even worry about color. If I need shoes and they feel fabulous, I get them.

The obsession with foot size is puzzling. What difference does it make how large (or small) one’s feet are, so long as they are doing their job? Is a size or shape out of your control cause for shame or embarrassment?

So tell me, does your shoe size bother you?

What’s the benefit to having smaller feet?

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26 Responses to size is just a number

  1. Darlene says:

    Not at all.

    7 shoe. 8.5 running.

    Nor do I ever weigh myself.

    Being healthy is all that matters.

  2. My very first job at the age of 16 was in a family-owned shoe store where we catered to our customers and made sure they had the right-fitting shoes. As a result, I have always bought good-quality shoes with the proper fit. I have historically worn a 7.5 but am more of a solid 8 these days. I wear an 8.5 running shoe and those numbers don’t bother me at all. I just completed my 10th marathon and have never had so much as a blister.

    • runswithpugs says:

      Feet do grow as we age. It’s annoying just because everything will be fine, and then one day a shoe won’t fit because my feet have grown, but it doesn’t happen too too often, and then it’s just an excuse for new shoes.

  3. Kim G says:

    Very interesting! One number I don’t care about is my shoe size. I wear an 8 in sneakers and either a 7 or 7.5 in regular shoes. I always knew I had to size up for sneakers so it didn’t bother me

  4. I’m a tall gal as well (5’9, thank you very much) and have the big feet that goes with it LOL My problem is that my feet are narrow, so I have to wear thick socks because the toe boxes seem to be getting wider and wider, no matter the brand or model. First world probs, but it’s annoying. I also worked in a shoe store for awhile (many,many moons ago), and remember customers arguing with me about the size the device showed vs. what their “real” size was LOL

    • runswithpugs says:

      I have a narrow instep and wider toes, so I really appreciate that so many shoes are going for more of a flexible fabric with less overlays and stitching. It allows me to lace more snugly where I need it and leave space where I don’t. I never got the idea of arguing over a shoe size. I mean, the tool says it right there! It’s not like we make these things up!

  5. Hmm I have not heard women talking about the shoe sizes like that. Interesting !
    Deborah Brooks recently posted…Mother’s Day Gifts For Runners and Fitness EnthusiastsMy Profile

  6. So odd! I’ve decided that running shoe size can be pretty arbitrary, and I go with what feels best. I GENERALLY like to size up a half size (normally wear a six, usually a six and a half in running shoes) but my asics are a full size bigger.
    I get the preoccupation with clothing size because it’s easy to feel down about your body changing. But I’m with you on feet. I don’t think shoe size should carry the same emotional baggage.

    • runswithpugs says:

      I honestly have so much to worry about – shoe size is waaaaaay down on the priority list. I can’t possibly imagine myself with smaller feet – I would tip right over!

  7. Coco says:

    Oh wow. People will obsess over anything! I hope that woman gets over it — otherwise her feet will hurt for sure!

  8. Esther says:

    I have what I like to call ‘unique’ feet. They have always been longer (10.5+), and more on the wide side. I also had a portion of one of my bones removed, and my scar can be sensitive at times as it is on the side of my foot. I used to try to squeeze into smaller shoes, but then saw that was pretty silly.
    (When I was in jr high I wanted to wrap my feet like the Chinese did to try and make my feet smaller. It was really hard for me with my feet for a long time)
    I generally opt for men’s shoes as they fit my feet better. It is not easy to find cute shoes for my size/uniqueness, so I do what I can and move on.
    Esther recently posted…May is already here??My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      That does sound a little frustrating. I do agree that it can be hard to find cute shoes in the larger sizes, but online shopping has become such a blessing for that, too, I’ve found. Then again, I mostly live in flip flops and running shoes so it only stresses me out when I have an event.

  9. Renée says:

    my shoe size only bothers me because it seems to be common and then the shoes I want aren’t available! but otherwise no. I used to be an 8.5-9 before I was a runner (and when I was much younger) so when I started running with shoes that were 8.5’s I didn’t understand why I had shin splints! Then I found out that those shoes were not the right size for running. At this stage I’m in a 9.5 in Altras, but have run in 10’s for quite a while; only I was having some issues with my toes and determined they were too big. (note: I have one pair of 9.5 Altras that are too small, and one pair that are perfect. they are different models)

    I find it strange that it would be a “thing” to get upset about if you have big or small feet. I don’t see any issue unless your fit are too big or small and you topple over 🙂

    • Renée says:

      your “feet” not your fit 😀

    • runswithpugs says:

      Oh, yes! That is hard when you’re a common size! And different models definitely fit differently. Heck, I had one model in two different colors that fit differently! It was so weird!

      I have to get a lot of shoes online, although I’m not sure that’s as much of an option where you are.

  10. How odd that shoe size is something people would obsess about ?! I cannot imagine wearing shoes too small just to claim a smaller size – crazy!

  11. Cari says:

    Are you doing Run the Year? I think I saw the same post. I have some FEELINGS about that Facebook group though in general.

    While I do have issues with clothing size – they come mostly from being granddaughter of a seamstress who would tell us about the shenanigans they would do if they dind’t have right size tag. But I don’t get size anxiety from others. YOur feet are the same size whether you wear X or X.5. If your feet feel better in x.5, who cares?!?

    My shoe story just makes me laugh. When I lost weight, my (regular) shoe size went down. I never thought about that side effect — assumed it was bone length. So I wear 7 or 7.5 depending on the shoe and a 9 in New Balance. <3 my flippers
    Cari recently posted…Running technologyMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      LOL! Facebook groups are pretty feeling-inducing, I find.

      I don’t know that my foot has ever shrunk, even when I’ve lost weight. No matter. I wear what fits and call it a day.

      • Cari says:

        LOL. Indeed. I usually have to take a break from them.
        Yep – same. I just found it more interesting when the same shoe I’d worn for 5-6 years was suddenly too big. No complaints.

  12. Marc Pelerin says:

    I have no idea why my work computer blocked this, so sorry I’m posting so late. I’ve never really paid attention to shoe size – I think my foot has grown about a 1/2 size since college, from a 10.5 to an 11.
    Marc Pelerin recently posted…The 3 Pillars of RunningMy Profile

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