Reader Request: Balancing Foot Size

balancing foot size

Keilexandra popped this question into the suggestion box:

I’d love to see a post on how to “balance” foot size, both small and large. Especially small! At 5’2.5″ and 120 lbs, I feel like my size 5 feet are disproportionately small. This is especially apparent when I wear heels or high-vamp shoes (e.g. oxfords, TOMS), and even more so now that I am finally spending money on good-quality shoes in my size rather than a size too large. Wearing shoes that fit is much more comfortable, but it also makes my feet look smaller… and unlike most women, I think my feet are already small enough!

When I was a teen, I, too, wished to make my feet appear larger. I had a girlfriend who carried most of her weight in her bust and belly, and wore very tight, skinny jeans, and shoes that made her feet look tiny. Honestly, it worked for her. But seeing how she handled her dressing and footwear choices made me reevaluate my own and decide that I’d rather err on the side of shoes that made my feet look actual size or even a bit larger in order to balance my hips and shoulders. So I passed on Keds and reached for Doc Martens.

Women who have feet they feel are disproportionately large also struggle, I know. Some will go so far as to wear floor-sweeping skirts as often as possible to keep their feet minimally visible. And here’s the thing: All feet are fine. You’ve got yours in their current size because of your own unique biology, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. It is entirely up to you if balancing your foot size is a figure-flattery priority. None of my figure-flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

For those who do wish to balance their natural foot size a bit, here are some tips for both ends of the spectrum:

To make small feet appear larger

Almond and pointed toes: Generally, you want your feet to seem longer in the length, so toe styles that add a bit of visual length will help. You don’t have to go full pointy and veer into elf territory. A chic almond toe will help somewhat.

Platforms: Heft on the sole might not add to perceived foot length, but it will still add to the illusion. Again, no need to break out the disco stompers – a small platform and chunky heel will do the trick.

Large soles: Most women’s shoes feature soles that fit well beneath the shoe body, but some styles of flat boots and rugged footwear include soles that protrude a bit. My Fluevog Lancasters, shown above, boast this feature.

Bootcut pants: Pant styles that are slim to the ankle and foot will make dainty feet seem daintier. Bootcut openings have a bit more leeway since they flare a bit, and can make feet seem a bit larger.

To make large feet appear smaller

Rounded toes: On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll want a toe style that makes your feet appear as compact as possible. Rounded toes are generally a good bet.

Dark colors: Shoes in light or pastel shades will add a bit of perceived length, so stick to darker shades like gray, navy, brown, and black.

Avoid strappy sandals: Showing lots of foot against thin straps will make that foot seem bigger, so stick to wider straps and a bit more coverage. Or try peep-toes, D’Orsays, or sling-backs.

Originally posted 2013-03-06 06:06:44.

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24 Responses to “Reader Request: Balancing Foot Size”

  1. Amy Addison

    I’m 5’8″ and wear a size 11. Supposedly that is the same height and shoe size of Paris Hilton. HA! I’ve never really felt like my feet look too big unless it’s something like Converse All-Starsor bulky boot type shoes. I have wished my feet were smaller not because of how they look, but because of lack of options. In the past I have been treated as though I have the plague if I asked a store attendant for a shoe in my size. The internet and large shoe stores like Off Broadway have made it slightly more pleasant to shop for shoes. And Nordstrom Rack even has special events for ladies with larger shoe sizes, so I know I’m not alone.

    I have found the latest trend of ballet flats with rounded toes to look especially flattering on my longer feet.

  2. Eliza

    I tend to pay more attention to my foot shape than the size, but shape also influences percieved size. For my larger, squared-off feet, I look for shoes with vertical elements running up my foot (t-straps, lace-ups,etc) and avoid shoes with horizontal lines running across my foot.

    Lots of sandals have a strap that would go straight over the widest part of my feet. When some sort of horizontal line is unavoidable, I try to find ones where the strap is slightly angled.

    Adding a little length to my feet helps make my feet look narrower, which in turn (at least on me) makes them look smaller. On the other hand, shoes which widen my feet can make them look much larger than I know they actually are.

  3. Andrea

    Team large feet here … I find boot-cut or wide-leg pants are better for large feet as there’s not this dramatic change going on at the end of your leg as there is with skinnies. Also, things that break your foot horizontally help, like cap toes or straps running across the foot. Higher heels can also make the foot shorter.

    BTW, having large feet did not stop me from wearing Doc Martens everywhere in the early 90s! My favorite Docs were the Mary Jane style, though.

    • SKP

      I agree with Andrea and later posters that pants with a bit of flare at the bottom make feet look smaller (by hiding them!). I have quite large feet for my height, and chunky shoes with skinny jeans makes it look like there are clubs on the end of my legs.

  4. Am

    I, too, am on Team Large Feet! I have spent a lot of time thinking about minimizing the appearance of my feet since I grew my size 13 feet at the tender age of 12. I agree with above advice about wearing pants with larger leg openings to camouflage foot length. I also tend to look for shoes with some sort of detail to break up a solid color. Solid colors can make feet look bigger, whereas contrasting details can help break up the continuous line that draws the eye along the foot. I like vertical details, since horizontal ones can draw attention to foot length (think Adidas stripes vs Puma/Nike swoosh). I find that details in the mid-foot or toe range can be especially flattering. If you’re looking for cute larger shoes, since I know they can be very hard to find, I recommend Nordstrom’s Rack and barefoottess.com (I’ve also had some luck on zappos.com, Payless, and with some gender-neutral men’s shoes, like Tom’s). Good luck with your foot adventures 🙂

  5. danielle

    hmm… i have similarly tiny feet but i guess it doesn’t bother me that much – i do know that actually i try to wear pants with the slimmest leg opening possible, though, otherwise i feel like my feet are drowning in the pants. most women’s trouser-cut dress pants swamp my feet to the point where you almost can’t even see them..

    i find my feet look bigger in boots, although this could have to do with the fact that i typically need a half size or so bigger. my frye boots are a whole size and a half bigger than what i normally wear and my feet look huuuuge in them.

    i will admit though, my feet do look comically small in TOMS. but they are too comfy to not wear 🙂

  6. p

    I have very small feet and I´m 5´2. I adore them and actually like to wear rounded toe shoes that make them look even smaller. I feel they look really cute in high heels.

  7. Seraphinalina

    Funny, it never crossed my mind to worry about my feet. At 5′ and a half inch, I’m certainly not tall, but my feet are a size 9/9.5. I often find when I make a joke about my big feet, no one noticed that they are large. Still, I find I like rounded toes and less clunky shoes but I feel like a lot of the other shoes I avoid (like ankle straps) have more to do with being short and extending my legs than the actual size of my feet. One positive aspect to shoes is that I’ve never gone shoe shopping and left feeling fat. Feet are feet.

  8. KJ

    I have pretty small feet. Unfortunately, they are paired with think ankles and sturdy, muscular legs. Needless to say, I am particular about my footware and skirt/pants styles. I’ve actually already figured out all of the tips you mentioned from trial and error.

  9. KJ

    I forgot to add: my favorite thing to wear is knee high boots. They can be challenging to find due to my larger calves, but when they do fit, I think they do a great job helping to balance my leg size with my foot size. My favorite ones aren’t too high or too flat, since both can make my feet look too small. If I’m not wearing boots, a nice chunky wedge seems to be helpful–especially when wearing skirts.

  10. Amber of Butane Anvil

    Another size 10-11 Bigfoot here – others’ thoughts about limited choice and multiple aspects of proportion hold true for me too. Though my flat instep makes getting into Fluevog Heidis and Frye pull-ons easy, ballerina flats make my feet appear oddly wafer-thin below my substantial legs. I prefer a substantial shoe (quite often those with “make your feet appear large” qualities) to balance out overall proportion rather than trying to minimize an isolated body part.

    In large-size pattern-translation woes, though my calves are not thin, tall-boot calves will often be too wide, and in many, many sandal styles, the bunion area where the sole widens is way too far forward despite the overall length of the shoe being correct. Though if everything fit me properly, I would have even more of a storage space issue, lol!

  11. Belle

    I wonder what is considered small, normal and large feet? I always thought I had large feet compared to my girlfriends. We were all about 5′ – 5’6″ and they were 6-7. I have been an 8.5 at 5’2″

  12. Jenny

    I think my feet are just about normal size for my height. Mainly because I have average height, and average feet size!

    Specifically, I wear size 8 shoes, and I’m 5’5″. Well, I think those are both average. Maybe not, but I’m fine with my proportions.

  13. Megan Mae

    I used to worry about my foot size (size 6), but overall I just wear shoes I like. I generally like the look of longer feet on me, so I opt for longer squared off toes or pointy toes. But I just bought a pair of chunk-tastic Dr. Martens that I love, so who knows!

  14. Kristen

    I think my feet are pretty average size (8.5-9, I’m 5’6″), but my toes are rather wide so my feet are kind of square. My husband thinks it’s funny to call them hobbit feet… but that’s his problem! LOL I feel like anything that’s TOO rounded makes them look chunkier. I’m not a fan of super pointy toes, either the look or the feel, but a soft almond feels more flattering to me than some round toes because of the illusion of narrowing, even if it does add a bit of length. I think there’s a lot of variation in “round” toe, though, some are a softer, more oval-y shape, and some are like the arc of a quarter-circle. I’ve got relatively thick ankles and calves (not shapely, more stumpy) for my size, so that’s where most of my consideration for footwear goes.

  15. Laura

    I’m with others, I don’t mind having large feet since I’m overweight – they balance out my hips! In fact I often think I should have chunkier shoes with certain outfits for the sake of proportion but I don’t own many these days. I stick with ballet flats most of the time.

    Re sandals and large feet, if you want to wear strappy sandals in the summer, a shade closer to your skin tone will draw the eye less than something like me, a pale white girl, wearing black sandals.

  16. Dianne

    I am about 5’6″ and wore size 7 shoes most of my life from the time my feet stopped growing in my teens. (Influenced by my mother, who felt that one should buy clothing that was large enough to ‘grow into’.) In the last two or three years I have discovered that shoes (like bras) vary in size depending on the manufacturer, and that some size 6 and 6.5’s fit my feet better, and actually feel better, as they support (cradle) my feet. I do prefer an ‘almond’ toe, as I carry my foot width across the base of my toes, which are very short. I do prefer boots, both knee-high and ankle height, with a more substantial heel than a stiletto, although that may be more for walkability. I have never worried about my feet looking too small or too large, possibly because they are average size. And I must admit, I don’t look at other people’s feet, except to admire their boots (size does not register!).

  17. Keilexandra

    Funny, I am the OP but I threw this question idly into the suggestion box months ago and forgot about it, so when it came up today, I had an amazing sense of deja vu! In general I try not to worry about my foot proportions, but I do love my TOMS and have gotten multiple comments from people about how weirdly small my feet look. Thanks for tackling the topic, Sal!

  18. Halo

    I don’t really think about my size 10 feet much except when I try to find comfortable flats (which may be futile for me) and realize they make my feet look immense. Even a little height in the heel makes a big difference, and the bonus for me is they feel more comfortable, too.

  19. Megan

    Another Big Foot here! I remember being able to wear my mom’s high heels during dress up as a kid and they were too snug!. I wore an 8 when I was 8, a 9 when I was 9, a 10 when I was 10, and an 11 when I was 11. Needless to say I was praying so hard around my 12th birthday that my feet would stop growing!! Thankfully, they did. It was always funny though when kids would hurl that childish insult at me “Act you age, not your shoe size!” and I could respond with “My age IS my shoe size!”

    I feel so very fortunate that my feet are medium width. While it is still disappointing at times to see beautiful shoes that stop at a size 10, at least there are lots of brands and stores out there that carry 11M.

    After reading this post and all of the responses, I have to say that I don’t give a damn that my feet are big or how they look in different style shoes. My feet will always look big because they ARE big… and there is nothing wrong with that. My feet carry me to amazing places, and help me hurry away from harm. They support me every day and keep my 5’9″ pear-shaped frame nice and balanced.

    I love my feet so much that I have made the decision this year to only wear shoes that are comfortable and supportive. No more flat-as-a-board t-strap sandals. No more cushionless / archless heels that kill my feet after just an hour. I only have one pair of feet and I love them. Therefore, I owe it to them to take care of them every day and make them feel loved, regardless if they look “too big” or not.

  20. Kaye

    I’m honestly not being a troll here — I respect people’s opinions regarding their very own bodies, after all — but please, I really don’t think anyone is looking at (let alone judging) your feet! The OP says people often comment on how small her feet are? It’s probably a compliment, because women with large feet always wish theirs were smaller. I have seen large feet and small feet on all kinds of women and I don’t ever, ever, EVER think any are “too large” or “too small.” They are just FEET. I definitely *will* admire your shoes or boots — whatever size they are. I won’t wear open toes if I don’t have a pretty pedicure, but otherwise I simply cannot imagine “dressing for my feet!”

  21. Rebecca

    I am 5’6″ and I wear a size 10 1/2 shoe. Which means I either wear a 10 or an 11 depending on how it’s made. I had to come to terms early in my life with having such large feet. I wore women’s sizes when I was 8 years old, and my feet just got this large. I know I can’t wear patterned shoes, because they make my feet look enormous, like all those cute floral patterned shoes- I can’t wear them. I also purchase a lot of my shoes online due to the fact that in stores, there really isn’t an option for larger footed women other than shoes that look very masculine and just orthopedic and not cute and comfortable and fashionable like they have for average sizes.

    I love my feet. I would never trade them in, but it is a challenge to get shoes that are not only adorable but work well for my feet. Your feet are important, and a cheap pair of shoes may look nice, but they don’t really cut it when it comes to support. For large and small feet, buy online because stores will look at you like you grew 6 heads and they all started to speak in another language when you ask for these “taboo” sizes.

  22. Angeli

    Oh My God! Finally I find this article!!!!! I have small feet (size 5) and I totally hate it!!!!! I wish I had at least a size 6 or seven. I know some cultures think that small feet are better but seriously, I look like I have a kid’s feet. Not cute. 🙁 plus I’ve also been teased about it and it made me even more conscious about my body. So thank you for this!!!! Alleluia and praise the Lord for your kind heart!!!!