Dear Dumb Runner,
Do feet change size? I am 45 years old and have been running in the same shoes for 10 years. (Not the exact same shoes. That would be dumb. But rather umpteen pairs of umpteen models of the same shoe. A Brooks Adrenaline, if you must know.) (Editor: I must, I must!)
I now find that they don't fit as well. My big toe on one foot is cramped and mashes into the side of the shoe. And the little toe on the other foot does the same. So either Brooks changed the shoe or my feet changed and became flatter? Wider? Longer? Is this possible?—Lyle, Montreal, Canada
This is very possible, according to an actual expert that I spoke with. This expert is a very nice woman named Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, a doctor of medicine and surgery in New York and New Jersey and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association. So she is just a smidgen more knowledgeable about such matters than yours truly.
Actually, says Dr. Sutera, both your feet and Brooks could be to blame. Dumb Runner suggests you write letters of complaint to both.
"Shoe companies do change things from time to time such as materials they use, where they manufacture the product, and overall design," she says. "The body also changes over time as we get older, and the foot is no exception. Ligaments in the foot tend to become a little bit looser as we get older and the arches naturally tend to flatten, which causes a widening."
It's also worth remembering that shoes don't share a single, universal sizing system. In other words, a size 11 Brooks might be slightly larger or smaller than a size 11 Asics, which might differ slightly from a size 11 New Balance.
"It's just like jeans and clothes," says Dr. Sutera. "There is no standard."
This is why she recommends relying not so heavily on Brannock foot measuring devices. (That's the name for that black-and-silver sliding thingy pictured above.)
"The best advice I can give as a foot doctor is to not be so committed to a specific brand, style, and especially size," she says. "When your favorite shoe stops feeling good it's time to find another. What I generally tell my patients is to buy the shoe that they feel comfortable in, that is appropriate for their activities, and that fits."
In sum: If the shoe fits...