How Should Dress Shoes Fit in the Heel?

While searching for the perfect pair of dress shoes, many find themselves faced with a range of variables. From how long a dress shoe must be, to the best traction pattern, lace-up choice, the boldness of brogueing, countless questions arise. Yet few are as important to picking a comfortable pair of dress shoes, as for how dress shoes should fit in the heel.

One needs a balance of firm fitment and comfort, yet finding this balance can sometimes prove quite tricky. Here we’ll be guiding you through how to choose the best fitting dress shoe relative to the fitment of the heel. Choose right and comfort is guaranteed, while your foot will also never slip around, causing you blisters, chafing and skin irritation.

Basic Factors to Keep in Mind

The heel of your dress shoes should always leave a bit of space, but nowhere near as much as sneakers. Seams or stitching against the heel should be avoided, while the heel itself is something that will never need to be broken in. If there is any design element which looks as if it may rub against your heel, then avoid those shoes completely.

This is important because those additions can cause a lot of problems as you wear the shoes. In just a few short hours you can experience discomfort that can lead to blisters and even bleeding, and nobody wants that. Instead, it’s better to relinquish that extra bit of design for something that will be more comfortable to wear for a longer period of time.

Choosing the Appropriate Size

The primarily consideration when buying a pair of shoes, especially when buying online, is to determine whether the size given is a match to your individual shoe size. Without first determining if your new prospective dress shoes run large, run a size small, or are a perfect fit, you can’t begin to determine the fit of the heel. A good match in terms of shoe size gives you a great chance of getting a heel fit that is both secure, snug, and comfortable.

Keep in mind that every pair of shoes will stretch, even if slightly; therefore, your dress shoes should fit tightly at first, giving little room to move. Over the course of a few days, or with the help of a shoe stretcher, they will adjust to fit more comfortably. Leather has very little room for flexibility and stretching, thus leather shoes should always be as close a match to your exact size as possible.

Make sure to keep in mind that you shouldn’t rely on that stretching too much. While in some cases you may be able to get shoes that are slightly tight and have them wear into a more comfortable state, don’t get shoes that are highly uncomfortable to wear, expecting them to stretch out enough to become comfortable. It’s more important to get the right size than to try to make a smaller size work.

The Importance of a Good Lining

Dress socks are typically very thin which makes a high-quality, comfortable lining and interior very important. The lining will be greatest felt around your heel, with many dress shoes opting for a leather inset or padding instead. Any stitching towards the heel needs to be folded and flush. The last thing that you want is anything which could be abrasive in this area. A genuine leather lining, or at the least a leather inlay, is highly recommended.

With regard to lining and overall material of the shoe, it’s also a good idea to have something that is more breathable. That way, your feet will be less likely to get hot and sweaty, which can lead to embarrassing odors. Finding something that will let in more air can ensure you stay comfortable and don’t have to worry about those smells.

Heel and Arch Support

Always pay attention to the angle the heel’s angle of incline, and ensure that it matches the natural contours of your foot. Many top dress shoe manufacturers even supply orthopedically sound arch support including special padded insoles to ensure a comfortable fit over an extended period of time.

If your dress shoes have made no provision to support both your heel and arch, then it is likely that your shoes will become very uncomfortable to wear in no-time. This is especially true for people with flat feet. Outward appeal means very little at all if your shoes cause you is constant pain and irritation.

Do keep in mind that if the shoes themselves don’t have support within themselves, you can opt to get soles that you can add into the shoes for arch support. Depending on the kind of dress shoe you get, you may want to choose something less outwardly noticeable. Otherwise, focus on what will make you the most comfortable.

Softback vs. Stiff Heel Support

Any dress shoes which use a stiffener need to be given careful consideration. The heel seat of shoes with a stiffener needs to be wide enough to allow your foot enough range of motion, without being so wide that the shoe can slip off. In addition, a heel seat which is too wide can cause one to “claw” their toes in a subconscious attempt to keep the shoe from falling off. This needs to be avoided.

Many cheaper shoes make use of a very soft flexible back, which makes a form-fitting shoe size even more important. Firm heels which do not use a stiffener, as is the case with those of genuine leather composition, are the best. They help you control the motion of your heel while minimizing the risk of shoe slippage and ankle strain.

The overall idea is to make sure that you have enough space to be comfortable without feeling like the shoe is going to fall off. You may also find that heel support that is firmer, rather than stiffened, is going to be less likely to rub on that area of your foot.

The Shape of the Heel Seat

The shape of your foot largely determines the best shape for the heel seat. Yet in general, a heel seat which is too narrow will put excess pressure on the Achilles tendon, which forces your foot outwards causing pressure in the area of your toes. The width of a heel seat is also very important. If you buy a pair of shoes which is elongated but narrow, then the heel seat may not be wide enough for a comfortable fit.

While many people choose the appearance of the shoe over the comfort level, it’s exceedingly important to understand that the fit of your shoe is about more than just comfort. Shoes that don’t fit well are actually bad for your body and can result in more pain or sometimes even damage to your feet. Because of that, it’s not a good idea to try to “tough it out” when it comes to your shoes.

Possible Heel Cap Issues

There are many people who struggle with nothing other than discomfort resulting from a poor fitting heel cap. In most cases, this is due to individual concerns regarding the shape of the wearer’s foot. Fortunately, any discomfort arising from poor heel cap fitment can be resolved by using orthopedic insoles, arch supports, or heel pads.

Each of these three products is great when used in conjunction with dress shoes featuring removable insoles, although this is not critical. Orthopedic gel inserts work wonderfully; just ensure that you get one that is a slim-line design so that you don’t run into any sizing issues.

Products like these are important to use to ensure the health of your feet. While they may come at an extra cost, you will find that you won’t end up paying in foot pain rather than money. Don’t be afraid to look into these additions if your shoes aren’t perfectly comfortable as they are.

Don’t Forget the Topline

One area which is commonly overlooked is the topline. The topline refers to the region of the heel which is exposed at the top. As mentioned before, any stitching in the heel area needs to be of paramount quality with no obtrusion causing resistance in the movement of your heel.

Just as with the rest of your heel, the topline should never carry any exposed stitching or material joins of any form. In addition, the topline needs to fit the form around your heel, onto the dorsum of the foot, without any excessive gaping.

Low-heeled shoes need a slight amount of play, or heal-to-toe action, whereas flat shoes should have no room for motion. Low-heeled shoes need a slight gap with a topline that hugs your foot.


Overall, the fit of the heel on your dress shoes is highly important. You’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the comfort and support you need to stay comfortable and keep your feet from suffering. Make sure to check each of these areas to make sure the shoes you’re interested in offer the most possible support. Finally, don’t be afraid to get insole add-on products to make yourself more comfortable.


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