Nine out of ten women wear shoes that are too small for their feet. Eight out of ten women say their shoes are painful. The obvious solution? Skip the stilettos, pass on the pumps, and look for a sensible shoe that fits. According to Robert Kornfeld, DPM, "you want a shoe that is wider in the toe box than it is in the heel—because that's the shape of the human foot—that has no elevation to the heel, and that provides a lot of flexibility." Follow these six steps to find your perfect pair.

Shop in the afternoon. Feet swell during the day, and it's best to fit shoes when feet are slightly swollen. Shop first thing in the morning, and you could end up with shoes that are tight come 5 p.m.

Measure your feet every time you buy shoes. Stand up to get your actual foot size, then walk in the shoes in the store to make sure they're comfortable. Also be sure to try shoes on both feet. Often one foot is larger than the other; fit the larger one.

Take care of your toes. There should be one-half inch between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Choose shoes with wide toe boxes. You should be able to wiggle all your toes with the shoes on.

Stay low. Buy shoes with heels shorter than 2-1/4 inches. Clogs are better than high heels because they usually don't have elevated heels and do have roomy toe boxes. However, clogs with inflexible soles do change gait dynamics and stress posterior leg muscles. Instead, look for clogs with flexible soles.

Fit your lifestyle. If you participate in a particular sport three or more times a week, buy a shoe specific to that activity. When trying on athletic shoes, wear the same type of sock you do for the activity.

Shop around for the best fit. Never buy tight or uncomfortable shoes; you shouldn't have to break shoes in. Keep looking until you find a pair that looks and feels great.

—D.N.

Sources: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org); American Podiatric Medical Association (www.apma.org); Robert Kornfeld, DPM.