How to treat your feet with some respect:
* Have your foot professionally measured, both length and width, once a year, while standing. Because one foot commonly is larger than the other, have both feet measured.
* Look for a shoe that conforms as closely as possible to the shape of your foot. This means a rounded toe box and sufficient width across the base of the toes.
* Heels should be 2 1/4 inches or less.
* Fit the largest foot first. It should have a thumb's breadth from the end of the longest toe to the end of the toe box.
* A shoe is too tight if the toes can't be completely uncurled when standing.
* Natural uppers are preferable to man-made materials, and suede or glove leather are preferred for their softness, according to orthopedic surgeon Carol Frey.
* Fit shoes at the end of the day, when the feet are largest. "The upper should not wrinkle with flexion of the foot, and the foot should not bulge over the welt (strip of leather that joins the insole with the outer sole)."
* Walk off the shoe department's carpeted area onto a harder surface. Trade secret: stores "sometimes put extra padding under the carpeting because the soles are thin," Frey says.
* Don't ever let a sales clerk talk you into buying killer shoes with the line "you just have to break them in and they'll be fine. That's just not good advice," Frey says. "What's going to happen after years of you breaking shoes in is your foot is going to break, not the shoes. You should be comfortable the minute you put it on."