Why Do Vans Hurt the Back of My Foot?

Key Takeaways:

  • Wearing Vans that are too loose or too tight can cause friction and pain at the back of the foot.
  • Vans come in standard sizes that may not fit all foot shapes well, leading to heel rubbing.
  • The rigid backs of Vans shoes can also cause discomfort if there is not enough space between the ankle and shoe material.
  • Breaking in Vans gradually and using petroleum jelly on heels can help prevent blisters and reduce friction.
  • Opting for Vans made with softer, more flexible canvas material can reduce pressure and discomfort.
  • Custom-fitting Vans or trying different lacing techniques can improve the fit and prevent heel pain.
  • Adding cushioned insoles and heel pads provides extra padding and support in Vans.

Vans are a hugely popular sneaker brand known for their simple canvas slip-on and lace-up styles. However, many Vans wearers experience irritation, rubbing, and even pain at the back of the foot when wearing their Vans for prolonged periods. This discomfort can make it difficult to enjoy wearing these stylish shoes.

This comprehensive article will analyze the main reasons why Vans commonly cause pain and problems at the heel area. It will provide tips and solutions for minimizing friction, preventing blisters, and improving the fit of Vans to stop them from hurting your feet. With the right adjustments and care, Vans can become a comfortable footwear choice.

Understanding the causes of heel discomfort in Vans and learning proven ways to address these issues will enable Vans lovers to wear their favorite shoes in style without foot pain. The in-depth information presented here will ensure readers can continue to enjoy the classic, laidback look of Vans while avoiding foot problems. Let's dive in to decode why Vans hurt and how to fix it!

Ill-Fitting Vans Cause Friction and Discomfort

One of the core reasons Vans shoes tend to hurt feet is because the sizing and fit is not optimal. Vans come in a range of standard size options intended for an average or “typical” foot shape. However, many people have heel and foot proportions that do not match these standardized Vans sizes well.

Wearing Vans that are either too tight or too loose can cause extensive friction between the thick canvas material at the back of the shoe and your heel as you walk. This irritation and rubbing can quickly lead to painful blisters, calluses, and general discomfort each time you wear your Vans.

Research by foot health specialists indicates heels slipping up and down in shoes that are oversized and loose is a leading cause of heel irritation and blisters. The rigid leather or canvas surrounding the heel has no give, causing concentrated friction each time your foot slides.

Likewise, Vans that are too snug put constant pressure on the heel bone and Achilles tendon area, resulting in swelling, redness, and pain with wear. So both undersized and oversized Vans can hurt feet.

Many Feet Do Not Fit the Standard Vans Mold

Vans are produced in standardized sizes like most major sneaker brands. The company uses generic foot measurement data to design shoes meant to fit an averaged out “normal” foot shape.

However, a study by the National Shoe Retailers Association found only about 30% of people actually have average sized feet. The remaining 70% of individuals have combinations of widths and lengths that vary significantly from the norm used by shoe companies.

This means the majority of people are wearing shoes not tailored to their one-of-a-kind foot contours. For some wearers, Vans hit a sweet spot and fit well. But for many, the heel and shape of their foot does not conform to the Vans design.

The inflexible canvas used in classic Vans styles only exacerbates friction and pressure points when sized incorrectly. So getting the right size is critical for avoiding heel pain.

Breaking in Vans Gradually Can Help

Brand new Vans have very stiff, unyielding canvas that has not been broken in. This can intensify rubbing and friction until the materials soften up.

Gradually breaking in your new Vans can help minimize heel discomfort. Start by only wearing them for an hour or two at a time. Slowly increase your wear time over several weeks until the canvas starts to mold to your foot shape.

Be sure to stop wearing them immediately if you feel any numbness, tingling, or loss of circulation which may indicate nerves are being pinched. Catching and addressing fit issues early prevents long term problems.

Apply Petroleum Jelly to Prevent Blisters

Using petroleum jelly or an anti-friction balm on your heels before putting on Vans can also help tackle friction. The ointment acts as a buffer between your skin and the shoe's stiff edge, reducing rubbing that leads to blisters and hot spots.

Reapplying more jelly once your Vans are on can give added protection if you'll be wearing your Vans all day. This trick eases break-in pain and keeps your heels blister-free.

The Ankle Area Can Cause Discomfort

Another potential source of heel and ankle discomfort in Vans is inadequate space between your ankle bone and the rigid material making up the back portion of the sneakers.

Vans shoes have a distinctive straight-across, 90 degree canvas edge around the ankle opening. This stiff panel is part of the iconic Vans style, but it can dig into ankles if sized incorrectly.

People with protruding ankles or thinner ankles have noted the hard canvas cut into this bonier part of the ankle. This can irritate the skin and limit ankle mobility, making your feet ache.

Trying on shoes with the socks you'll be wearing is key. The extra volume from socks takes up space, so shoes that feel fine barefoot may become too snug around the ankles once socks are added.

Consider More Flexible Vans Materials

Choosing Vans made with softer, more flexible canvas and suede materials rather than stiffer leather panels can help minimize pressure points. The looser knit canvas gives a bit more to accommodate ankles and reduce chafing.

Vans slip-ons with elastic goring panels along the sides also reduce friction by expanding and contracting as you walk rather than holding the heel tightly in place. This elasticity prevents excessive rubbing on ankles and heels.

Improving the Fit Can Prevent Discomfort

Sometimes simple adjustments to make Vans fit your foot's dimensions better can solve heel discomfort. Options like sizing up, wide width Vans, custom Vans, and lacing techniques allow you to modify the silhouette.

Size Up for a Little Extra Room

If your Vans are painfully snug around the heels, sizing up a half or full size can give your feet some much-needed breathing room to prevent blisters. Going a half-size up often does the trick.

Keep in mind the canvas will relax and stretch a bit as it breaks in after several wears. So resist oversizing more than a half-size so they don't become sloppy and loose over time.

Try Wide Widths to Accommodate Feet

Many Vans styles now come in wide width options to better fit wider feet. People with rounder, square-shaped heels often find wide widths solve heel slippage issues.

Measure your feet and consult Vans' width chart to select the appropriate letter width for your foot shape. Wide toe boxes prevent toes from getting scrunched, reducing blisters.

Custom Vans Offer a Tailored Fit

Getting a custom pair of Vans through the company's Customs platform allows you to select an ideal length, width, and design for your unique feet.

Input the foot measurements from your specialist fitting to receive Vans tailored to you. The cost is only slightly higher than off-the-shelf pairs for the benefits of a perfect fit.

Try Lacing Techniques to Lock Heels In

You can also use certain lacing techniques like heel lock lacing to cinch up laced Vans securely around the heels. This prevents feet from sliding and toes from jamming into the fronts of shoes that are sized big.

Crisscrossing laces across the middle slots of eyelets before tying tightens the mid-foot section so heels stay put. Other options like loop lacing creates a brace-like effect for a snugger fit.

Cushioning and Support Prevent Discomfort

Finally, adding supportive insoles and padding inside Vans can minimize pressure points that cause heel and foot pain. Aftermarket insoles improve comfort in any shoes that don't have adequate cushioning built in.

Cushioned Insoles Absorb Impact

Opt for insoles designed for athletic shoes that provide ample cushioning and shock absorption. This protects feet from the stiff Vans soles transmitting vibrations into feet, toes, and heels with every step.

Gel inserts and memory foam insoles mold to your feet and distribute impact evenly. Orthotics can correct overpronation causing heel strain in flat Vans.

Heel Pads and Cups Defend Heels

Protect your heels directly by placing gel heel pads or cups around the back of shoe interiors. These rest between your heels and the edge, defending against friction.

Self-adhesive pads stick in place all day. Silicone cups grip heels to prevent slippage and blisters without adhesives.


Vans' minimalist, slim silhouette that appeals to so many can also cause heel and ankle pain if the fit is not right. Opting for more flexible canvas materials, sizing up, widening widths, custom-fitting, proper break-in, lacing adjustments, and supportive inserts can help modify Vans to prevent rubbing and discomfort. With a dialed-in fit and cushy accessories, you can stay stylish in your favorite Vans pain-free.

Frequently Asked Questions About Vans Hurting Feet

Why do my Vans rub my heels so much?

Vans rubbing and irritating your heels is most often caused by a poor fit. If they are too large, your heels will slip up and down, creating friction. Too small, and they'll squeeze your heel bones painfully. The stiff, rigid backs also exacerbate this. Getting the right size and breaking them in helps.

How can I stop my Vans from blistering my feet?

Blisters usually stem from friction on the heels and toes. Applying petroleum jelly/Vaseline on skin before wearing provides a barrier. Wearing proper socks, sizing up, and breaking them in gently all minimize rubbing that causes hot spots and blisters with Vans.

Why do my Vans hurt my ankles and Achilles tendon?

The thick, rigid canvas around the ankle opening can dig into ankles if sized too small. Softening up and stretching out the canvas through breaks in periods alleviates pressure on Achilles tendons and ankles. Sizing up also gives ankles more room.

Should I wear socks with Vans to prevent hurting my feet?

Yes, wearing socks fills up extra space that creates heel slippage. Thick, snug socks prevent friction that causes blisters and calluses. Cotton socks with cushioning defend against impacts through the thin soles. Match your sock thickness to your Vans' fit.

How can I stretch out tight Vans quickly?

Stretch spray expanders like Moleskin FOOTFIT specially designed for shoes safely relax and widen uppers and length. Wear thick socks and keep walks short to let your body heat mold shoes as you walk. At home, insert shoe stretchers or damp towels to gently loosen tight spots.

Why do my toes hurt when wearing Vans?

Toes cramping and hurting usually signals shoes are too narrow or short. Friction and pressure on toes causes blisters. Check sizing charts and measure feet to select appropriate Vans widths and lengths that give toes ample wiggle room. Wide toe box styles can help.

Should I buy my Vans a half size bigger to prevent pain?

Sizing up by a half or full size can fix issues like toe jamming and heels slipping that cause discomfort. But don't oversize more than .5 up or shoes will become too roomy once broken in. For wider feet, try wide width sizing first before going up in length size.

Will insoles and inserts stop my Vans from hurting my feet?

Yes, adding cushioned insoles and targeted pads provides extra padding to relieve pressure points. Heel inserts prevent rubbing blisters. Orthotics correct biomechanics causing strain. Shock-absorbing insoles diffuse impact through stiff soles. But improve fit first before relying solely on inserts.


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