Shoes that don’t fit quite right are a nuisance. But did you know that wearing shoes too small can cause serious health problems? It’s true – and it could be happening right under your nose. In fact, it’s estimated that most people (about 80 percent) are currently wearing the wrong size shoe – in many cases, shoes that are entirely too small. They might not even realize it, because they’ve never experienced a professional shoe fitting.

Improperly sized footwear is more than just a little inconvenience – it can be downright dangerous to the health of your feet.

Here are 5 signs the shoes you are wearing are too tight:

1. You Haven’t Grown

Are you still wearing the same size shoes you were wearing in high school or college? As we age, the natural arch of the foot tends to fall. This can cause feet to spread, requiring a wider shoe. If you used to wear a size nine narrow in 1990, it may be time to get a professional fitting. Today, you could be a 10 wide.

2. You Can Feel Your Shoes With Your Toes

You should always be able to freely move each one of your toes inside closed-toed shoes. If you are able to feel the front of your shoe on the inside with your big toe (or any other toe for that matter), you need to grab a bigger size. In the shoe store, grazing the inside of the shoe with your toes may not seem like a problem, but as the day goes on, feet tend to swell. For this reason, shoes which seem roomy in the shoe store may not be after a long day on your feet.

Always purchase shoes that leave enough room between the big toe and the interior of the shoe for you to wiggle all five toes comfortably.

3. You Feel Pain

It is important to always listen to the signals your body sends to you. Pain is the number one signal that something is wrong. It’s a big no-no when it comes to footwear. Pain is an indication that you’re wearing the wrong sized shoe. If you try shoes on and notice they are rubbing, do not fully support your arch, tighten the muscles in your foot, or cause flexing, do not purchase them.

Shop around for a pair of shoes that prevents pain, not causes it.

4. Learn Your Size, and Variations

Most people don’t really know their exact shoe size. Some brands run small, and some large. Materials vary, and can make a big difference in what size actually feels like it fits. Set aside time to get a professional fitting, and ask the attendant for a recommendation on which variations would work best for your needs. For example, if you normally wear a size 6, but are purchasing work shoes for a job that involves spending long hours on your feet, you may experience foot swelling. For this reason, you may need a 6.5 or 7 for a comfortable, all-day fit.

Always trust your gut, and never purchase a shoe recommended by someone (even if they are a professional) that doesn’t feel like it’s a good fit.

5.The Shoe Feels Too Tight

It sounds silly, but this common-sense mistake happens far too often. Many people assume that over time a shoe that feels snug inside a shoe store will stretch over time, but the opposite is true. Actually, shoes (unless they are leather) will not “stretch out” over time. Additionally, your feet may grow, widen, or swell over time, necessitating a larger shoe size – or a variation of your regular fit. Those tight shoes may now feel even tighter, and cause pain with every single step you take.

As a general rule, always leave shoes in the store if they feel too tight from the start.

Why Shop For a Better Fit?

Poorly fitting shoes can cause a slew of health problems for your toes, including a fungal infection such as Athlete’s foot, as well as bunions, corns, hammer toes, heel spurs, ingrown toenails, and metatarsalgia. Many of these problems can be prevented by simply purchasing the right sized shoe. For women, skip ultra-high heels (over three inches). For men, keep away from pointed-toe shoes to avoid painful foot problems.

A Final Note

If you have footwear that is too tight, give them away—right now. Because it could be the cause of most of your aches and pains.

And don’t feel too bad if you’ve been wearing too small shoes you’re whole life—you aren’t alone! Approximately 75 percent or more of Americans suffer from some type of foot problem (which leads to back and neck problems!), and many of those issues can be eliminated with properly fitted footwear.

For your next new pair of shoes, visit a shoe store and request a professional fitting (a lot of athletic shoe stores offer this service) to help you find the right fit for you. If you are suffering from foot pain, or persistent foot health problems, contact your health care provider immediately to talk about your options.