Well, in a perfect world you’d trade it in for one that fits well. For many of us, though, this isn’t always an option – maybe it was an ebay find, maybe your feet are two different sizes, or maybe it’s the only size left. It is important to buy shoes that fit well – uncomfortable shoes rarely get worn and cause problems when they do – but if a shoe is only a little bit off there might be a cheap and easy solution.
Try tongue pads.
These Sid Mashburn balmorals (~$190 on ebay) were just a smidge too big for me – they measured the same length and width as many of my other oxfords, but for some reason they were just a bit more voluminous. I considered selling them but knew I would lose money if I did, and I liked them too much to bear that. I ended up spending $4 on tongue pads off ebay, and now they are snug and secure on my feet. If anything, I underestimated the power of tongue pads – I put them low on the tongue to obtain “maximum snugness” but I probably would have gotten an even better fit if I had put them towards the top.
This leads me to my next point – tongue pads have an intense adhesive on the back (at least the ones I’ve seen), so don’t expect to move them around much, remove them easily, or re-sell the shoes later on. Once they’re on they won’t be moving much. Nonetheless, if the difference between bad shoes and great shoes is a $4 piece of padding then I’d consider it money well spent.