Have you ever tried on a shoe at the shoe store and wondered, “Do I need wide shoes?” because they were uncomfortable or ill-fitting? Even if your feet stopped growing years ago, it’s still possible you’re a part of the majority who wears the incorrect shoe size.
Though it’s common for people to wear shoes that are too small for their feet, it’s unhealthy. Shoes that don’t fit your feet will cramp more than just your style—they can cause long-lasting problems and foot disorders like bunions and hammer toes.
Learning about the width of your feet and investing in wide shoes is a great way to support your foot health—immediately and long term.
Table of Contents:
- What is Considered a Wide Foot?
- How to Know if You Need Wide Shoes
- What Causes Wide Feet?
- Wide Feet FAQ
- Wide Shoes For All Foot Types
What is Considered a Wide Foot?
If you’re unsure of your foot size, but your feet consistently feel uncomfortable in average off-the-rack shoes, you may have wide feet. Length and width are necessary to determine if an individual has wide feet.
For example, a size 5 foot that measures 3.5 inches across the forefoot is wide, but a size 8 foot with the same width is considered medium. Additionally, men’s shoes tend to run wider than women’s shoes, so their labels get calculated differently.
Feet Width Types
It’s important to know which type of foot you have so you can choose supportive, comfortable shoes no matter the occasion. The three main types of foot width are:
- Narrow: Smaller width than medium feet. Shoes are approximately one-quarter of an inch narrower than the manufacturer’s average.
- Medium: The standard. The average foot width and length that manufacturers follow.
- Wide: Larger width than medium feet. Shoes are approximately one-quarter of an inch wider than the manufacturer’s average.
Width sizes are expressed and labeled based on the deviation from the standard shoe size. These labels are:
The more Es a label has, the wider the shoe is. As all feet are different, width sizes can reach as high as 6E.
How to Know if You Need Wide Shoes
If you’re wondering if you need wide shoes, there are a few ways to determine the best shoe width for your feet.
The first step to determining if you have wide feet is to measure them. Your foot size determines your shoe measurements, and measuring can help you find the true width of your feet rather than an estimation based on guessing and checking.
When measuring your foot, ensure you:
- Measure at night: Feet expand throughout the day, so you will get a more accurate measurement at night.
- Wear everyday socks: If you tend to wear thick socks daily, wear them while you measure. This way, your measurements will accurately reflect the shoe size you need.
- Trace both your feet: Many people have feet that are different sizes, so measure both to figure out the best shoe fit for you.
- Double-check your measurements: Just like measuring twice, cutting once, you'll want to double-check your foot measurements before investing in shoes.
We recommend you use a Brannock device to measure your feet. These offer universal measurements regarding shoe sizing.
When it comes to shoes, size refers to more than just length. If you wear ill-fitting shoes, your feet can cramp and develop painful lesions. If this happens, consider switching to wider shoes.
If you have flat feet, you may need wide shoes. Feet with collapsed and unsupported arches—even congenital—need more support than the average foot. Some of the best shoes for flat feet are wide shoes that provide more security and comfort than narrow or medium shoes.
You may have wide feet and need wide-width shoes if you are experiencing bunions. Shoes that are too narrower than your foot can put too much pressure and strain on joints, causing or worsening this type of foot deformity. Wide shoes—especially those made with flexible mesh materials—can help prevent bunions.
If you wear narrow shoes when you need wide shoes, you may start to develop hammer toes. Hammer toes refer to the deformed bending of the second, third, fourth or fifth toes and possible inflammation or pain in the first and second joints. Hammer toes are a sign you need shoes with additional space in the toe box.
Blisters, Corns and Calluses
Tight and unsupportive shoes may cause blisters, corns or calluses to develop. These foot and toe disorders are uncomfortable and can become chronic due to incorrect footwear. You may need to invest in wide shoes to remove the sources of friction causing these ailments.
Discoloration or Imprints
Shoes that fit too tightly may leave toes sporting a purplish hue or the imprints of a shoe's thread pattern, which you may notice if you need wide shoes. Wide shoes support wide feet by allowing blood to flow freely and letting the feet sit comfortably.
What Causes Wide Feet?
Wide feet can occur because of various natural and unnatural reasons. Some causes may even be reversible if identified and resolved.
Some people have a genetic predisposition for wide feet. If wide feet run in the family, it is common for others to be born with wide feet or experience widening over time as they age. Flat feet are also genetic, and people with flat feet are more likely to have wider feet and need wider shoes.
Along with genetics, aging can increase the likelihood of someone having wide feet. Age causes ligaments to loosen, which can cause the width of a foot to broaden. Additionally, other age-related medical conditions, medications and injuries can cause feet to widen rapidly or over time.
Both congenital—from birth—and acquired foot and toe deformities can cause foot expansion and increase a person’s need for wide shoes. Common deformities like club foot, claw toe and crossover toe need additional shoe space, or they could worsen and cause other acquired deformities like calluses and blisters.
Wearing incorrect footwear can physically change and deform the shape of the foot. Shoes with small toe boxes or narrow forefoot widths can compress the foot and cause medical conditions and disorders like bunions and hammer toes. They can also cause feet to widen, both of which can lead to the need for new shoes.
Pregnancy is another common cause of wide feet. Feet swelling is common during the gestation period, which can cause any foot to become wide or extra wide. While this change may be temporary, you should invest in properly fitting shoes to ensure foot safety and decrease foot pain during pregnancy.
There are a variety of medical conditions—including diabetes, kidney disease and heart problems—that can cause feet to widen due to edema. Once you address the root medical condition, swelling caused by edema may resolve itself. But fluid retention, medications and other medical conditions can permanently affect foot width.
Wide Feet FAQ
Here are some of the most common questions asked about wide feet and wide shoes.
Are Wide Shoes Better?
Wide shoes are better for individuals with wide feet, flat feet or foot disorders. When choosing a shoe, it is important to prioritize well-fitting shoes over those with a relaxed feel. Shoes—narrow, medium or wide—should be secure and supportive rather than roomy.
What is the Difference Between Regular and Wide-Width Shoes?
The difference between regular and wide shoes is the toe box size and the forefoot width. Wide shoes can accommodate tall and deep feet because the forefoot width is one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch wider than a standard shoe’s width and one-half of an inch wider than a narrow shoe. An increased width can decrease bunions, blisters, corns, calluses and discoloration people with wide feet can experience.
Are Wide Shoes Better for Flat Feet?
Yes, wide shoes are better for people with flat feet. Wide shoes provide more room in the toe box, so individuals with irregular arches experience less cramping and increased foot support.
Wide Shoes For All Foot Types
If you find yourself wondering, “Do I need wide shoes?” rest easy knowing we designed shoes like the KURU ATOM and KURU QUANTUM with you in mind.
Whether you have a foot condition, were born with wide feet or developed them over time, all-day foot comfort is possible with KURU Footwear.
Find the best wide shoes by shopping KURU’s men’s and women’s collections today!
- Causes of wide feet. All About Wide Feet (August 2019)
- How are shoes sized by width? Shoe Width (July 2019)