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How to tell if you need wide shoes

Embarking on a quest for the perfect pair of shoes becomes significantly more manageable when you know what to look for regarding width. Uncomfortable shoes can quickly turn any outing into a less-than-pleasant experience. Knowing whether or not you need wide shoes can make all the difference.

There are quick and straightforward ways to determine if wider shoes are the solution to your footwear woes. From assessing the fit around your toes to recognizing signs of discomfort and instability, these cues will help you identify whether it's time to switch to wide shoes for a more comfortable and supportive stride.

Say goodbye to pinched toes and welcome the joy of walking in shoes that perfectly accommodate your width.

How do you know if you need wide shoes?

If you have wide feet, choosing the right shoes is essential to ensuring comfort and preventing pain, blisters, and numbness. Here are nine signs that indicate you may need wide shoes:

1. Discomfort or pain

Pay attention to any discomfort or pain, especially in the toe area, sides, or ball of your foot. If your shoes feel tight and cause discomfort, it's a clear sign that they may be too narrow for your feet.

2. Visible pressure marks

After wearing shoes, examine your feet for visible signs of pressure marks. Redness, indentations, or irritation along the sides of your feet indicate that your shoes may be exerting excessive pressure due to inadequate width.

3. Spillover

Check whether your toes consistently spill over the sides of your shoes. If your toes extend beyond the shoe boundaries or the sides appear stretched, it suggests that the shoes are not providing enough width.

4. Numbness or tingling

Experience any numbness or tingling in your toes? This may be a result of the shoes compressing nerves due to insufficient width, leading to reduced circulation.

5. Improper fit in athletic shoes

During physical activities, assess the fit of your athletic shoes. If your feet are cramped or unstable, particularly during lateral movements or quick direction changes, it may indicate that wider athletic shoes are necessary for better support.

6. Frequent sizing adjustments

If you consistently find yourself opting for a larger size to accommodate the width of your feet, it's a clear indication that standard shoes are not providing the necessary room.

7. Bunions or corns

Watch for the development of bunions or corns on the sides of your feet. These issues can arise from prolonged pressure and friction caused by shoes that are too narrow.

8. Foot measurement

Take an accurate measurement of the width of your foot using a ruler or foot-measuring device. Compare this measurement to standard shoe width charts. You should opt for wide shoes if your width exceeds the standard or medium width.

9. Feedback from professionals

Consult shoe-fitting professionals, podiatrists, or chiropodists for accurate measurements and personalized advice. Their expertise can guide you in selecting shoes that cater to your needs.

By paying attention to these signs, you can better assess whether your current shoes provide the necessary width or if you need to explore wider shoe options for a better fit.

How to measure width

One surefire way to tell if you need a wide shoe (and find shoes that fit correctly!) is by measuring, a straightforward process that can be done at home with minimal tools. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you accurately measure your width and find shoes that fit comfortably:

What you need

  1. A piece of paper larger than your feet
  2. A pen or pencil
  3. A ruler or measuring tape


  1. Prepare the paper: Place the paper on a flat, hard surface. Make sure it's larger than your feet.
  2. Sit or stand: Sit down or stand in a comfortable and natural position. Ensure your foot is flat on the paper.
  3. Trace: Using a pen or pencil, trace the outline of your foot. Ensure the pen or pencil is held vertically for accuracy.
  4. Mark reference points: Mark the points where the widest part of your foot touches the outline. These are usually at the base of the big toe (ball of the foot) and the outer edge of the pinky toe.
  5. Measure width: Use the ruler or measuring tape to measure the distance between the two reference points you marked. This measurement represents the width.
  6. Repeat: It's common for one foot to be slightly larger than the other, so repeat the process for the other foot. Use the measurement of the wider foot when determining your shoe size.
  7. Refer to a sizing chart: Once you have the width measurement, refer to the sizing chart provided by the brand or shoe store. The chart will guide you in determining the appropriate width category.
  8. Consider personal comfort: Suppose you have specific preferences or conditions, such as bunions. In that case, you may opt for a wider width category than indicated by the measurement alone.

Remember that shoe sizing and width can vary, so follow the sizing guidelines provided by the specific brand you're interested in. Regularly taking measurements, especially if there have been changes in weight or other factors, helps ensure accurate sizing.

Feet width types

Width sizes are categorized into different types to help individuals find shoes that provide a comfortable fit. The most common width categories include:

  • Narrow (N): Narrow shoes are designed for individuals with narrower feet. This width is suitable for people who often find standard shoes too loose.
  • Medium or standard (M or D for men, B for women): Most people have medium feet or standard width. This type fits most of the population and is often labeled as "M" for men and "B" for women.
  • Wide (W): Wide-width shoes provide additional space across the forefoot and midfoot. They are designed for individuals with wider feet or those who find standard-width shoes too constricting.
  • Extra wide (XW or EW): These shoes offer the maximum width. They are suitable for individuals with significantly wider feet or conditions that require space, such as bunions.

Flat feet

Flatness doesn't necessarily determine whether you will have wide feet, as foot width and arch height are distinct characteristics. However, there can be a correlation between a flat foot and a broader foot structure for some individuals.

Flat feet, or fallen arches, occur when the arch collapses, causing the entire sole to come into contact with the ground. While flatness doesn't directly dictate foot width, it may contribute to a wider appearance due to the splaying of the foot.

People with flat feet might find that their feet appear wider when bearing weight. This is because the arch, which typically contributes to the height and curvature of the foot, is lower or nonexistent in individuals with flat feet.

It's important to note that foot shape is highly individual, and not everyone with flat feet will have wide feet. Likewise, individuals with high or normal arches can have varying foot widths.

Individuals with flat feet should look for footwear that provides proper arch support and stability. This may include selecting shoes with appropriate width options, such as wide, if necessary. Getting accurate measurements of both foot length and width and consulting with shoe-fitting professionals can help ensure a comfortable and supportive fit.

How are shoe widths labeled?

The terminology and symbols denoting width may vary between shoe brands and regions. The width is often indicated by letters, such as N, M, W, or XW, accompanying the shoe size. Additionally, some brands may use specific symbols or terms to represent different width options.

When shopping for shoes, referring to the brand's sizing chart and width options is essential. Accurately measuring your foot width and considering any specific foot conditions or comfort preferences will guide you in choosing the most appropriate width for your needs.

The best shoe styles for wide feet

The best styles of shoes for people with wide feet include:

  • Open-sided shoes: These offer a more relaxed fit and are particularly beneficial for individuals with wide feet, especially if made of soft materials like suede. They provide extra space and comfort, making them popular for those with bunions or hammer toes.
  • Almond and square-toe shoes: These styles offer a wider and more spacious toe box, allowing the toes to spread out naturally as you walk, which can prevent the pinching sensation common in narrow shoes.
  • Sneakers: Sneakers are a great option as they often come with a broader toe box, providing space and comfort.
  • Round-toed boots: Round-toed boots offer space and comfort in a dressier style. They are designed to accommodate wider feet and provide the flexibility and comfort needed for all-day wear.
  • Open-toed sandals: Open-toed sandals are a good choice for wide feet, allowing the toes to spread naturally.
  • Platform sandals: Platform sandals with memory foam padded insoles can support wide feet, allowing for extended wear without discomfort.
  • Therapeutic or orthopedic footwear: These are available in wider widths and are designed for individuals with a wide or flat foot.

By choosing these styles, individuals with wide feet can ensure they have enough room and support in their footwear, preventing discomfort and foot issues associated with wearing shoes that are too narrow.

Frequently asked questions

How do I know if I need a wide shoe?

Discovering if you need wide shoes involves noticing discomfort, tightness, or visible pressure marks on your feet after wearing standard shoes. If your toes feel cramped, you experience pain, or your feet seem to spill over the sides, these are indications that you're not wearing the right shoe, and wider shoes might be necessary. Double-check the overall fit and comfort level for valuable cues. Switching to wide shoes can enhance comfort and improve overall foot health.

How do you tell if you have wide feet or narrow feet?

To determine if you have wide or narrow feet, measure the widest part of your foot using a ruler or foot-measuring device. Refer to shoe charts provided by manufacturers, where width options include narrow, medium or standard, wide, and extra wide.

Assess the fit of shoes by considering how they feel around your toes and the sides of your feet. Some brands use specific letters to denote width, such as "C" for narrow, "D/M" for standard, "E/W" for wide, and "X" for extra wide.

You can consult with shoe-fitting professionals for accurate measurements and guidance. If you experience frequent discomfort or foot issues, it may indicate that your current shoe width is unsuitable. Regular measurements are essential, considering that foot size and width can change over time due to various factors.

Can I wear shoes with a wide fit if I have normal feet?

People with standard feet sometimes find wide-fit shoes more comfortable, especially if they have wider-than-average feet, wear custom orthotics, or spend a lot of time standing. However, while you can technically wear wide-fit shoes with standard feet, choosing the right width for you is best.

Ill-fitting shoes may lead to discomfort, reduced support, and an increased risk of tripping. Opt for shoes designed for your foot shape and size, with a snug fit around the midfoot and heel area to ensure proper support, stability, and comfort.

Is there a big difference between normal-width shoes and wide shoes?

The difference between regular and wide shoes lies in the toe box size and the forefoot width.

Wide shoes offer a more spacious toe box, accommodating tall and deep feet, and can decrease issues such as bunions, blisters, corns, calluses, and discoloration that people with wide feet may experience. Wide shoes can also benefit individuals with flat feet, providing more room in the toe box and reducing cramping while offering increased foot support.

Wide-width shoes are deeper and wider from the front to back, not just in the forefoot. They are typically a quarter inch wider than medium-width shoes, and an extra-wide width is a half inch wider than medium.

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