Most people know, but don’t give much recurring thought, to their shoe size. After all, your shoe size likely started to level out in your teens: how much could your feet have possibly changed in the meantime?
According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, only about a third of people wear the right shoe size.1 While our feet might only get slightly longer as we age, many people might discover that their feet are wider than they were during their teens and young adulthood. And, as it turns out, the correct shoe size is just as much about width as it is about length.
You might be thinking, “How do I know if I need wide shoes?” We’ll break down the foot measuring process and explore the causes of a wider foot. Most importantly, we’ll share tips and tricks for finding the perfect wide-width shoes.
How to Find Out If You Need Wide Shoes
“Do I need wide shoes?” you ask of the shoe salesman. Well, there are a few ways to find out!
If you’re struggling to remember a time in recent history when you actually felt comfortable while wearing shoes, there’s a good chance you’re wearing the wrong size—and shoe width is a key variable in the fitting formula. Even if your shoes are long enough to accommodate your feet, you might still feel stuffed into them if your feet are wider than average.
Wondering how to tell if you need wide shoes? There’s a sure-fire way to find out: measuring your feet.
Measuring Your Feet, Step-By-Step
Measuring your feet can help you accomplish two key tasks:
- Correctly sizing your feet – Instead of relying on trial and error, measure your feet to find your perfect size every time.
- Tracking your foot size – In some cases, foot widening is temporary. For instance, injuries and pregnancy can cause swelling; tracking your foot size throughout your injury healing or postpartum recovery can help you monitor your overall return to normalcy and identify which shoe width you need on your feet.
All that said, a lot of people haven’t measured their feet before. Let’s break it down.
#1 Measure at Night
Believe it or not, the time of day you choose for foot measurement is important. But if you’ve ever tracked your body weight, this may not surprise you.
If you weigh yourself in the morning and evening on the same day, you’ll likely be heavier at the end of the day: after all, you’ve probably had some food and drinks since waking up. Our feet are slightly larger at the end of the day for the same reason our entire bodies are slightly larger by then; swollen feet develop over the course of the day.
But since your shoes also have to fit at night, that’s when you should measure your feet.
#2 Collect Your Measuring Materials and Ground Your Feet
You’ll need just a few supplies to measure your foot width and length:
- A paper large enough to fit your whole foot
- A pen or pencil
- A tape measure or ruler
Ideally, you should be barefoot for this measurement, but a thin pair of socks is also okay for comfort.
#3 Trace Both Feet
Standing on the paper, trace an outline around the perimeter of each foot. You can use this outline to record your foot length and width measurement:
- The measurement of your foot length should be the longest distance on your foot: from the top end of your longest toe to the bottom end of your heel.
- The measurement of your foot width should account for the widest part of your foot. For many, the widest part of their foot is their toe box (from the edge of the big toe knuckle on the inside to the outer edge of the pinky knuckle on the other), but this isn’t always the case.
Since one foot is usually slightly longer or wider than the other, make sure to measure both feet. For most people, the difference is negligible. However, for some, one foot might be a half-size (or more) larger than the other. In either case, it’s usually easier to size up and fill out the other shoe with an insole or some other type of padding.
#4 Review Your Measurements
Once you have your measurements, you’re one step closer to answering the question, “Do I need a wide shoe?”
Take a look at the size charts for a few different shoe brands and see how your measurements line up with their sizes. However, there are a few things to remember as you uncover your true size:
- Width is relative – While a 3.75-inch width might be classified as wide for a women’s size 5 shoe, this wouldn’t be the case for someone wearing a men’s 9. Make sure you’re reviewing measurements for your standard shoe size, not the average.
- Not all shoe sizes are created equal – Brands feature their own unique shoe sizing systems. As you may very well know, if you wear a size 8 in one brand, you might not wear a size 8 in all brands. Check out a few different size charts to formulate a better idea of your general size.
- Not all brands offer wide shoes – If you don’t fit the standard measurements of a typical medium-width shoe, consider shopping from brands with explicitly designed wide-width shoes. They can be a little harder to come by, but the best things always are.
You should aim to find a size that meets both measurements (length and width) or only slightly exceeds them.
What Causes Wide Feet?
Next, you should be asking yourself, “Why do I have wide feet”? While it’s important to know your true shoe size so you can walk and stand comfortably, you should also understand what might have caused your wide feet in the first place. This might help you gauge whether your width will change over time (or if you’ll need shoes in a wider fit forever).
Wide feet might run in your family.2
But they aren’t the only foot characteristic influenced by genetics. You could also be predisposed to develop:
- Flat feet or arches that collapse with time (a condition called Pes Planus)3
- Temporary or lifelong wide feet problems like:
- Hammer toes
- Cross toes
- Plantar fasciitis
- Club foot
- Foot widening during pregnancy
- Foot swelling
Understanding how genetics might impact your foot size can help you choose the best shoes throughout your life.
Aging or Health Issues
As we age, our tendons and ligaments can gradually loosen—in some cases, this means our feet get slightly larger (and wider) with age.
But there are also various health issues and life stages that can impact our foot size, like:
- Edema – If you have heart issues, kidney disease, or diabetes, you might develop edema—fluid retention in the feet that can cause swelling.
- Pregnancy – In some cases, pregnant people can develop fluid retention that leads to swollen feet and hands. If you’re pregnant, pay attention to such symptoms—they can sometimes point to serious prenatal health issues like preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy).4
- Medications – Some medications can cause swelling, which might impact the size of your feet.
While some people may have wide feet for life, others may only have wide feet for a short time. Either way, it’s important to wear the best shoes to prevent foot problems and ensure comfort while walking or standing.
Finding the Perfect Pair of Shoes for Your Size
We’ve explored how to know if you need wide shoes; measuring your feet and comparing those measurements against size charts are key. But the next step is equally important—finding shoes that actually fit those measurements.
Comfortable, properly fitting shoes are essential to health and happiness. If you have wide feet and have been walking around in standard shoes for some time, footwear in a wider fit will provide major, life-changing relief. That’s right, there is a difference between wide vs regular shoes.
But there’s more to fitting shoes than just taking measurements. Here’s our best advice for finding ideal footwear:
- Consider your toes – Are your toes long or relatively short? Are they close together or more spread out? The length, shape, and configuration of your toes have a lot to do with how shoes feel on your feet. For example, pointed styles feel great on people with shorter toes and excruciatingly uncomfortable on those whose long toes can only be contained in a wide toe box.
- Avoid shoes that are too loose – Do your shoes touch the perimeter of your entire foot? If not, they could be too wide or too long. While your toes should have a little wiggle room, your feet shouldn’t slide around or lift out of your shoes while you walk. Just like wearing shoes that are too small, wearing shoes that are too large can cause discomfort or impact your gait.
- Opt for supportive footwear – Ultra-supportive or orthotic footwear can offer elevated comfort and support with every step you take. The right support can also correct alignment issues, alleviate foot pain and discomfort, and prevent various foot problems. Whether you slip orthotic inserts into your favorite pair of shoes or find a pair of shoes with built-in arch support, your feet will thank you.
- Resist the urge to squeeze – While you might think wearing shoes in a wide width will make your feet look bigger, this isn’t true. If you try to squeeze your wider foot into a narrow shoe, your feet might bulge out of them, which only draws attention to your wide feet, especially if you’re sporting open-toed sandals or slides. However, cute shoes for wide feet can offer a narrowing visual effect (because the entirety of the foot fits within the bounds of the shoe), boosting your comfort and confidence.
If you’re an athlete, lead an active lifestyle, or have a job that requires you to be standing all day, you must prioritize properly fitting shoes. Otherwise, you could do irreversible damage to your feet.
Discover Stylish, Comfortable, and Supportive Footwear from Vionic
If you’ve discovered that you need shoes in a wide width, there’s no need to panic about limited shopping choices or settle for comfort over style.
At Vionic, we’re changing everything you previously knew about footwear. We’re creating some of the most supportive, comfortable designs on the market that you’ll still love wearing and pairing with classic ensembles.
Explore what’s new in our collection—particularly our line of trendy yet dependable wide-width shoes—and leave uncomfortable footwear behind for good.
- Buldt, Andrew K, and Hylton B Menz. “Incorrectly fitted footwear, foot pain and foot disorders: a systematic search and narrative review of the literature.” Journal of foot and ankle research vol. 11 43. 28 Jul. 2018, doi:10.1186/s13047-018-0284-z
- Marks, Julie. “All About Wide Feet: Why You Have Them, Concerns, Footwear, and More.” Healthline. 9 August, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/wide-feet
- “Pes Planus.” National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430802/
- “High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/pregnancy.htm