Maybe your parents passed on their spaced-out toes. Perhaps your feet grew with age or pregnancy. Either way, wide feet are perfectly normal and common. However, you might be left wondering—why are my feet so wide?
Fear not, for we can help unravel the cause of wide (or widened) feet. Let’s dive into the factors that contribute to wide feet, dispel common myths, and equip you with practical tips to embrace and support your foot shape.
What are Wide Feet?
Behold the marvel of the human foot—a masterpiece crafted with bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, all working in harmony to offer support and mobility. However, this body part isn’t one-size-fits-all.
When discussing width, a person’s foot width refers to the widest part of their foot (usually the forefoot, where the toe knuckles are). This width, like many human body parts, comes in a variety of sizes, shaped by these factors:1
- Bone structure
- Arches (the shape and curve of your foot)
- Soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, fat, and skin surrounding the feet)
Unfortunately, there’s no rule of thumb (or… toe) for what defines a wide foot. The distinction of “wide” feet is relative to your general shoe size, as well as the brands you’re shopping from. When deciding whether you have wide feet, you’ll need to get specific about the criteria you’re using to measure—more on that below.
Signs That You May Have Wide Feet
As stated before, wideness is relative to foot length and shape. However, there are several obvious indications that your feet are wider than the average span.
If you have “undiagnosed” wide feet, you may notice any of these common wide feet problems:2
- Shoe tightness– If you frequently experience discomfort or tightness across the width of your feet when wearing shoes, it could be a sign that your feet are wider than the standard shoe width. This tightness may occur in the forefoot, toes, or sides of your feet.
- Toe crowding – Wide feet often make toes feel cramped within narrow- or medium-width shoes. If your toes feel constricted and lack sufficient space to wiggle and move freely, it may indicate that your feet require wide-width shoes with a wide toe box.
- Hammer toe – If your shoes are too narrow, you may develop hammer toes. This occurs when your toes curl downwards into a claw-like shape, making it difficult to walk properly.
- Blister formation – If stuffed into a narrow shoe, wide feet can be prone to blisters, particularly in areas where the shoe rubs against the sides or top of your feet due to limited space.
- Corns, calluses, and bunions – All three of these marks are possible signs of wide feet in tight shoes. Both as a result of friction, corns and calluses are thickened, built-up patches of skin that develop on the feet. Corns tend to be more rounded, deep, and painful. Bunions, on the other hand (or foot), are bony knobs that can grow quite large, often on the big toe.
How to Know if You Have Wide Feet
So do I need wide shoes? Any of the above signs can point toward feet that need wide-width shoes. However, you can only really know the true width of your feet through one technique: measuring.
Measurements allow you to find the best shoe size (both length and width) to match your feet. If you can’t ask a professional to measure your feet, you can measure the width of your feet yourself at home by following these steps:
- Grab a paper, pen, and tape measure or ruler
- Place the paper on a flat and even surface
- Step onto the paper with one foot
- Sketch the outline of your foot
- Step off of the paper and measure the width of your tracing at its widest point, being careful to measure straight across and not at an angle that could artificially inflate the numbers
- Repeat for your other foot
Understanding Foot Anatomy: Exploring the Causes of Wide Feet
Every person has a unique body shaped by nature and nurture, and your feet are no exception to the rule. Whether you have wide or narrow feet, your foot width is a complex equation created by many factors.
If you find yourself asking, “Why do I have wide feet?”, the answer could be any number of reasons. Let’s explore some of the most common culprits behind what causes wide feet:3
- Genetics – Here’s an easy answer: blame it on your parents. Variations in genetics for metatarsal bones, arch heights, and soft tissues can create differences in feet width. If your close family members (mother, father, uncles, aunts) also have wide feet, genetic factors may be at play.
- Pronation and flat feet – Certain feet shapes and walking habits have a tendency to increase width over time, especially pronation and flat feet. When the arches of the feet are lower or nonexistent, like in flat feet, the foot tends to splay outwards and increase in width. Similarly, pronation (or the natural inward rolling motion of the foot while walking) can lead to flat feet and increased foot width, too.
- Aging – Over time, the ligaments and tissues in our feet may naturally relax and lose elasticity. This relaxation can cause the foot to widen over time, so you may need to adjust your shopping habits with each new milestone.
- Weight and body composition– The heavier you are, the more pressure you put on your feet. Over time, this may flatten them and increase their width. Similarly, an increase in soft tissue around the feet may also increase their width. However, this does not mean that higher body weights and wide feet are always related.
- Pregnancy – During pregnancy, hormonal changes can affect the tightness of the ligaments and tissues in the body, including those in the feet. Combined with weight gain from pregnancy, these hormonal changes can lead to a wider foot spread and width. While this widening may be temporary, up to 70% of women may experience permanent changes in foot width after pregnancy.4
- Foot deformities – Bunions, calluses, and hammer toes can be a result of wide feet, but they may also be a cause. These deformities can lead to foot pain and unbalanced pressure, resulting in flatter and wider soles.
- Swelling – Medically known as edema, swelling can affect nearly any area of the body. Certain medications, health conditions, and injuries may leave your feet more swollen and wide than before. However, this extra width is usually temporary.
Tips for Embracing Wide Feet
Wide feet can be both a source of frustration and fascination. While some individuals effortlessly find cute shoes for wide feet, others face the challenge of accommodating their foot shape.
Luckily, having a wide foot can be just as comfortable as any other shape with a little measuring and proper foot care. If your feet are on the wider side, try these top tips to embrace your natural width.
#1 Find Your Foot Width Size—ASAP
The worst thing you can do for wide feet? Stuff them into the wrong shoe size. No matter the cause of your wide feet, you need shoes that fit everything snugly inside—and that requires measuring.
Once you or a professional measures your feet’s width, you can then find your appropriate shoe width size (yes, there’s a difference between wide vs regular shoes). In the United States, certain shoe companies offer varying shoe widths for each numbered size, ranging from very narrow to very wide.5
For women, these widths are offered in the following categories:
- AAA – Slim
- AA or 2A – Very Narrow
- B or M – Normal/Average
- D – Wide
- EE or 2E – Very Wide
For men, these widths are offered in the following categories:
- B – Narrow
- D – Normal/Average
- EE or 2E – Wide
- EEEE or 4E – Very Wide
- EEEEEE or 6E – Extra Wide
Vionic offers a range of wide width shoe sizes. For women, these include Medium (B) and Wide (D) options. For men, Vionic provides Medium (D) and Wide (E) choices.
#2 Pick Biomechanical Shoes
It’s just a reality: not all shoes are built to support all foot shapes. When it comes to wide feet, you need structural support that lifts your feet from below.
To start, seek out shoe brands with specific wide-width shoes. With orthotic designs, biomechanical structures, and roomy toe boxes, every wide shoe is created for maximum comfort and minimum pain. Even in just a week, you’ll likely feel the difference on your feet.
#3 Determine If Your Width is by Nature or Nurture
Wide feet deserve and demand comfortable shoes—but don’t throw out all of your slim shoes yet. If you’re left asking “Why are my feet wide all of a sudden?”, it may not necessarily be a permanent foot feature.
Certain factors widen your feet for the rest of your life, such as genetics, aging, and even pregnancy sometimes. However, other conditions may only leave you with wider feet for an unknown period of time, including:
- Health conditions
- Weight gain
- Foot deformities
If you’re struggling to fit into the shoes that used to fit you, consider learning how to widen shoes or schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist who may be able to diagnose and treat the health problems that caused your foot to widen in the first place.
#4 Take Care of Your Toes
Good habits make happy feet. By cleaning your feet, moisturizing the skin, and trimming the toenails, you can waive off deformities that can increase pain and worsen your shoe fit. Cultivate a steady foot care routine that keeps your feet happy and healthy, taking into account any individual needs you may have, like ingrown toenails or bunions.
Care For Your Wide Feet with Vionic
Remember that wide feet are natural. Whether they developed through genetics, aging, or pregnancy, all wide feet deserve the utmost care and attention—and style, too.
Treat your feet to the support they deserve by stepping into a new pair of wide-width shoes.
- Quinn, Elizabeth. “Foot Anatomy and Common Foot Problems.” Verywell Health. Updated 1 September, 2023. https://www.verywellhealth.com/foot-anatomy-and-physiology-3119204
- Santos-Longhurst, Adrienne. “Shoe Width: Sizes, Measurement, Foot Issues, and Home Remedies.” Healthline. Published 12 July, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/shoe-width
- Marks, Julie. “Wide Feet: Causes, Concerns, Measuring, Footwear, and More.” Healthline. PIblished 9 August, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/wide-feet
- Segal, Neil A et al. “Pregnancy leads to lasting changes in foot structure.” American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation vol. 92,3 (2013): 232-40. doi:10.1097/PHM.0b013e31827443a9
- Stimpert, Desiree. “How to Measure Your Shoe Size So You Can Have Perfect-Fitting Footwear.” Byrdie. Updated 11 October, 2021. https://www.byrdie.com/shoe-size-in-inches-2987804