What’s your shoe size?
When you hear that question, you probably think of your shoe length—AKA the number you see on the outside of every box. But what about shoe width? Does the width of your shoe have any impact on your feet?
While less common, different width sizes in shoes do exist, and for good reason. However, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to shoe width. If you have wide feet, then it’s important to know the difference between regular and wide-width shoes. In this blog, we’ll dive into all things regular vs wide shoes, from construction to shopping tips.
#1 The Impact of Width on Comfort—Wide Shoes vs Regular Shoes
We get it—everyone wants their shoes to look good. But when it comes to footwear, comfort is your top priority, and the width of your shoes plays a crucial role in your comfort.
Between regular shoes and wide shoes, one pair of feet can experience a great change in comfort. Let’s explore the impact of shoe width on your feet’s happiness throughout the day.
Wide Shoes & Comfort
Do I need wide shoes? If you think you have a wider foot, wide shoes can provide increased comfort through—you guessed it—additional width. Typically, a wide shoe will have more wiggle room around the toe box and forefoot. This extra room is very beneficial for individuals with the following conditions:1
- Wider feet – The extra space accommodates the larger foot width, reducing pressure on sensitive areas and providing relief. A roomy toe box also prevents the toes from feeling cramped or developing conditions like bunions.
- Foot conditions – If you’re suffering from wide feet problems or conditions like bunions or hammertoes, the wider fit may be what you need. The spacious design prevents any extra squeezing or tightness so that your foot pain won’t worsen. Also, the extra room makes it less likely to experience rubbing and chafing—the ingredients for corns, calluses, and blisters to appear in the first place.
- Hot weather – More freedom of movement is very advantageous when the temperatures increase, since this is when feet tend to swell the most. Wide shoes accommodate this natural expansion and increase airflow to avoid sweaty and cramped feet.
Regular Shoes & Comfort
While your feet need room, they may not need a ton of room. In fact, too much space can cause foot conditions and discomfort, too—sometimes, a regular shoe is your perfect fit.
Designed with an average width to fit most foot types, regular-width (also called “medium-width” and sometimes “standard”) shoes are slimmer and more tailored in size. A regular shoe width is best for the following conditions:
- Standard-sized feet – If your feet fall perfectly around the center of the spectrum, then this standard width will support your feet without gripping or squeezing them.
- High arches –Feet with high arches often need more support. The tighter fit of regular shoes can provide this support, almost “locking” your foot into place with each step.
- Cold weather – When the weather outside is frightful, your feet may be slightly smaller than during the summertime. A more narrow shoe can trap heat for extra warmth and provide the appropriate amount of support (especially when stepping through snow or icy terrain, where slipping and sliding inside your shoe is a no-no).
#2 Anatomy of Wide and Regular Shoes—Construction and Design Differences
There’s more than meets the measuring tape when comparing wide and regular shoes. Beyond just the fit, the construction and design of these two shoe types can differ significantly.
Rather than just an expansion of a regular-sized shoe, wide shoes come with specific changes in material and build. These variations cater to the unique needs of different feet shapes. To understand the anatomical differences, get to know the main difference between wide and regular shoes in structure:2
- Uppers – Any material that wraps around your foot on a shoe is considered the upper. In shoes with a wide width, upper materials tend to be more forgiving and stretchy to accommodate bigger feet. In regular shoes, uppers are more durable and form-fitting to hug the tops of the feet.
- Midsoles and outsoles – The outsole is the bottom of your shoe, while the midsole is the cushioning layer between your foot and the outsole. In wide shoes, midsoles and outsoles are broader and more sturdy, creating a solid foundation underneath the foot. In regular shoes, midsoles and outsoles are designed with more shape and precision to support higher arches.
- Toe box – The toe box is the entire area that surrounds your toes inside a shoe, from knuckles to tips. Wider shoes have more roomy toe boxes for comfort, while regular shoes have tighter toe boxes for support.
- Arches – Wide feet and flat feet often go hand-in-hand. For wide shoes, the arch support is often lower and less pronounced. In regular shoes, there’s typically more sturdy and shapely arch support.
#3 Wide vs. Regular Shoes for Performance and Support
Every shoe has its ideal activity—loafers for work, active sneakers for exercise, heels for date nights. But when it comes to wide shoes and regular shoes, which fit works best for what activity level?
The width of the shoes you wear can significantly impact your performance and overall foot health. Whether you’re an avid athlete, a casual walker, or a fashion-forward individual, choosing the right shoe width will optimally support your feet for peak performance.
For wide shoes, the increased room and base support could be a game-changer for fitness enthusiasts of all types. Typically, shoes with a wider width support movement thanks to these qualities:
- Sturdier base for foot and ankle support
- Larger toe box for better toe spread and balance
- Increased forefoot room for better spread and less overpronation
- Reduced friction for fewer blisters and calluses
- Stretchier materials for less pinching and sweating
On the flip side, regular shoes offer a tighter fit that could amplify the performance of average-sized feet. Regular shoes can support activity through these qualities:
- Lighter base for easier movement and agility
- Higher arches to support the entire foot
- Snug fit to reduce slips, slides, and injuries
#4 Wide vs. Regular Shoes: How Sizing Varies
You’re familiar with standard shoe sizing where the number indicates the length, but have you met width sizing, denoted alphabetically?
When it comes to picking wide vs regular shoes, your classic numbered size isn’t the only factor at play. While regular shoes are only broken down into different length sizes (size 8, size 9, etc.), wide shoes have an additional component—the width measurement.
If you have feet that fall below or above the average shoe width for your size, you’ll likely need a more specialized shoe in an alternate width. For women, US shoe width sizes typically follow this range:3
- AAA – Slim
- AA or 2A – Very Narrow
- B or M – Normal / Average
- D – Wide
- EE or 2E – Very Wide
For men, US shoe width sizes are usually in the following categories:
- B – Narrow
- D – Normal / Average
- EE or 2E – Wide
- EEEE or 4E – Very Wide
- EEEEEE or 6E – Extra Wide
You might come across a size 9 EEEE or a 6.5 AA—any combination of standard numbers and the above widths. Just as the perfect bra size depends on the band and cup, the ideal shoe size for you will be at the crossroads of width and length.
Vionic provides an array of wide width shoe sizes to accommodate various preferences. Women can choose from Medium (B) and Wide (D) options, while men have access to Medium (D) and Wide (E) choices. This ensures a comfortable fit for individuals with different needs.
How to Choose Between Wide vs. Regular Shoes
Shoe shopping is already complicated enough. When it comes to width, the equation increases in complexity. What do you do if you can’t choose between wide shoes or regular shoes for your feet?
Don’t fear—there’s a shoe out there made to fit your foot shape, no matter how wide or narrow. To help you choose between these two types of shoe fits, use these tips on your search:4
- Measure your feet (correctly) – As stated above, measuring will lead you the way toward blissful shoe comfort. If you’ve been on auto-pilot when picking your size, take a moment to measure both the length and width of your feet at home or with a professional. Keep in mind that your feet may not be the same size, so measure both feet and choose the larger size for the best fit—width included.
- Consider your activity level – Are you a desk warrior, weekend warrior, or gym warrior? The type and amount of activities you engage in can influence your shoe width choice. For sports and athletic activities, a proper fit with ample support is essential. However, those with wider feet might find that wide athletic shoes provide better stability and reduce the risk of injuries during physical activities.
- Test and compare – Before making a purchase, try on both wide and regular shoes to feel the difference in fit and comfort. Take a stroll around the store to see if your shoes cause you any discomfort. Remember that sizes can vary between brands, so don’t hesitate to try different options.
- Seek professional advice – If you’re still unsure about the right shoe type for your feet, consult a podiatrist or footwear expert. They can analyze your foot structure and recommend the most suitable shoe width to support your feet.
Pick The Right Fit with Vionic
It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional athlete or fashionista—the right shoe fit can make all the difference in your day. By knowing the difference between regular and wide shoes, you can find the shoe width size that makes every step a pleasure. And if you’re lost on where to look, Vionic can help.
Ready to make a change from the ground up? Shop our wide-width shoes today to feel the comfort that comes from finding your Cinderella fit. Plus, every Vionic design uses our biomechanical technology, combining 40 years of shoemaking experience with the trendiest fashions.
- Sissons, Claire. “11 of the best shoes for flat feet.” Medical News Today. 27 May, 2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/best-shoes-for-flat-feet
- “Anatomy of the Shoe.” Shoe Guide.https://www.shoeguide.org/shoe_anatomy/
- Stimpert, Desiree. “How to Measure Your Shoe Size So You Can Have Perfect-Fitting Footwear.” Byrdie. 11 October, 2021. https://www.byrdie.com/shoe-size-in-inches-2987804
- Santos Longhurst, Adrienne. “Shoe Width: Sizes, Measurement, Foot Issues, and Home Remedies.” Healthline. 12 July, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/shoe-width