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Genetics, age, foot problems, trauma, pregnancy, foot swelling and wearing unsupportive footwear for too long are just some of the reasons why your feet may be wider than the ‘average’ person that shoe companies manufacture shoes for. 

This has likely posed several challenges for you: 

  • You are more prone to developing various foot problems and pain because it is difficult to find shoes for big feet
  • Scarcity in wider sizes usually means limited style selections, increased prices or additional customisation costs
  • To get the style of shoe you like the look of, you’ve been forced to wear shoes that are too narrow and have resulted in cramping or rubbing against the sides of your feet, which has brought with it problems like ingrown toenails, a Morton’s neuroma, corns, calluses, metatarsalgia, bunions or hammertoes – to name a few!

So what is the best approach to fitting shoes well for wide feet? Today, the My FootDr Podiatry team is sharing a few of our tips for getting a good, comfortable and pain-free shoe fit for wider feet.

1. Note the shoe shape – and choose natural

Every shoe follows a pattern and a shape – and sometimes, this shape doesn’t quite match what your foot naturally looks like. While those with narrow feet can fit into these without too many consequences, if you have wide feet then this is on our to avoid list. This means avoiding shoes where:

  • The toe box is too are pointed
  • The shoe itself is too narrow, or the part of the shoe that comes in contact with the ground is too narrow
  • The shoe has an unnatural curve
  • The shoe has an unnatural heel height

While this may sound like common sense, studies have found that between 63 – 72%  percent of people wear shoes that do not match the width or length of their feet. Always note the shape of the shoe, compare it against the shape of your foot, taking into account any problems like bunions, and look for a good match.

2. Shoes don’t just have length options, they have width options too

If you didn’t already know, good foot-friendly stores won’t just measure your foot length – they’ll check your r width too. If you’ve ever seen the letter ‘D’ or ‘E’ next to your shoe size and wondered what that meant – it’s the width fitting of the shoe. Generally speaking:

  • D is a standard width
  • E is wide
  • EE is a wider fit
  • 3E to 4E is extra wide
  • 5E to 6E is ultra-wide
  • … and so on

Width should be measured at the widest point of your foot which most often is at the ball of the foot. Try a number of widths on and see what feels the most comfortable, with minimal rubbing or pressure. While you’re at it, don’t forget to measure your foot to the longest toe for length and not straight to your big toe – for many people, this is their second toe or even their third!

3. Care for your bunions, no matter how small

It is estimated that 28% of Australian adults have bunions – that bony bump on the side of your big toe that your mum or nana likely also has. The moment that bunion starts developing, unfortunately, you start to fall into the ‘wide foot’ category of people that need to take extra care – even if you weren’t born with naturally wide feet. 

The problem with bunions in this regard is their tendency to worsen and progress over time – and it’s a bit of a vicious circle. You see, when a bunion starts to develop, you need wider shoes to accommodate the growing bunion. If your shoes rub against the side of the bunion, they’ll encourage the bunion to progress and worsen at a faster rate, which in turn widens your forefoot faster, meaning you need even more width at the forefoot. 

Putting in the effort to care for your bunions from an early stage means you can manage the rate at which they progress – and even if they progress at all. Aside from ensuring adequate forefoot width, many choose to use custom foot orthotics to prevent excess pressure and rubbing against the bunion to slow or prevent their progression.

4. Feet swell, so leave wiggle room

Toes are happiest when they can wiggle without hitting the roof or sides of the shoe. While this may seem obvious, it can really come in handy when being on your feet during a hot day has caused your feet to swell, or you’ve developed any swelling or pain in your forefoot. Again, it prevents a similar vicious cycle – when our feet swell, regardless of the cause, they’re prone to rubbing (and pain). The more rubbing, the more they can swell – and the more space you need.

Prioritising a wide toe box or open-toed supportive sandals that offer this wiggle room means you can break this cycle before it progresses and worsens. 

5. Heel stability and arch support influence the forefoot

Having a good, firm and supportive heel will help guide the steps you take and influence your forefoot, too. Think about it: when your heel is supported and side-to-side movement is limited, your shoe is guiding your foot forwards – and then the arch support in your shoe is ‘catching’ your foot, stabilising and supporting it through every step. Without this the foot can roll flat down to its maximum width and exert maximum strain on the soft tissues of your feet.

So, while width is very important, having good heel and arch support can improve your comfort and reduce your pain and injury risk, too.

6. If you need to ‘break them in’, they’re not the right fit for you

Breaking in shoes for someone with average-sized feet that has the goal of making their leather feel a little more comfortable and soft is not the same as hoping that by wearing your shoes around the house for long enough, they’ll adjust to your forefoot width and stop rubbing against your feet.

Never rely on ‘breaking your shoes’ in to give you a good fit – make sure the fit is comfortable, right and doesn’t rub from the get-go. The breaking in process isn’t suitable for those with wide feet, and trying to do so yields a high probability of foot pain and further damage, including the vicious cycles that we’ve talked about above.

7. Adjustable shoe features are your besties

If there’s anything that we’ve tried to emphasise so far it’s that your feet can regularly change. Whether it’s the end-of-day foot swelling, an angry or swollen bunion, a thicker pair of socks or something else. This makes the ability of shoes to have some adjustability a massive benefit in our eyes.

Looking for shoes that can adapt to your feet, whether that means with a bit of extra elastic on the sides or adjustable buckles. Shoes with double adjustable straps, one close to the ankle and the other close to the toes, provide flexibility, and allow you to customise your fit. Remember that your lacing can also be adjusted to improve your comfort and fit – and that not every eyelet has to be used. 

My FootDr has a wide shoe selection for wide feet available online and in selected clinics

If you need good, comfortable shoes for your feet, we’re your team, and we’re here to help. If you already have an appointment booked with one of our podiatrists, talk to them about which wide-fitting shoes will be best for the needs of your feet. We also have trained retail specialists available in clinics that have a retail shoe store, like our Camp Hill clinic in Brisbane – no appointment needed.

We also have a wide range of podiatrist-approved shoes available on our online shoe store – see them here. If you’re currently suffering from foot pain, you may need extra help to repair any damage before you’re able to wear shoes comfortably all day. If you’re concerned, give our team a call on 1800 FOOTDR, or book your appointment online here.