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Wide Shoes vs. Wide Toe Box: What Keeps Feet Comfortable?

A couple of years ago, we wrote a blog asking if wide shoes are always the answer.  This question still comes up time and time again and we thought it would be worth revisiting.  

Are my feet actually wide?  

When we were young, before we had the chance to have our feet put into shoes, we all had wide feet to an extent: our toes were the widest part of our foot.  Why then would most traditional footwear get more narrow at the toes?







Baby Feet with wide toes 
Babies' feet are widest at the toes

From the time we begin wearing shoes, we generally squeeze our toes into a space that is not wide enough for them.  This continued reshaping of the ends of our feet have them looking more like a pointed triangle and less like the natural footshape we know.  The toes can begin to lose the ability to function as they were meant to—and things like balance, gait, and posture can all be affected.

Many people can feel that there is something their feet don’t like with the tapered toes of most shoes.  Everyone knows what it is to feel uncomfortable in a too tight shoe.  When our feet are uncomfortable, we try to adjust even if we can’t pin the problem down.  Maybe we try a shoe size larger or look for a wide shoe.  Women will sometimes turn to men’s shoes that are constructed a bit wider for relief.  

Shoes too tight?

For many of us, that feeling may not be telling us that our sizing is wrong; rather it may be our toes trying to tell us that they are unhappy.

Are wide shoes really what my feet are craving?

When toe-scrunching shoes are all we know, it can be hard to think that something more comfortable is out there. Wide shoes offer more room throughout the entire shoe.  Shoes with a wide toe box, however, provide that room at what is usually the widest part of the foot: the toes.  After spending so much time in shoes with tapered toes, experiencing footwear that gives toes room to breathe can be, well, a breath of fresh air.  For many of us, that extra wiggle room is exactly what our feet have been wanting without us even knowing it.   

Wide barefoot Hobbit feetHobbits keep their toes free.

Toe Room For All!

When we designed our footwear, we chose to focus on providing a wide toe box.  With this natural footshape, we are actually able to serve feet of different widths with the same shoe.  Wide feet (EE) have found a good fit in the same shoes that can accommodate a standard or even a narrow width.  

Wide roomy toe box gives toes freedom!A wide toe box (left) vs. the traditional toe box (right)

By choosing a shoe that is built around the shape of the foot, you get the width where it is most often needed (at the toes) while still fitting the heel and midfoot comfortably. It turns out that's what most feet want!

A Word on Foot Measurements:

Now, feet are notoriously hard to measure.  Most often, we look solely at length and width when picking a size.  When you use a 2-D sizing system to measure a 3-D object, you are limited in determining a good fit.  Everyone’s foot holds its volume differently and sits differently in a shoe.  In addition, our feet can change in size over the years—shoes that fit 3 years ago may no longer work for the same feet.  

Measuring your feet

The best answer is always to try a pair on to see how your unique foot fits.  This doesn't mean you have to purchase shoes only in person...when buying online, be sure to choose a company that allows for exchanges and returns to ensure you can get the right shoe fit.

At the end of the day, be sure to listen to your feet and toes.  They have a lot to tell us about what is most comfortable for them.  


  • Dear Anna, we hope you’ll find your fit. SOM Footwear is a zero drop shoe and don’t give you the 1/4" you are looking for. Someone who never goes barefoot may not like our shoes. We are sorry we can’t serve you. Keep hoping.

    SOM Team
  • Over the years my feet have gotten worse. I’ve been using wide size shoes and stretching them. That no longer works. My toes on both feet are not graduated but straight across. I’ve developed bunions on both feet and a lot of little pressure points on some toes. I’ve bought all kinds of shoes without success. I can’t walk in flats or sneakers.. Need a 1 1/4 inch heel like the old cuban heels. Tough leather hard to break in. I’ve made cuts all over my old shoes. Sent for shoes from the UK two years ago. Sounded great. Had to return. Much too big all over. Is there a shoe out there for me?

  • Only 50, however I second Gerald’s issues with shoes. I also have cut the toes out of shoes and finding shoes to fit especially work boots is often a several week endeavor. Never fun at all. Went barefoot anytime I was not in school until I started working most of the time at 13 in work boots. My kids also went barefoot most of the time growing up and have the same problems with shoes. It is a shame that what is considered normal is a deformed pointed foot. Hopefully in a few years pointed narrow shoes it will be considered similar to foot binding and taboo in most areas. I need a B width heel and a 4E toe box. I have been frustrated enough that I studied custom shoe making and may take it up full time if I ever retire or get any time. Would love to be able to just go buy a pair of shoes.

  • Gerard,

    Thank you for commenting. We do not serve EEE + at the moment. As a young company we do listen and if we can ever serve you, we will make it loud.
    Please keep be innovative, this is inspiring.


    SOM Team – Nathalie

    SOM Team - Nathalie
  • I consider my “toe box” to be the distance between the big toe base knuckle and the widest point on my little toe. I have been battling the “toe box” issue for some time. More so since I passed 70. Though my left foot has stayed fairly constant with a “toe box” of about 4 1/4 inch my right foot has grown to 5 inch.

    The solution to this point has been cut the front off tennis shoe or modify the front strap of the sandal to extend the strap which routinely crosses the base knuckle of the big toe and the middle of the little toe.

    There must be someone out there that makes a shoe that will work. New Balance used to be fine but they have reduced their inventory of 6E shoes to only a couple models/styles.

    Gerald Schwartz

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